SI Vault
Dan Jenkins
September 09, 1968
The American drama of football recruiting, as observed in the case of Abilene's No. 14, is a phenomenon both somewhat ridiculous and somewhat sublime
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 09, 1968

Pursuit Of A Big Blue Chipper

The American drama of football recruiting, as observed in the case of Abilene's No. 14, is a phenomenon both somewhat ridiculous and somewhat sublime

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Everybody else howled about that later. They knew it must have made a huge impression on Mildren and would make their selling jobs even tougher. Darrell Royal put it better than anyone.

"I remember when I was a kid and went to Norman for the first time. I saw those big red helmets with the white 'O' on 'em, and those big shoulder pads," said Darrell. "Why, I knew I couldn't go anywhere else. I went back to Hollis and got my radio and put it out there on the porch on Saturdays so I could listen to the OU games and play like I had on one of those red helmets as I ran around dodging trees and stiff-arming anthills."

Jack Mildren had been a good prospect on the basis of his junior year, but as his team rolled along through last season he became a superb prospect. The Southwest recruiters could hardly wait until the Cougars finished their campaign to start their sales pitches, though Oklahoma, of course, had already started. After one particular game Green admitted some Sooner coaches to the Abilene dressing room where the Southwest coaches couldn't go because Mildren's season wasn't over yet. Darrell Royal got especially outraged. He called the Cooper coach to tell him he was granting Oklahoma an unfair advantage.

Green apologized and said he realized he had made a mistake, but he couldn't resist teasing Royal at the same time.

"Darrell, I wonder how many proselyters can take a kid out to the LBJ Ranch?" Green asked. "That seems to me like a little bit of an unfair advantage for Texas."

The recruiting season officially opens on a Texas athlete about one second after his final game. In Jack Mildren's case his pursuers waited an extra day for the quarterback and the family to recover from the heart-wracking loss to Austin Reagan in the finals at TCU stadium in Fort Worth. Jack had not played his best that day, although he passed for two touchdowns and ran for one and gave his Cougars a 19-7 lead that they blew. It was a very sad afternoon for Abilene. Nothing in life ever seems quite so monumental as that great big high school loss or victory. So the recruiters sort of stood back and stayed away from the downcast Abilene players after the game. They hung their heads like the families did and dug their toes into the concrete. It was a trifle difficult for Mike Campbell, an assistant at Texas, to look all that terribly torn up for Jack Mildren since Mike's son had played for Austin Reagan, but he somehow managed to keep it on a high plane. The Mildrens appreciated Campbell's position.

So Jack Mildren had a one-day reprieve, but it was the only one he would have for the next two months. Back at their home on Regent Drive in Abilene on Sunday—a small but nice development home on the new side of town—the phone calls started and the telegrams began to arrive.

The first call came from SMU Coach Hayden Fry in Dallas. He just wanted to express his sorrow at Cooper losing the game. But while Hayden was at it, he managed to mention that he hoped Jack was still an SMU fan like that little red-headed, 6-year-old boy he remembered so well. "You know in your heart you've always been a Mustang," Fry said to Mildren. A few hours later Jack would receive an effusive telegram from Hayden saying, among other things, that Jack was the best quarterback ever to play in the state of Texas.

Other phone calls rapidly followed Fry's. There was Darrell Royal, who wanted to set up an official visit right away, and then several condoling assistant coaches who more or less cooled it. They just wanted to make contact. Jack granted Royal the first official visit, which would take place the following Wednesday.

Royal is a tough recruiter, because he is a direct, businesslike person who throws a challenge up to a prospect and promises nothing. This approach is designed to appeal to the competitive instinct of the athlete. Royal deals from strength. Texas is the biggest school, a good one, a pretty one and his teams have been winners.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8