And without a photographer anywhere near?
This is the side of Sherrill few make a peep about. And yet it's the side that some people believe best defines him.
For example, he can squeeze balloons into amazing animal shapes. Dogs and turtles are his specialties. He has magic in his hands. He can rub a balloon against the top of a kid's head and make it stick there like a hat. He understands the miracle of static electricity. Even better, he understands how it feels to be without a skinny hope in this world.
But did anyone care about Jackie Sherrill, the humanitarian?
This went against his image, and you didn't have to remind him what that was: Jackie Sherrill, the smug, self-satisfied cracker who had a knife put to Willie.
Until news of the castration made its spin around the globe, the last anyone seemed to have heard of Sherrill was in connection with the A&M scandal. During his tenure at College Station, from 1982 through '88, he guided the Aggies to three straight Cotton Bowl appearances. But at the outset of his last season there, the NCAA's infractions committee found the A&M football program guilty of 25 rules violations, nine of them "significant." Although Sherrill wasn't named in any of the serious violations, the committee did cite the school for "lack of institutional control," an indictment that struck at Sherrill's performance as both athletic director and football coach. The probation period decreed by the NCAA stretched over two years and included a bowl ban for the '88 season and a reduction in scholarships, but most people regarded it as a relatively light sentence. In fact, Sherrill himself was heard to quip, "Is this devastating? No. It's not like we will crater."
Not long after the NCAA made public its findings, however, more problems racked Sherrill and his team. Former Aggie fullback George Smith told a reporter for the Dallas Morning News that he had been paid some $1,400 by Sherrill to keep mum about cheating at A&M. Smith added that the last of the payments was made after the Aggies had been placed on probation. Sherrill denied the charges, and Smith immediately recanted his story, saying that much of what he had told the reporter was untrue. Then Smith recanted his recantation.
Sherrill was anything but humbled by these events. No one knew the NCAA rule book better than he did, his friends said. Sherrill saw himself as a martyr taking hits for the mistakes and indiscretions of others. Upon deciding to resign from A&M, he says, he met with university president William H. Mobley and told him that he was "playing Santa Claus, taking A&M's problems going back to the 1950s, putting them in a bag and walking off."
According to an A&M official, Mobley says that he "can't recall any such conversation," but Sherrill remembers it. And as with the Paterno incident, he has repeated it enough times to have perfected the dialogue. "I did tell him I was Santa Claus," Sherrill insists. "I said it to the president."
Had the NCAA discovered any truth to Smith's story, it might have meant the death penalty for A&M, since any school found guilty of major violations twice in a five-year period can have its program shut down for two years. Sherrill had almost single-handedly transformed the Aggies from perennial also-rans into one of the proudest, most cocksure teams in the country—a team, some would argue, in Sherrill's own image. And it burned at his guts now to see what he had worked so hard to build being threatened. "Losing A&M," he would say later, "well, it was just like losing a child."