Where have all the tough guys gone?
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
I'm not so sure football players are as tough as they used to be.
In fact, I'm pretty darn sure of it. Maybe I need to clarify this statement by saying that people, in general, are not as tough as they used to be.
Being around sports most of my life, I can tell you for sure that few players have that bulldog, fight to the bitter end mentality.
I don't think coaches have that work all day and work all night toughness about them anymore, either. Sometimes it seems they would rather buy a player than coach one.
Being involved with schools most of my life, I can tell you that few kids now days have that toughness and willingness to work hard and achieve goals anymore. It seems sometimes they feel it's their birthright to have all the good things in life provided for them.
Americans are spoiled even when it comes to war. We expect to sit and watch a lot of bombs being dropped live on TV. We expect to see destruction of other people's property, but when it comes to ours, we cut and run. You might say we even expect our wars to be won with no sacrifice.
It just seems to me that we're not tough anymore.
Let me tell you a true story of one of the toughest guys I ever knew – Terry Rowell.
Terry came out of Heidelberg, Mississippi, and arrived at The University of Alabama in 1968. Terry was 5-10 and weighed about 180 pounds. He started three years as a defensive tackle and was named to the All-SEC Team in 1971.
Let me give you a visual: Here is a short, 180-pound guy going up against offensive lineman above 250 pounds. I know things have changed; players, especially lineman, are much bigger now. But, things haven't changed that much.
Terry and I were two members of the Alabama Crimson Tide who got waxed by USC at Legion Field that terrible night in 1970. Sam Cunningham ran up and down the field pretty much at will and the game ended up a one-sided victory for the Trojans. The next year we again part of the team that went to Los Angeles and surprised USC with the wishbone offense and came away with a 17-10 victory.
Terry and I roomed together in Bryant Hall and about a week or so before going to Los Angeles, we stayed up talking. I remember tears came to his eyes as he told me the huge USC lineman made fun of him the previous year. They were laughing at him because he was so small.
I won't quote him exactly, but Terry told me in down-home Mississippi language he was going to make them pay for laughing at him. There was no doubt in my mind he was serious.
I knew him as well as anybody, and I knew he was not the guy you wanted to have mad at you. So, I knew somebody on USC's team was in for it.
I'm sure there are still stories told about Terry's rambunctious behavior off the field. Like the time he T-boned a car at a red light on University Blvd., went through the windshield and landed in the street. He got up, brushed himself off, and was at practice less than a couple of hours later.
There are a thousand stories I could tell about this guy.
Terry made nine solo tackles and six assists that September night in Los Angeles, caused an interception and recovered fumble. Not a bad night for a 180-pound defensive tackle.
One other thing: I didn't see any of the Southern Cal players laughing at him that night.