Glory Days – Dick Phillips
It’s fall again. I can just smell those footballs in the air.
It takes me back 50 years and some to my first and last games as a running back for Ohio University.
That first game in 1950, I just expected to warm the bench, but our punt returner fumbled that first punt. Coach Widdows was not happy and told me to go in to return the next punt.
The blocking screen was to be to my left. After squeezing the ball hard to my gut at our 20-yard-line, I took off straight ahead for a few yards and then cut sharply to my left, looking for some help.
Two opponents were bearing down on me and had the angle, and suddenly there weren’t there anymore. Big hole! Al Dunn had wiped them out beautifully with a resounding block.
I looked for more blockers in that screen, but not seeing any I zig-zagged up the field, picking up blocks where I could.
When I finally got about 20 yards from the goal line, I realized I was in the clear. I also realized I was completely out of gas. I sensed there were two players hot after me – coming at an angle on either side behind me.
I stopped dead in my tracks, for I knew I couldn’t outrun them. The two ran right by me, crashed into one another and tumbled into the end zone, and I kind of walked over the goal for my first varsity touchdown.
That year I returned all punts and managed to average 20 yards a return, which was the fifth best in the country. After that, nobody ever kicked to me again – not once!
My last game as a senior at Ohio was another one I didn’t expect to play, but for a different reason. I had suffered a serious back injury in the game the week before and couldn’t run. I didn’t practice that week at all, but being young and dumb, I wanted to play.
So the managers rigged up this huge protective pad for my back. They cut two giant doughnuts out of foam rubber, taped them together and taped a plywood board atop the opening of this gross thing and then taped the whole thing to my body.
Primitive, huh? But remember, this was 50 years ago when face masks and teeth guards were unheard of.
Well, the coach wasn’t so sure I could run, so I didn’t start and sat on the bench the whole first quarter. But Marshall was getting the better of us, so I went in for the second quarter and stayed through the third and gained over a hundred yards rushing.
By then I was sapped of all energy and had to come out of the game, which ended in a tie.
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