When Quarterback Doyle Traylor appears in the Orange Bowl against Miami's Hurricanes Saturday evening it will not be entirely through the courtesy of Baylor University. In all fairness, the Johnson & Johnson bandage people and U.S. Steel must share some of the credit.
Traylor, who was the finest schoolboy passer to come out of Texas since Sammy Baugh, is literally pieced together with surgical baling wire and adhesive. The injuries he has received while playing for the Waco Bears could fill a small medical book and might very well have hampered a playing career that promised to surpass anything that has been written about football, fact or fiction.
"Hard luck. That's all the kid has had," says Baylor Coach Sam Boyd. "Never gets hurt in a game, always in practice. He's not brittle or frail like some people say. He just plays harder and has more guts than most and the damndest luck you ever saw."
Watching the effortless grace of his movements on the field it is difficult to believe that Traylor had ever suffered anything more serious than a slight cold. Yet his left ankle, broken last year, is held together with a steel pin; his collarbone, cracked two years before, was mended with more hardware; a vertebra, down low in the hollow of his back, was replaced with a bone graft from his hip; his right fibula, broken two years ago in practice, still has to be taped tightly, carefully, every time he puts on a football suit. And there are the scars from a double hernia and spikings.
Despite all his misfortune, Traylor remains the good-humored sparkplug of the Baylor Bears.
"The team goes better with him in there," says Boyd. "They respect him. He has a rare quality of leadership that demands and gets the very best out of a player."
During a practice session at the old rodeo grounds at Waco, about 10 blocks from the quiet Baylor campus, Traylor demonstrated what Boyd meant. His backfield moved into position behind the hulking Baylor line and on the snap of the ball broke like eager cow ponies pounding after a stray steer. As they ran, the backs made yipping noises and their cleats raised little dust puffs which seemed to exaggerate their speed. They would run 15 yards or so, then hustle back to run the play again. Traylor's first unit was always back fastest. Between plays he kept up an incessant chatter, encouraging, kidding, chiding, praising. Once he called for a pass to his right tackle, Charley Bradshaw, a lumbering, 6-foot-6, 240-pound giant. Bradshaw caught the toss with all the awkward grace of a St. Bernard, then beamed while his teammates ragged him. It was illegal but it was fun. And Traylor believes firmly that football should be fun.
THE TALK IN TEMPLE
This is Traylor's last year with the Bears, and he has yet to play a full season. "Maybe I've used up all my bad luck," he says hopefully. "It sure would be nice to play out this year." It would be interesting, too, to see if Traylor could be as effective in college as he was in high school given a chance to play full time. In three years at Temple High School he broke every schoolboy passing record ever set in Texas, surpassing even the great Slingin' Sammy Baugh. He completed 273 of his 506 passes for the staggering total of 5,108 yards and 80 touchdowns. Every college in the country was after him, including Notre Dame, but Doyle, a staunch Baptist, chose Baylor, only 30 miles from home. It was in high school that Traylor first began to have troubles with his back. He wore a cumbersome brace all during his junior year and, despite this handicap, he passed for 34 touchdowns. The folks in Temple still talk about his memorable performance that year.
Although Traylor has spent more time in Waco's Hillcrest Hospital than he has playing football for Baylor, his teammates elected him their co-captain this year as a sign of the affection and esteem in which they hold him. "Thank you all," said Traylor at the banquet. "I know all my friends at Hillcrest are going to be proud of me."