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Basically it is a modern team, and that does not seem improper. Mental strain became a great part of football after mid-century. The pressure to excel in packed stadiums and against the weight of headlines has become enormous. We shall never know what Willie Heston might have done, going for No. 1 before 90,000 in the Los Angeles Coliseum, for example, but we do know what O.J. Simpson did.
It is a team whose members share a number of distinctions. Eight players, for instance, have been chosen by various reputable selectors on Alltime teams. They would be Sam Baugh, Red Grange, Don Hutson, Bronko Nagurski, Bennie Oosterbaan, George Connor, Bob Suffridge and Bob Peck. Each of the 11 was an All-America, naturally, most of them twice and five of them—Doak Walker, Grange, Oosterbaan, Suffridge and Peck—three times. Walker is football's last three-year consensus All-America. Eight of the men led their teams to at least one undefeated season, and seven of them played on mythical national champions.
But let us look at them individually.
Sam Baugh of Texas Christian was everything a quarterback should be and something few of them are anymore. Joe Namath is the only passer who has come along that anyone would dare suggest could throw the ball as well as Sam. But Baugh was also perhaps the finest punter who ever arched his foot. For example, in the Sugar Bowl game of 1936 against LSU, on a rainy day, Baugh punted 14 times, frequently within LSU's five-yard line, for a 48-yard average.
Wiry and tobacco-chewing, Sam had the con artist in him, as a leader on the field who also played a vicious safety on defense. Once, when TCU was playing Tulsa, his fullback obviously scored, but an official disallowed it. "You're exactly right, Mr. Referee," said Sam quickly. "I saw it and he didn't get over." Whereupon, Sam called his own number on the next play, and this time the referee's hands went up for a touchdown almost before Baugh could take the snap.
Slingin' Sam threw long and short, soft and hard, dancing, running, being hit or with his feet planted. In an era when 10 passes in a game was considered extravagant, Baugh hurled 30 and 40, hit most of his receivers in the bridge of the nose and spiraled an unbelievable (then) 38 touchdowns in three seasons.
Grantland Rice was so taken with Sam and the dazzling style of football that TCU played that he went on picking Dutch Meyer's teams in his preseason Top 10 for years after Baugh left.
Another Baugh never turned up in the Southwest, but a Doak Walker did. Walker did more things well in football, including win—win with a mediocre team—than just about anyone who ever played. He ran, passed, punted, caught, placekicked, blocked and defended. And, in an era of free subs, he would play most of a tough game, both ways.
Handsome and shy off the field, graceful, calm and dramatic under pressure, he was everything the magazine covers yearned for, and the Cotton Bowl got double-decked because of his deeds for SMU. His most familiar play would be to get trapped trying to pass and then weave off a long run. Doak had that wonderful talent for making a five-yard run seem like 30, and his 60-yarders seemed to take an hour, for he faked, dodged and bewildered everyone in the stadium along the way.
In everything he tried, the form was always perfect. If you wanted a 70-yard quick kick, Doak kicked it. If you wanted a 30-yard field goal, he kicked that, too. He would raise up and complete a pass on one play, then leap up and catch one from somebody else. And best of all, he would find a way to win, frequently in the closing minutes. They called him "the miracle man," and he was precisely that in an age of perhaps the strongest football (the late 1940s) we have seen.