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44
Gilbert Millstein
November 22, 1954
If you're watching football on television this Saturday, you might pay a little extra attention to Michigan's No. 44. He's no All-American, but he's pretty good. Mostly he's a nice kid who loves the game. No. 44 is a typical example of college football players everywhere.
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November 22, 1954

44

If you're watching football on television this Saturday, you might pay a little extra attention to Michigan's No. 44. He's no All-American, but he's pretty good. Mostly he's a nice kid who loves the game. No. 44 is a typical example of college football players everywhere.

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At present No. 44 is living on a $900 Elmer J. Gedeon Memorial Scholarship, the terms of which roughly parallel those of the Yost award (which pays him nothing). He saved $350 last summer out in South Dakota where he worked in a playground and also played baseball in an amateur league made up mostly of college players like himself.

He is the 1955 captain of Michigan's baseball team and has been scouted by a number of major league organizations. There is a Michigan alumnus who is "interested" in No. 44 and who recently invested some money in stocks for him, which brought No. 44 $240. His parents send him money now and then, but there was a time?in his freshman year?when he waited on table for his meals.

" Michigan certainly doesn't overpay," he observed matter-of-factly. "Financially speaking, it was the worst offer. I could have been making money going to other schools." There never was any question in his mind that he would play football in college and that football would pay for his education?there were a brother and sister his parents intended to send to college, too, and that entailed a financial burden No. 44 fully appreciated. At the end of his junior year at Brockport High School (where he was a letter man in four sports, to say nothing of being a sectional champion in skiing), No. 44 deliberately transferred to Aquinas Institute in nearby Rochester which, in the football business, has the reputation of being a sort of Eastern farm for the big colleges and maintains a stadium seating 25,000 people, for a showcase.

He played football there for a semester, returning in the spring to Brockport to get his diploma. He was approached by, among others, Indiana, Cornell, Rochester, Villanova, Yale and Brown, No. 44 said "One place," he said, "offered me room, board, tuition, books, three trips home by plane every year and spending money. They came after me even after I'd entered Michigan." He also received a Congressional appointment to the Naval Academy, but turned it down because there was no certainty that he could pursue a medical education there. At Brockport, he was graduated third, scholastically, in his class. At Michigan he has maintained an average that fluctuates between a high C and a B. His instructors?this year he is taking 15 hours of philosophy, speech, zoology, anthropology and geography?regard him as alert and intelligent. "I couldn't make it any stronger than that," his philosophy instructor said not long ago. "He's not just a lunk?he follows what's going on. At crucial times?when I've asked questions?he's had an answer. I'll put it this way: he's no Einstein, but neither am I."

Apart from football practice, which takes place every afternoon until about 6 o'clock, No. 44's academic week varies little from that of any other student enrolled in the university. He attracts no unusual attention in the classroom. He must do his studying at night, and generally goes to the library to do it. Recently, when he has returned late to his fraternity house, he has taken to rousing the sleeping brothers by reading items off a bulletin board at the top of his voice. The brothers are tolerant of this behavior: they don't think he's crazy?just blowing off steam, releasing the tension that builds up between games. He neither smokes nor drinks ( Ann Arbor is dry) and he seldom has dates during the week, though he may take in an occasional movie.

So it is football that dominates No. 44's life and it is even, quite literally, the stuff his dreams are made of. On the Wednesday night before the Indiana game he composed himself for sleep before 10:30, as usual, and as usual at that time of week, began to dream about football. This time he dreamed that Michigan had kicked off. The ball described a low arc, hit an Indiana man and dropped dead. No. 44 picked up the ball. He remembers lateraling it to a tackle named Art Walker, and then the dream trailed off into something else he is unable to recall. His sleeping fantasies are of a type psychiatrists call "examination dreams," that is uncomplicated dreams of passing some forthcoming test. They are never, as No. 44 put it, "dreams of glory," but rather defensive ones, "dreams of trying to stop the other team, of capitalizing on their mistakes." If he is carrying the ball it is always in short line bucks, if he is passing it is usually for short gains over center. "I guess it's because the coaches try to impress us with the rock and sock of power football," he has explained. "Single wing is power football. It's the fundamentals and rules we've learned that come out in the mind, like tackling hard, being sharp, knowing the rules, charging for that extra yard like they want us to."

Consciously, No. 44 sees in football a good many analogies to his daily life. "You get a sort of enjoyment in doing your part," he said, "in accomplishing an objective as part of a team. It seems like there are more obstacles to overcome than in any other game. You can't do it all on your own and you've got to come to realize that. You take it and you dish it out. Other games, you get mad, but you can't do anything about it. You can't make that contact, you can't get your shoulder in there. This releases?well, I guess you'd call it inner tensions."

At the time No. 44 said all this he was getting ready to call on his girl, a pretty blonde named Jan Garrett, who is a sophomore and waits on table and has even served No. 44 at training table. Her picture stands on a shelf in his bedroom, and the sight of it apparently stirred some other thoughts in his mind. "You know," he said, "I felt awful lost as a freshman. This way, you're not just another student. People meet you on campus and you've got something to talk about with them. When you go to a school like this, when you walk down a street or into a store, a lot of people know you. You get a kick out of that and you want to do well for that reason. Another thing: I won't forget the first touchdown I made. It was last year's Ohio State game. It was an off-tackle play and I went over standing up. I got kind of a glow and warm all over, like when you hear the band play 'Hail to the Victors.' It's never the same after that. After that, it's like practice."

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