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Washington Redskins Owner George Preston Marshall goes between the tables with greetings for fellow owners Dan Reeves of the Los Angeles Rams and George Halas of the Chicago Bears. As he approaches, the binders close, the cards turn face down. A reporter stands up near the Baltimore table and a large-headed assistant coach asks him to move away. Cigar smoke and suspicion gather in the room.
Strader comes down the room and leans over the Baltimore table to Ewbank sitting deep in the corner. "Nick Feher," Strader offers. Ewbank knows this 230-pound, bowlegged guard can run if it's downhill, and he says so. Strader, moving away, replies: "We used him first string."
"We had to use a lot of guys first string, too," says Ewbank.
The key assistants at the 49er table are Joe Vetrano, who knows the Doomsday Book on the 1,500 draftable youths, and Phil Bengston, who has coached the 49er line for years and can tell Strader about the team's present personnel, whether a player is the kind who will come up lame easily, and whom to trade off.
Strader and Bengston tear a half paper off the scratch pad and write names vertically on it. Bell opens the meeting by drawing the name of one of four teams from a hat. This is the "bonus choice" that entitles the winner to a first pick before the regular draw begins. The other eight clubs in previous years won bonus picks and are no longer eligible. Baltimore wins, giving the Colts a chance to select the best football player in the world not yet signed by a professional team.
Before Baltimore names its bonus choice, Strader appears from behind the mirrored pillar next to the Baltimore table and hands Ewbank the scratch paper. Ewbank rises swiftly, seizes it and lines the names through—"Too slow," "We talked about him before," "No, Army," "No." Ewbank drops the paper on the edge of the press table.
As Strader gets back to the 49er table, Baltimore's bonus choice is announced over the loudspeaker. " Shaw, S-H-A-W, George, quarterback, Oregon." This could mean a quarter of a million dollars to the 21-year-old over the next decade.
And now, the big deal gone, Strader picks up the giant cardboard, his master list, and begins his draft choices.
When you sit there with a huge and complicated roster of possible candidates and the draft meeting is beginning, how do you operate? Some owners, the most prominent of them Marshall, draft the big names, either the nationally publicized All-Americas or a profitable local drawing card. Some coaches, particularly Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns, ignore all extracurricular considerations and draft "to need." The 49ers survey their weaknesses. This year they had to get swift, pass-receiving halfbacks and meaty inside linemen.
The big names who are also pro-type football players go on the first round of the draft. Strader gets the boy he wanted, Dickie Moegle, the speedy offensive halfback from Rice.