There are only three downs in Canadian football and, consequently, more passing and outside running plays. Everybody, interior linemen included, runs all game long. This can be wearying. After some 55 minutes of all-out football during a night game against Montreal early this year, Hamilton Tackle John Barrow collapsed with heat exhaustion and a succession of agonizing cramps. He had lost 15 pounds.
Now Barrow is not a small fellow unused to heat. He's a 245-pound former All-America from Florida. "Ah nevah passed out back home," he protested.
Nor, Barrow says, did he have it so good back home. The Detroit Lions offered him $12,500, plus the stipulation, unusual in pro ball, that he couldn't be cut for two years. He turned it down. "Up here," he said, "football's fun."
In Canada, when a player is hurt, the fans fill his hospital room with flowers and wires. When Her Majesty the Queen of Canada and some other lands visited Winnipeg this summer, Coach Bud Grant of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers attended the formal dinner in her honor and was introduced to her as one of Winnipeg's leading citizens. Apparently some fans would like to extend a kind of diplomatic immunity to football players. When Dave Mann of Toronto was charged with possession of marijuana and the club held him out of the lineup pending the outcome, the fans protested bitterly.
"Personally," one blistering letter to the management concluded, "I don't give a damn if he is guilty or not, and I think most of the fans feel the same way."
People wave and shout at the players as they walk down the street. Tom Jones, the monstrous tackle from Miami (Ohio), has a huge circle of admirers in Ottawa. He took me for a ride in his orange-and-white convertible, top down, and from both sides of the quiet streets came cries of "Hi, Tom!" and "Hello, Mister Jones!" which the emperor acknowledged with becoming dignity. Tom is the color of hot fudge, 6 feet 5, weighs 280, and was wearing a cap, sunglasses and a T shirt with Miami stenciled across the front in red.
"It's amazing how many people recognize me," he observed, pride and wonder in his voice. All this adulation is appreciated by the players. They play with abandon, knocking themselves and each other out for the customers. An almost unbelievable example of the old Canadian try occurred in the 1954 game for the Grey Cup and the national championship, when Eagle Keys, Eskimo center and the only representative of Turkey Neck Bend, Ky. on the field, played the last quarter with a broken leg. Such devotion to duty pays off; Keys today is head coach of the Eskimos.
Whether it is the inspiration of the fans or the radiance of the northern lights, some run-of-the-mill players in the States have developed into heroes in Canada. Dick Shatto was of so little importance to the University of Kentucky six years ago that when he got married his athletic scholarship was canceled. Shatto went back home to Springfield, Ohio and a job as a construction laborer. He wrote a letter to the Argonauts asking for a tryout and they said, sure, come along. For months before he reported, Shatto ran wind sprints for an hour every morning, put in a 10-hour day on the job, then ran more wind sprints in the evening. When practice began he was fast, sharp and ready; he made the team.
Today Shatto is tremendous. As a ball carrier and pass receiver he would star on any American professional team. He is also a great leader, a fine defensive player and an outstanding halfback. Although last year he played six games as quarterback, he still ranked second in total yards gained rushing. Off the field Shatto looks like a young man on the way to a meeting of a junior chamber of commerce. Intelligent, poised and an excellent speaker, he is now an executive with Canada Dry, Limited.
Another young man who never played his last year of college football is Gerry McDougall, a third-string tailback at UCLA. He was one of the players found half guilty of overemphasis in the Pacific Coast Conference scandals of '56 and was sentenced to sit out half of the games during his senior year. Then he took part in a harmless prank which received undue publicity (it was open season on football players that year) and was suspended from school. Depressed and despondent, he sat in his apartment for weeks, looking at the walls. His wife, Arlette, had to quit her job; a child was due. Their savings were just about gone when, in March, a scout for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats said the club would help him get a job if he'd sign a contract. Gerry signed and went to Hamilton right away. He borrowed an overcoat from Jake Gaudaur, the president and general manager of the Tiger-Cats, and landed a job at the first place they sent him.