SI Vault
Compiled by Mervin Hyman, Dan Jenkins, Harold Peterson, John Underwood
September 23, 1963
The Quarterback
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September 23, 1963

Small Colleges

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The Quarterback

Against Eastern Illinois last year, a guileless, unprepossessing quarterback named George Bork took the pass from center, handed it off to the left half, who then handed to the right half on a double reverse. It was fourth down and eight on Eastern's 35. The right half handed the ball right back to Bork, who forthwith passed for a touchdown. "The score was 0-0," said Bork. "I don't think they expected anything like that so early. We beat them 21-0."

Eastern obviously was surprised. It should not have been. When Quarterback George Bork of Northern Illinois gets the ball, everybody and his Aunt Harriet knows he is going to pass. What no one knows, not even Aunt Harriet, is how to stop him. This year, before he takes home his last game ball, Bork and Northern Illinois University will hold every significant alltime passing and total-offense record in college football. Already Bork is the alltime leader in 1) passes completed per season (232); 2) passes completed in one game (37); 3) yards gained by passing in a season (2,506); 4) accuracy (65.2% on the basis of 150 or more attempts); and he has 22 other records. By midseason he should also have the career records in all these categories as well as the one for total yardage running and passing.

Considering that Bork was also a hot basketball prospect in high school, the casual bystander might wonder how he was snatched from the Big Ten's very maw by Northern Illinois, not too many years before known as De Kalb Normal. A sizable part of the answer is that Bork was only 5 feet 10 and 155 pounds and that Michigan—the primary Big Ten recruiter—wanted Bork to restrict himself to basketball. The largest portion of the answer, however, is the small-town atmosphere of De Kalb (where barbed wire was invented and corn is king), which Bork found appealing.

In the words of Football Coach Howard Fletcher, "You could never pick Bork out in a crowd." Committed to Midwest values, Bork is modest, democratic and scorns pretense or social striving. He is so democratic, in fact, that originally he wanted to be a lineman but got squashed often enough to realize he was not big enough. He became a quarterback when touch football teammates made him do the passing. The Bork ethic demands that when one gets a lead role, he plays it very, very well.

Today, at 170 pounds, Bork considers himself "average." He demands no more for playing football than a letter and a job paying $48 a month and he wants to play pro football just because "it would be kind of a challenge." But he does like to win. Says he, "All my thoughts, when I'm playing, are based on a pattern. It's a way of doing the job—which is winning." And if it simplifies that job, Bork does not mind a complicated play or a complex strategy. "We pass 70% of the time, using the shotgun offense a lot," says Bork, "but we also use quite a few screens and flare passes to stop the heavy rush. There are even several plays where I run." He adds, "Mr. Fletcher doesn't like me to run."

But run he will—and pass very often too. With a somewhat improved line, Northern Illinois could rise immodestly high among small-college teams, although it might not reach the heights of favorites Fresno, Oklahoma Central, Florida A & M and Susquehanna, as the regional reports below can testify.

The Midwest

Last year OKLAHOMA CENTRAL vandalized the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference, winning all of its games by an average margin of 28 points. When it demolished NAIA rivals by similar scores and won the small-college championship, people everywhere were suddenly impressed. They had better stay that way. Nineteen of 22 regulars return and the team will be "at least three-deep with capable hands" in 1963. Passer Mike Rollins (50% completions and 12 touchdowns last year) has gone but experienced sophomore C.B. Speegle is a good replacement. Backs R. L. Briggs (1,126 yards), George Hughley (601) and Bobby Williams all averaged six or seven yards per carry in 1962. They are back and so are Ends Billy Jones and Jim Davis, Clyde Frolics and Val Reneau in the line.

Wittenberg, after its perfect 9-0 record in 1962, graduated six starters, including Little All-America Tackle Don Hunt. Is Wittenberg worried? Not really, and one reason is Quarterback Charlie Green, who completed 79 of 147 passes for 1,227 yards and 15 touchdowns. Other good reasons are 28 lettermen, among them eight-touchdown-receiver Bob Cherry.

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