|The Toughest Coach There Ever Was by Frank Deford|
Page 11 of 20
Telling the story, Bradberry merely smiles, then shrugs and says, "And hey..." and raises his arms in the TD salute.
Defense bored Bull Cyclone, so he let his assistant handle that. Of course, from carefully studying the passing game, he became an expert at pass defense. Scooba played man-to-man and stunted constantly.
"Forty-four red dog" was his favorite defensive alignment: four-man line, four others up close, blitz. Against running attacks, which were what he usually faced, Sullivan's basic concept-again presaging the future-was to have his linemen "mess things up" so that the linebackers could dash up and make jarring tackles. A wiry little demon of a linebacker named Bob Wilson is reputed to have made as many as 25 stops in a game, 150 in one season.
In practice, though, Bull Cyclone would spend almost all of his time working on passing-7 -on-8-exiling the interior linemen to the sidelines, where they could get at it among themselves all day. Nowadays, major schools have so many assistants that a head football coach primarily has to be an administrator just to keep practices running effectively. But Bull Cyclone was always in the midst of things, and when he ran his beloved passing drills, he'd move right along with the team. Most coaches stand in one spot and shout "bring it back." Bull Cyclone's players would practice up and down the field, simulating a real drive. No one was allowed to disturb this routine, and, of course, no outsiders were present, lest they be shot as spies.
One thing Bull Cyclone had going for him was that few other teams concentrated on the pass-and none in all of America as much as he-so that opponents weren't geared to stopping a promiscuous aerial game. On the other hand, Scooba was invariably the runt of the litter. The Mississippi Junior College Conference had 15 teams then, and the rules limited recruiting to certain areas. Bull Cyclone, like Bradberry today, was left with slim pickings in his six backwoods counties. Big as he was himself, Bull Cyclone came to admire the tiny farmers' sons he had to make do with-"little itty-bitty boys," says Box, who played fullback at 160 pounds. Smith was a 150-pound quarterback, and Garner didn't weigh even that much. Wilson, the best linebacker Scooba ever had, barely went 135. You've heard of baseball players who can't hit their weight. The year Wilson supposedly made 150 tackles he might have been the only college football player in history to tackle more than his weight.
For all the great quarterbacks Bull Cyclone had-at one stretch four in a row went on to star at four-year colleges-the only uniform number he ever retired was 31. It belonged to a halfback named Clyde Pierce, who was always known as Baby Doll Pierce and always described as "Baby Doll Pierce, 124 pounds, soaking wet, from West Point, Miss." Bull Cyclone even had a reel of film made up just of Baby Doll to show the big guys what tough really was. One time Baby Doll got hurt, and as the call went out for a stretcher, Bull Cyclone just scooped up the limp little form and carried Baby Doll off the field in his massive arms.
Though quarterbacks enjoyed an exalted status in Bull Cyclone's cosmos, they suffered much more for their sins than other players. Smith was brought to Scooba two weeks before school opened in 1962, and he moved in with the Sullivans. As he studied the offense with Bull Cyclone, he became a member of the family. But in the first quarter of his opening game, after he had marched Scooba to a touchdown, he muffed the two-point conversion pass attempt. Smith turned around to find Bull Cyclone running at him, screaming, "You traitor, Smith! You're a traitor!" Smith couldn't believe what had come over the man. "I was fixin' to go over the hill right then," he says.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 March 2008 )|
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