SI Vault
John Underwood
September 23, 1963
Everything is George in Miami, where George Mira is everything, including the best quarterback in college football. Key Westers are more smug. They say he has py-asso, and they still love him
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September 23, 1963

One Wonderful Conch Is This Mira

Everything is George in Miami, where George Mira is everything, including the best quarterback in college football. Key Westers are more smug. They say he has py-asso, and they still love him

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For all his self-assurance, Mira is a worrier who will gnaw his fingernails until they bleed. As a veteran hypochondriac he is forever in search of a new disease to try his symptoms on. Miami Trainer Dave Wike has special sugar pills that cure Mira of heartburn, heatstroke and cancer. (George says this story is exaggerated.) He is afraid of no man and every airplane. He takes pills to put him to sleep when he flies.

Once on the football field his apprehensions vanish. He thinks there is no power like the vested power of a quarterback, and when he believes he is right ("which he is, 90% of the time," says the unhesitating Gustafson) he has been known to tell tackles how to tackle, kickers how to kick and coaches how to coach. He does this with reasonable aplomb, being an education major and a man turned 21. "It's applied psychology," he says. "You don't just tell a kid he can't put crayon on the wall, you tell him why, if you know—you know?" Long ago, when George was very young, 16 or so, he made a reputation in athletic contests for applying psychology with his fists, and with his feet, too, if he could work them in. "But George has reformed," says his very pretty bride of last June, Regina, though she is not sure exactly what he reformed from, because George can show just cause for every low-down foe he ever smashed.

The social George Mira is airy and theatrical and not above asking Miami Sportswriter Luther Evans to please quit using a certain picture of him in the Miami Herald because it is a poor likeness. When he alighted from the plane on his second trip to New York he held his arms out to encompass the city and said: "This is my town!" He could hardly wait to get to Tiffany's, because teammate Leo Lillimagi told him it had "a lot of expensive things I oughta see." He plays golf regularly with Coaches Jim Root and Ed Kensler, "but the next day after a match," says Kensler, "you don't find him slouching over my desk calling me by my first name."

Not the least of Mira's assets is the marvelous Mira family. There is no telling how many Miras there are at the small, two-story frame house on Packer Street, because they are coming in and out all the time, and most of them look alike. Each day at noon there is a running caucus that may even include Deputy Sheriff Bobby Brown and is loosely presided over by Jimmy Mira Sr., George's father. He is an ex-pro boxer—he fought for combs, mostly, in Tampa, he said—who now runs the equipment at the Key West ice plant. He is a stockily built, mustachioed man who tells interesting stories and keeps youngest daughter Sylvia hopping up and down filling glasses with iced tea or limeade, your choice. All available space in the house is dominated by trophies, pictures and plaques of George, as the talk is dominated by stories of George.

A normal gathering will include brothers Jimmy Jr., who quarterbacked the Key West High team before George, and Joe, 17, who is quarterback there now and who is, by George's estimate, an extremely enviable 6 feet 1; sisters Rosie and Sylvia; and a fluctuating number of uncles, "each one a little bigger and a little better-looking," says Jimmy Sr. There are Uncle Humbert, Uncle Armando, Uncle Joe and Uncle Manuel, known as Crazy Cuban. (Key Westers are passionate nicknamers. They are responsible for grown men being called Old Ropes, Two-by-four, Flea Trainer, Bring Back My Hammer and Stinky Mitchell, but George Mira was never anything but Georgie.) Finally, the sunlight is blocked by a great figure at the door. He and his mustache are the biggest of all. This is Uncle Mario, who distributes beer. He can balance a full bottle on his tongue and will flip it to you if you are dry.

Humbert and Jimmy Sr. are former Key West golf champions and have found, like Toski, that Georgie is some hot golf prospect. "He cheats, you know," says Jimmy Sr. "You've got to watch him. He runs after the ball. Says he's got to get there fast so he can get in two or three practice swings, but how do I know what he's doing up there by himself?"

Jimmy Sr. admits all the stories about Georgie's temper are true, but you have to understand that "Georgie's got to win every time. Georgie doesn't believe in second." Since Georgie became a college man, says Jimmy, his self-control is remarkable. By contrast, he recalls a Key West High basketball game in which an opponent on a Miami team was giving him a lot of hands. When both teams and the referees turned away after one basket, Mira, as a matter of course, stopped and decked his man with one punch, then trotted casually downcourt and set up on defense.

When his baseball team was beaten in the finals of the state tournament, George ripped his hand trying to put a soap dish through the shower wall. "I fell," he explained. In one game he charged off the mound after an opponent who had made unkindly references to his Spanish lineage. In the stands Jimmy Sr., equally riled, spied a man he thought was chasing George while George was chasing the player. "Georgie got his man in the dugout," said Jimmy. "I got mine, too." Mrs. Dolores Mira, a demure, hospitable woman, has been known to squelch her son's hecklers with a blazing "You shut up!"

Jimmy Mira never played a lick of football, but he watches the pro games on Sunday and jots down plays he thinks might work for George at Miami. He advises him to "get up quick anytime you get knocked down so nobody'll think you're hurt." He offers an alternative: "If you can't get up, turn over and show 'em some cleats." George complains that for all his good advice Pop would sooner boil over than favor him with a word of praise. "After I've had a good game I rush home and challenge him: "O.K., Pop, how about that one?' and he reminds me that I fumbled once in the second quarter." "It sure makes him mad," says Jimmy Sr., cackling over his cunning, "but it also makes him try harder next time. He's already got enough people telling him how good he is."

Jimmy's best advice, uncles, brothers and sisters agree, was to set a $30,000 premium on his son's baseball talent. There rages in George a desire to pitch in the big leagues, but Jimmy Sr., who never went to college, figured wisely that a college scholarship was worth at least $30,000 in long-range returns. When no offer exceeded Baltimore's $13,000, George packed his aspirin and was off to college to play football.

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