In the issue of June 18,1956, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reported on a group of high school football stars from Pennsylvania who were being sought by major colleges all over the country. At the time many of the players were still in an agony of indecision over which offer they would take. Now Booton Herndon follows up his original story with a report on the same boys nine months later.
The crop of high-grade Pennsylvania high school football players reported in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED nine months ago is beginning to ripen. Now that the boys have wound up their first college football season, and most are presently battling through spring practice for varsity starting berths next fall, it can be safely reported that with one exception all are doing fine. With a couple of exceptions, each one of them is convinced that the university he chose is the best in the land, the coaches the greatest. And this is definitely miraculous, for up to and including the day they entered college there were some who were hardly capable of choosing a necktie, much less where they'd spend the next four years.
As was reported in June these boys, all high school seniors and outstanding football players, were being sought after, in some cases, by as many as 60 colleges. As the summer wore on, as the deadline for the final decision grew closer and closer, as fast-talking coaches put on more and more pressure, some of the youths reached the breaking point.
Ernie Westwood, a massive, phlegmatic tackle from Elrama, near Pittsburgh, was finishing his packing one Sunday morning in September, ready to leave for Ohio State. He'd made $600 working for an Ohio State alumnus that summer. His father had secured him a pass on the railroad between his home and Ohio State. The family car was all gassed up, ready to go, and not only his parents, but another boy, a local Ohio State student to whom they'd promised a ride, were waiting. Westwood was standing in his room, with a half dozen pairs of khaki pants in his hand. Should he pack them all? Or should he just take a couple of pairs, get the rest the next time he came home? But when would he come home?
All of a sudden the decision was too much for him. "Mom!" he hollered. "I'm not going to Ohio State! I'm going to go to Pittsburgh!"
At just about the same time, in Pittsburgh, Jimmy Cox, the flashy high-scoring halfback from a Philadelphia suburb, suddenly realized that he was 300 miles away from home.
"Mom!" he hollered. "Call Mr. Toretti! I'm gonna go to Penn State!"
But instead of Sever Toretti at Penn State, Cox's mother called Jack Wiley at Pitt, and Jack came running. Jimmy stayed, and now he's glad he did. He has Westwood up front.
Another one of the players, already at one school, went 650 miles to another, spent one day, then turned around and went back. Still another hit three schools before settling down.
And another was practically shanghaied, held incommunicado, offered, in addition to the legitimate scholarship, all the clothes he could wear, a flat monthly stipend under the table, and a $500 bonus if he made the team his sophomore year. He turned it down.