|The Toughest Coach There Ever Was by Frank Deford|
Page 12 of 20
Smith stayed, however, and Scooba went on to qualify for something known as the Magnolia Bowl. Shortly before that game, Bull Cyclone saw quarterback Billy Wade of the Chicago Bears play a game on TV with tiny shoulder pads, and he figured Smith would profit from the same gear. Only Sullivan didn't have any tiny pads, so he asked Smith if he'd go padless. Smith quickly agreed. "You must understand, he had enough effect on me that I wouldn't even question him when he asked me to play without shoulder pads," Smith says. Bull Cyclone didn't let the rest of the players know what was up until just before the game. "Fellows," he said. "Lester's not going to wear any shoulder pads tonight." Long pause to let that sink in. "And ... he ... better ... not ... get ... hit." Smith didn't, either, except on two occasions when he lost his head, checked off the coach's plays and ran the ball on sneaks.
Although Scooba won and Smith escaped the coach's wrath, Bull Cyclone usually went berserk when a quarterback of his risked getting tackled. A perfect game wasn't a quarterback completing every pass. A perfect game was a quarterback not having his star jersey touched. The first thing Bull Cyclone taught any quarterback candidate wasn't how to throw a complete pass but how to throw an incomplete one. Bradberry well remembers the time Bull Cyclone ripped off his jersey and another time when he yanked off his helmet and chucked it clear into Mr. Smith's pasture, to illustrate how you threw a ball away with proficiency.
Once that art was mastered, Bull Cyclone's quarterbacks got down to completing passes. He required them to come out an hour before practice and half an hour before games and throw to each other "on a knee"-that is, kneeling-a drill that improves form and increases arm strength. Buckner threw so many passes that, for a while, he had to keep his arm in a sling when off the field. Over and over the quarterbacks would work on the same precise patterns, learning to release the ball before the receiver broke. And if a quarterback did anything incorrectly--or worse, stupidly--a terrible wrath was visited upon him. "Get out of my ---- huddle! Get out of my ----life!" Sullivan would bellow. The quarterbacks were different, and everybody knew it. Even now, the quarterbacks talk about Bull Cyclone in a more intimate way than do the other players. The quarterbacks were really the only ones who were back with him, alone, on Okinawa.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 March 2008 )|
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