The name was definitely the thing in selecting the 1955 freshman class in the National Professional Football League—and checking over the draft choices was like reading a carbon copy of SI's September preview of outstanding college football players. They really went down the line with us. In a complicated method of bonus picks and first round choices the Baltimore Colts emerged with two names that could make them a threat in the Western Division. They chose George Shaw, the Oregon quarterback who led the nation's major colleges in total ground gained, over Notre Dame's Ralph Guglielmi, because, as Weeb Eubank, the Colts' coach, put it: "We know that he is a great passer—he proved it with a losing team. We weren't too sure about the passing of Guglielmi because Notre Dame isn't essentially a passing team." Coupled with Alan Ameche, the "poor man's Doc Blanchard" at fullback, their offensive effort should certainly be improved.
The Chicago Cardinals received a shot in the arm with the selection of Max Boydston, the Oklahoma end, who many think was the outstanding player in college football last fall; and, in addition, Lindon Crow, the great Southern California halfback. Among other first ballot picks are Halfback Dickie Moegle of Rice to San Francisco; Kurt Burris, the fine Oklahoma center, to Cleveland; Notre Dame Tackle Frank Varrichione to Pittsburgh, and another Notre Damer, Joe Heap, who is fast enough to go outside and strong enough to go inside, to the Giants. Notre Dame players, as usual, were at a premium. In the first five rounds seven of them were picked.
If clubs like Washington, Baltimore and the Cardinals are successful in acquiring the services of their draftees, the competition in the NFL will be keener than ever before. But remember: the draft selection only gives the club the sole right to negotiate with the player selected. There are many intangibles involved, such as their military status, their real interest in playing professional football, and the competition from major league baseball.
Today's professional football is certainly a far cry from the pro version of even 20 years ago when I was playing. Each club today has paid scouts all over the country checking outstanding players. They study closely the case history of hundreds of players, especially as to temperament and injuries. In the old days it was more or less of a one-man operation for each team—a matter of personal contacts.
WORK FOR PEONS
The crowds were small and the salaries smaller. It was said that Bill Hewitt, the greatest end I ever saw, was making only $90 a game with the Bears. Cal Hubbard, the giant Green Bay tackle (now supervisor of the American League umpires) and myself at Brooklyn—yes, they were in the league-were the highest-paid linemen in football at $200 a game. It added up to about $2,500 a season with a few exhibition games thrown in.
In the early '30s our Brooklyn team was owned by Dan Topping, now co-owner of the New York Yankees baseball team; the late, great one-time Army Halfback Red Cagle; and Shipwreck Kelly. All three were in their 20s. Red and Shipwreck were also our halfbacks. John J. McEwan was the coach and I was the captain. There has never been a combination like this. Coach McEwan had an ironclad theory that there was no such thing as a legitimate end run, and it soon got around the league that we didn't even have one from our tight double wing back formation. One day "Stumpy" Thomason, a speedy halfback who had played at Georgia Tech, asked McEwan in utter frustration: "Coach, how do I run this play, anyway?" McEwan, the former West Point head coach and English instructor, answered in a typical MacArthurian stanza:
"Son, dispatch yourself with the utmost precision and proceed as far as your individual excellency will permit."
Professional football has come a long way since those days. The semipros became pros, but I wonder if they have as much fun now as we had then.