Only 267 bronze busts reside in the Hall of Fame Gallery inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. They "immortalize" the greatest players, coaches, and contributors that this game has produced. Each week during the 2011 NFL Season we will sit down for a Q&A with one of these legends.
Well, my hobbies are basically exercise. I do a lot of it during the day. I do like to read. I was an English and history major in college. And, even at my age I have a three-year-old granddaughter, that keeps me occupied.
LAST BOOK YOU READ:
Actually I reread, because I admired him so much a novel by Charles Dickens, “Great Expectations.” I’m reading one now by a man named Adam Hochschild, it’s called “To End All Wars,” a history of World War I. It’s very revealing.
LAST BOOK YOU WROTE!
I have just finished, at the age of 86, my first novel. All during my coaching career I put aside potential plot lines and character studies and I thought it might be fun. Finally when I retired, I went to work on it. It was a little bit like coaching, it was hard work but a lot of fun. It’s called "Between the Lies," it's just hitting the bookstores.
Oh boy! I like the old classics. “Casablanca,” I’m sure I’m not alone on that one. “Chariots of Fire,” I like that. One I look for every Fourth of July is “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Those were a few of them.
I hardly ever eat red meat and I hear that salmon is good for you so I’ll go with that. I hear olives are good for you so I’ll occasionally have a martini too.
FAVORITE CURRENT NFL PLAYER:
That’s a good one. I would say, and I’ll tell you why in a minute, not so much because he’s popular but it would be Peyton Manning. And the reason is because I’ve visited the Indianapolis practices several times and as great as he is and the career he’s had, his level of preparation in-season and off-season is just magnificent. Usually it wouldn’t be a quarterback, I’d go for a less glamorous position but his preparation and his attitude is very, very compelling.
FAVORITE NFL TEAM AS A CHILD:
As a child, the Chicago Bears. I grew up here in Chicago. There used to be a halftime, about eight plays, the Jr. Bears and Jr. Cardinals. I played on the Jr. Bears way back in the late 1930s.
FAVORITE NFL STADIUM OTHER THAN ARROWHEAD OR RICH:
Soldier Field, the tradition of it. They’ve altered it a bit but still it’s my favorite. You keep seeing my Chicago roots come through.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PRE-GAME SUPERSTITIONS?
Yeah and in fact I used to tell them to our players. I used to say ‘if you don’t run, throw, block, tackle, catch, kick well, you’re going to have bad luck.’
WHAT’S BETTER ABOUT THE NFL TODAY THAN WHEN YOU COACHED?
Well, certainly the paychecks that everyone’s getting would be one of them. Every enterprise whether it’s sports or technology or medicine evolves. The league does evolve and it gets more and more popular with fans and that’s wonderful.
WHAT WAS BETTER ABOUT THE NFL DURING YOUR CAREER THAN THE GAME TODAY?
I think there were more people in it purely for the love of the game. I may be wrong, it may be an old-timer’s type of remark but it seems that way to me anyway.
FAVORITE ATHLETE EVER IN ANY SPORT:
Many people won’t even remember him. Way back when I was a kid in 1938, the Cubs had a manager named Gabby Hartnett who on the last day of the season when his career was towards the end, he was a catcher but no longer a starter, set himself up to pinch hit. He hit the home run that won the pennant for the Cubs. And not only that but because it was the key game in who would go to the World Series, we got a day off from school! Everyone in Chicago did, to go home and listen to the game on the radio.
ONE PERSON WHO INFLUENCED YOU MOST IN LIFE:
Certainly my own father, a veteran of World War I, great, great principles, great guy.
TOUGHEST PLAYER YOU COACHED:
Wow. There are a quite a few of them. I might dwell on that for a moment (long pause). Well, in terms of tough I’d say one of those Buffalo Bills players, a linebacker we had, Darryl Talley, might fill that bill. He was as tough as they come.
WHAT MAKES YOU MOST PROUD ABOUT YOUR HALL OF FAME CAREER?
The people with whom I’ve associated during the 47 years of coaching. And, certainly my last stop in Buffalo with an owner like Ralph Wilson, a general manager like Bill Polian, Director of Player Personnel like John Butler. A qualification we had for players is that they had to not only have ability but great character.
WHEN IF EVER DID YOU REALIZE YOU MAY SOMEDAY MAKE THE HALL OF FAME?
The day it was announced. My goodness, I started as an assistant high school football coach. I never dreamed that someday that might happen. And, during my career that wasn’t on my mind; it was getting ready for the next game and figuring out how to pick up a zone blitz and how to run a two-minute drill. But, what a thrill it was to learn that I would be inducted.
HOW DID YOU LEARN OF YOUR HALL OF FAME ELECTION?
I was doing some media work after my retirement. I was at a Super Bowl played down in Tampa Bay. I was in a hotel room with my wife and daughter. They announced my name, and oh my goodness, my daughter got on the bed and starting jumping up and down I thought she was going to hit her head on the ceiling she was so excited.
WAS BILL POLIAN YOUR ONLY CHOICE AS A PRESENTER?
When I was going over to the press conference after the announcement, a legendary writer from Buffalo named Larry Felser came up to me just as Bill Polian came running up to congratulate me and Larry said, ‘who’s going to be your presenter?’ And I turned to Bill and said, ‘what are you doing next August?’ Yeah, he was the guy I had in mind if it should happen.
IF YOU COULD DO YOUR ENSHRINEMENT SPEECH OVER TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY DIFFERENTLY?
One of the things I didn’t mention but I planned to mention him was one of the quarterbacks on the team, not our starter Jim Kelly but Frank Reich who was just the most magnificent backup quarterback, I think, to ever play. He led the greatest comeback in not only the National Football League but in history of collegiate football also. I neglected to mention him although he was in my notes.
Other than that, I worked very hard on my induction speech and I was satisfied with what I presented.
YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OUTSIDE OF FOOTBALL?
Being a member of the Armed Forces during World War II.