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Tex Maule
October 07, 1957
Pro football is on its way to another big season, and superstars like Ollie Matson will decide the title. Here is a preview, with scouting reports of all the teams
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October 07, 1957

Run For The Money

Pro football is on its way to another big season, and superstars like Ollie Matson will decide the title. Here is a preview, with scouting reports of all the teams

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Sprawled wide and heavy on a narrow cot in a training-camp dormitory, he thought about being drafted, the mild brown eyes heavy-lidded as he looked out a narrow window.

"I had always thought of professional football in terms of the Los Angeles Rams or the San Francisco 49ers," he said, with maybe a trace of regret in the soft voice. "But when Coach Kuharich drafted me, I was satisfied. I still am. These people have been nothing but nice to me. This is a very demanding game and that does make a difference."

He puffed industriously at an ancient pipe. It had gone out and he relit it, holding the match carefully and sucking at the pipestem for a long time to get an even fire.

"Yes, man," he said then. "This is a very demanding game in so many ways. Take drinking. Man can't do it in this business. Very fortunately for me, hard liquor makes me quite ill. I used to go into Roy Barni's bar back in San Francisco and Roy would say to me, 'Ollie, how about a gin?' and I'd say to him, 'No, man,' and then he'd laugh. And then he would say again, 'Come on, Ollie, and have a gin,' and I'd keep on saying no. One time I did and I was really very ill. But the rest of the time I'd say to him, 'Roy, gimme a beer,' and at the utmost, I would have two beers, maybe three on a real hot day. Man, Roy thought it was real funny the day I got ill."

Matson chuckled appreciatively, remembering how funny it was, the oddly mild brown eyes lighting up. He was stretched limply on the bed. He sucked briskly on the pipe, cold again now.

"Like smoking," he went on. "Used to smoke cigarets, but not many. One thing about me, if I smoke a cigaret while I'm drinking a beer, that makes me very ill. So one day I'm in a store and I see this pipe which you may have noticed is a quite unique pipe. It was something like $12.95 and the man said I could have it for $4 and I been smoking it since. Doesn't bother me at all." He held the pipe up and looked at it appreciatively.

"Doesn't hurt my wind at all," he said. "This is a rough business, so you must keep yourself in superb condition at all times. I watch my diet. If my wife cooks potatoes, I don't eat any bread. If I eat bread, no potatoes. During the off season, I go to the gym, play basketball, play golf, or shall I say I hack at the golf ball. Month before the season starts, I go down to the beach and run in the sand and run on the bridle paths and try a few pass-pattern maneuvers. My speed is most valuable to me, so I do my utmost to retain it."

( Matson placed third in the 400-meter run in the 1952 Olympics. It is a measure of the unswerving determination to excel which is a part of his makeup that he made that Olympic team in the face of almost universal assurance that three years of football at USF and no track had taken away too much of his speed. "Dink Templeton told me I couldn't make it," he said once. "I told him when the boat left for Helsinki, I'd be on it. Was, too. Then in Helsinki, I'm sitting around playing cards with George Rhoden, Mai Whitfield and Herb McKenley and all of them telling how they were gonna win the 400 meters the next day. I said to them, 'Fellows, there are three places on that stand out there and I'm going to be on one of them.' Was, too.")

Now, resting on the narrow cot after a long morning workout, he thought about the speed which has brought him so much. He rubbed the bowl of the pipe along the side of his nose and gazed solemnly out the window.

"You have to know how to use your speed, though," he said. "You have to use your head to some extent to use your speed to its fullest capacity. You have to set up the defense for the benefit of your blockers. You got to use your speed to get to the hole as soon as the blocker makes contact. When the defense man puts his hand out to ward off the blocker, you got to be there going fast to go by. You got to go right at the hole to do that—got to go right in off the tail of the fullback; you can't square the route. By that I mean you can't run to the side and then cut in at the hole—you got to go right at it."

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