"I use Ben
Hogan as an example to my boys. I was plain sick when Hogan lost the Open. I
didn't get over it for a couple of days—I'm still not over it.... Hogan is the
most outstanding individual performer for my money, not only from the
standpoint of his concentration but because of the price he paid in preparation
to avoid ever hitting a bad shot. If a football player who's subject to
daydreaming—as we all are—daydreams at the wrong time, he'll make a mistake
that defeats you. Our approach to football is: don't make mistakes!
standards are high in everything, the entire group will retrogress to the
lowest level. When we travel, we're going to travel as well as we can. Our
uniforms will be the best, and we'll try to look the neatest and be the
cleanest and the smartest. In every possible ramification, we're going to try
to shoot for the moon. People who are going to play well operate that way. For
instance, I don't think a good golfer can play with dirty clubs."
captain of the golf team when he attended the University of Minnesota in the
middle '30s. A seven-handicapper, he plays golf whenever he gets a chance,
which isn't often, although the Oklahoma school has its own 18-hole course. On
the golf course Wilkinson's competitive drive is just as much in evidence as
when he's coaching his football team.
baby; c'mon, baby," he'll call to a putt that's nearing the cup. If it
drops, he's delighted. If it doesn't, he's more determined than ever that the
next one will be better.
lockerrooms at O.U., huge red and white placards pound home the words, PLAY
LIKE A CHAMPION. Yet if a boy doesn't want to play at all, that's his
"I don't see
any reason why a boy should feel he has to be a football player, if it's
against his personality," Wilkinson said. "He'd be better off in some
other line of endeavor. A lot of kids participate in football because their
girl thinks it's nice or their parents want them to, but there's a tremendous
number of young men who are blessed with an abundance of physical energy and
truly combative spirit. They have to relieve themselves of that pressure and
test their minds and bodies. Football fulfills that demand for total effort and
teaches them fair play, discipline, teamwork and loyalty.
demanded in other sports are all needed in football. There's the straight
combat of boxing and wrestling, the speed of foot of track and running, the
throwing and catching of baseball and basketball, the extremely difficult art
of kicking and judgment of the ball as in tennis."
Wilkinson was a
guard under the incredibly successful Bernie Bierman at Minnesota in 1934-35.
He was switched to blocking back in 1936 and called signals in the single wing
back system they used in those days. The Gophers won two national championships
in 1934 and 1936. In the summer of 1937, at Soldier Field in Chicago, he
quarterbacked the college All-Stars to their first victory in the All-Star pro
series, beating the Green Bay Packers, 6-0.
99% of my football from Bierman, not only from the morale standpoint but
technically," Wilkinson said. " 'Don't become sold on the type of
football that defeats teams you could defeat anyway,' Bierman used to say.
'Base your play on standards most likely to defeat the champions. You can't
fool a good team. The good ones don't take the fake. You've got to block
thing I believe—and I got this from Henry Iba, basketball coach at Oklahoma
A&M—is, 'Your measure of a coach is based on how well he creates in
practice the situations the player will face in a game, and keeps repeating it
until the player reacts properly by rote memory.' That sounds a little fancy,
but it isn't. Most of us coaches are adapters and copycats. There really are
very few original ideas. Missouri Coach Don Faurot's idea of splitting the
linemen—that's the Split-T—was an original contribution."