The varsity guys were tired from beating up on each other for several days before we freshmen arrived. It was hot and dusty. The practice fields were right next to the stadium which was only used for special workouts and the games. It had great grass and most of it was marked off in five by five yard squares to accommodate those awful drills where we hammered each other inside that dimension. Of course we barely knew our assignments for lining up on defense and were completely disorganized but we were enthusiastic and ready to show our mettle against the varsity. They naturally ran rough shod over us, over and over. Every few plays another group of us was thrown into the mix. The game we all quickly learned was much faster than it had been in high school because everyone was good if not terrific. The varsity knew their assignments by heart and would pound into us as we were trying to adjust to that speed and “see” the play development at the same time. When we would occasionally make a good play and stop them we weren’t congratulated by the coaches. Coaches are pretty universal with praise and criticism. Mostly when we did finally do a good job even if by accident the coaches would unmercifully deride the varsity for screwing up against a bunch of rag knot freshmen.
When it was time to go on offense it was even worse. We always ran the upcoming opponents offense to let the varsity get a look at how they set up and ran their plays. In the huddle the coaches would hold up and cardboard with the play designed for each man on offense and we had to use the signal system for the snap count from the opposing team. With only a few seconds to see the play and being nervous about that different signal and snap count we were terrible and usually made no yards or very little. When we finally would run a decent play again it wasn’t because we did anything right but rather because some poor schmuck on the varsity screwed up. After 30 minutes or so we went back to our own workout routine trying to learn offense and defense, more drills and then those God-awful wind sprints to close out the workout. We would do them in increments starting with five yards, then ten, all the way up to 100 yards. You could really be sucking for air by the end of those.
We repeated the same pattern for several days then classes started and we at least only had to work out once a day around 3:30 but you had to get to the locker room by around 2:45 at the latest to get geared up and your ankles taped. They were fanatical about taping our ankles every practice. As the season wore on it got into a regular pattern. Our workouts were all hard through the entire week. After all we were learning and there for the varsity and only had two games of our own at the very end of the season within about 5 days of each other. The varsity’s workouts tapered off on Thursday and really did so on Friday but not ours. They had a game and we didn’t. Our Friday workouts were as miserable and hard as Monday. But we were young and healthy and survived. But we all kept an eye on the calendar looking for those two games against Tulsa and Oklahoma State at the end of the season and the release from football purgatory. I guess I should remind you that in those ancient days freshmen were prohibited by rule from playing on the varsity during their freshman year.
For the most part we freshmen weren’t treated badly by the varsity off the field and in the dorm. We all ate together in the athletic dining hall and had mandatory study hall. It was required for all freshmen and the upper class men also if they had less than a C average. It was three nights a week and was for two hours right after the dining hall closed for dinner. It was drag as you can imagine but good for us. That freshmen coach was there to supervise and there was no horsing around. You didn’t have to study of course, you could sit there and merely stare at your books but you would sit there for the whole two hours. I should have opened that French book more often.
For some reason that I truly don’t understand I got along very well with the varsity guys from the get go. They accepted me pretty much as an equal. Probably because I had always been mature; I was born an old man. The other freshmen were mostly ignored. The star of the team that year was a fellow who made All-American at tackle. He weighed around 225 if you can believe that; that was pretty normal for that day. I was the interlocutor for introducing him to his future wife. We had some kind of open house or picnic at the athletic quadrangle. Must have been on a Sunday because Saturdays were game days. We all went along with the other athletes, I believe it was a required show. Anyway during this function a really pretty girl flirted with me. I suppose she thought I was a varsity player. Later Billy who was the All American and a senior asked me about her and if she was my girl. I explained no. He liked the way she looked and wanted to know if I would introduce him and recommend him to her. Just like high school, he was so nervous. But hey it was a way to ingratiate myself with the most prominent guy on the team and a senior so why not. I did talk with her and let her know Billy would like to meet her and gave him a strong thumbs up. He did, they did and far as I know they remained married happily ever after and I had a real pal on the varsity for the rest of my tenure at Oklahoma.
“Ambition destroys it possessor” The Talmud. http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com