It's Only a Gameby Terry Bradshaw
He's a man who knows the importance of hard work -- and he's living proof that it pays off.
IT'S ONLY A GAME
This is the absolutely guaranteed 100% mostly true story of the man who gained sports immortality as the first quarterback to win four Super Bowls -- and who became America's most popular sports broadcaster. As honest,/b>/b>… See more details below
He's a man who knows the importance of hard work -- and he's living proof that it pays off.
IT'S ONLY A GAME
This is the absolutely guaranteed 100% mostly true story of the man who gained sports immortality as the first quarterback to win four Super Bowls -- and who became America's most popular sports broadcaster. As honest, unexpected, and downright hilarious as the man himself, It's Only a Game shows the many sides of Terry: the former pipeline worker, cattle-raiser, professional singer, youth minister, actor, television and radio talk-show host, and public speaker -- and replays all the hard-hitting, bone-crunching details from his heyday with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
More than a collection of his funniest stories, It's Only a Game is the personal account of Terry's search for the life before and after football...as only he could tell it.
- Gallery Books
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- 4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)
Read an Excerpt
I had a real job once. It was back about 1990. My ex-wife-to-be and I had moved to Dallas so she could get her law degree and I could learn how to play golf. I was determined to become a good golfer, but the ball seemed about equally determined to go wherever it wanted to go. I was playing golf four days a week and started feeling guilty about it. My buddies couldn't play when I wanted to because they all had jobs. And suddenly it dawned on me that I had never had a real American nine-to-five job. I'd worked hard my whole life and done a lot of different jobs; I'd done all the chores on a farm from baling hay to making buttermilk, I'd been a spot welder and worked on the oil pipelines, I'd been a youth minister. I'd been a pro football quarterback and won four Super Bowls -- and called all my own plays -- I'd been a television broadcaster, I'd sung professionally and made several CDs, I'd acted on TV and in the movies and coauthored two books. I'd been the world's worst cattleman and owned a horse ranch. I'd been a public speaker, a product spokesman, I'd done commercials, infomercials, and endorsements. I'd worked all my life, just the way I'd been taught by my father.
But I'd never had a real, honest-to-goodness get-up-in-the-morning-when-you're-too-dad-blamed-tired-to-look-in-the-mirror-and-see-this-creature-look-back-at-you-and-think-oh-my-goodness-gracious-and-get-dressed-in-a-tie-and-jacket-and-drive-downtown-in-rush-hour-traffic-having-to-listen-to-Gus-and-Goofy-on-the-radio-and-finally-arrive-at-the-office-to-face-a-pile-of-papers type of job. So I told my wife, "I got to get me an honest-to-goodness nine-to-five real job."
"What?" she said. I have to admit that the things I did often surprised my wife. Well, it wasn't personal -- they often surprised me too.
"I got to get a job." My self-esteem was suffering because all I was doing was playing golf. I was feeling very guilty that I was a fully grown man making my living as a sports personality. I felt that I was not part of mainstream America. Somehow it didn't seem right that I could be having so much fun without even knowing how to use a computer, send an e-mail, or even get on the Internet. It wasn't natural.
So I went out and got a job -- at Lady Love Cosmetics. So help me Butkus this is absolutely true. My job was to launch a line of shampoos, conditioners, and fragrances for men primarily to be sold at sports clubs.
We were going to change the aroma of the locker room. I went down to the chemical lab and started sampling the different choices of fragrances for our products.
I didn't know how to have a job. So I bought a briefcase, and each morning I would buy the Wall Street Journal, wrap it around my Sports Illustrated, and put it into my briefcase. I'd put on a starched shirt, a tie, and a jacket and go to my office at Lady Love Cosmetics, feeling proud that people could look at me and say, "That boy has a job." At my job I had a little office and I had a secretary that I shared with another man, and that was definitely fine with me because otherwise she would not have had anything to do. I had a phone, and I would call people to tell them, "I'm calling from my job."
I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn't a very good cosmetics salesman. The truth is I really didn't want to sell cosmetics, I just wanted to have a job. I would go to meetings and sit quietly, occasionally nodding my head, but I didn't understand the terminology any more than those people would have understood my play calling. I didn't even know how to read the stock market results, but I still bought stocks, because that's what people did when they had a job. And from that job I learned a very important lesson.
I didn't want to have a job. For almost five months I went to work every morning, just like my buddies. The big problem with my job was that my office window overlooked the eighth fairway of a beautiful golf course, and every day the sun would be shining, the birds would be singing, and I'd be sitting up there watching people playing golf and thinking, Man, I sure wish I didn't have a job. My lunch hour began getting longer and longer till it stretched from about noon to the next morning, and nobody seemed to notice. Soon my lunch break took the whole entire day, starting with a lunch breakfast. Finally I quit, although apparently it took a long time before people noticed I wasn't just on my lunch break, and I did the very thing I should have done months earlier: I found some other people who didn't have real jobs either who could play golf with me.
But it didn't make that feeling that I needed to do something more go away. Nor, truthfully, did it make my golf game better. The fact is I'd had feelings like that my whole life. No matter what I achieved, it didn't seem to satisfy me. In high school I set the national record for throwing the javelin, but I desperately needed to throw it farther. I won four Super Bowls -- calling my own plays, thank you very much -- and I had to win five. I was the number-two broadcaster at CBS behind the greatest announcer in the entire history of football, John Madden, and I was so unhappy I was ready to quit. Finally I decided to find out why I just couldn't be satisfied living a wonderful life. I went to see a professional therapist.
That didn't work very well at all. I was afraid the therapist wouldn't think that my real problems were very interesting, so I made up a whole character for him. A whole other person. I was actually embarrassed that my problems weren't big enough. I wanted him to be happy that I was so messed up. I wanted him to be able to tell people, Oh man, that Terry Bradshaw has great problems. I just felt that if I told him, I drank too much on Thursday night, or I love beautiful women, or I'm not good with details, he'd be bored. I wanted to have the best problems of any patient he'd ever seen. I wanted Super Bowl-size problems. So I had to make them up.
That was hard for me to do. So I only had two visits. But because I didn't want him to feel like a failure, I told him I was cured. It was a miracle, I told him, he was the greatest counselor I ever saw; two visits and cured.
The truth is that the person I had been telling him about was cured. Me? I felt guilty about lying to my counselor. So I had to start seeing another therapist to resolve my guilt about lying to my first therapist.
There really has been only one thing in my life that has made me feel complete, and that is the game of football. The ability to throw a football was my God-given talent. That was my blessing and my passion; that was my calling in life, and everything that I've accomplished has derived from that. When I was four years old, I would wad up a piece of paper and spend hours lying on the floor throwing it up and down. As I got a little older I'd lie in bed at night throwing my football against the ceiling. Thump! Thump! My dad would yell, "Terry, put the football down right now and go to sleep!" and I would. But five minutes later, thump! Thump! My best friend Tommy Spinks and I would throw the football for hours in our backyard until we couldn't do it anymore. Throwing a football was the most fascinating thing in the world to me. We never got tired or bored, we jut ran out of day.
I got a new football every year. I'd take cordovan polish and just shine it up. As I learned, the more you throw inexpensive footballs, the bigger they get. Those footballs would literally swell up. Eventually the laces would split, I'd take the laces out of my shoes and pull it back together. I loved that, because the bigger the football got, the lighter it got, and the farther I could kick it. In my backyard one day, trust me, this is absolutely true, I popped that baby and it didn't leave my foot good and it -- blew up! Bam! Scared me to death. Then there was this real sad-looking flat piece of leather lying there on the ground. Dad, I told him, I kicked that football so hard it just exploded on me. My dad replied real quiet, Don't you go telling no stories, son. Okay, Dad.
I suspect I inherited my love for the game from my father, W. M. "Tennessee Bill" Bradshaw. He encouraged us to play. At times we'd have a dozen kids in my backyard playing football. We had a window with twelve panes of glass; the record we set for one-day breakage was seven. My father used to keep extra panes of glass and putty handy. If we needed an extra player, my mother would jump right in. Maybe she was a step slow going to her right, but we never held it against her. It was in that backyard that she lost most of her teeth.
I played my first game of organized football when I was nine years old. The first person I ever tried to tackle was Tony Poppa. I weighed seventy-five pounds; he was as big then as he was when he went to college. He was Superman. The stud. I was playing safety, and Tony Poppa came roaring through the line right at me. I was the only roadblock between him and the goal line. I saw him coming at me. And I knew a long time before Tony that he was about to make an eighty-yard run for a touchdown. I wasn't real committed to putting my body in front of him. I believe it was at that moment that I decided my future in football was as a quarterback.
I didn't know how to make a tackle. I closed my eyes, lowered my head, and threw all seventy-five pounds of myself at him -- and missed completely. Proving once again that there is a God.
I wasn't a very big kid. Often now parents will come up to me and tell me proudly, "That boy of mine there, he wears a size 13 shoe!" Meaning that everybody who's got a big foot is going to be six-foot-six and a football star. "Terry, look at my boy's foot. What do you think about that foot?"
"Oh my," I always say, "that boy's got a nice foot." But what I'm really thinking is, He's a chubby little thing, isn't he? And then I notice that the man who is telling me this also has big feet, but he's five-foot-nine, and he's a welder.
I didn't have big feet, and my father was a welder. What I did have was a big heart and a big arm. The first position I played was offensive guard. Maybe I didn't know how to block, but I was always willing to listen to my coaches and learn. That never changed. Never. Even a lifetime later, after a fourteen-year professional career, I still don't know how to block.
After seeing how well I blocked, my coaches moved me to tailback. They handed me the ball and let me run with it. Oh, I liked that a lot, right up until the part in the play where the big guys caught you and everybody jumped on top of Terry. You okay down there, Terry?
So I became the quarterback. I was born with a strong throwing arm. Me and both my brothers, Gary and Craig, had very strong arms. Some families inherit intelligence, others get good looks; we got right arms. My younger brother, Craig, in fact, also became a number-one draft pick. Of course, as he likes to tell people, he was the first pick the second day of the draft.
We grew up mostly in Shreveport, Louisiana, though we lived briefly in Comanche, Iowa. I spent most of the summers of my childhood on my grandparents' forty-acre farm in Hall Summit, which was about twenty-five miles and fifty years south of Shreveport. Pawpaw, my granddad, had animals, crops, a salt shed, and a two-hole outhouse on the farm. You had to walk through the briar patch to get to that outhouse. You knew your family had made it big when you had a two-holer out there. How many holes you got, Terry? We got two! Two! Damn, Terry, you sure gettin' fancy. I'd go in that outhouse with the Sears catalog and when I was sure nobody was around, I'd turn to the brassiere section and look at those pictures.
That was near as I got to knowing about sex in my childhood.
My brothers and I spent a lot of time back at that outhouse, shoveling and burying, fightin' off the bull flies. Those flies were so big we used to name 'em. Watch it, Craig, here comes Big Al again.
Pawpaw taught me how to plow a field, how to pick cotton and watermelons and cantaloupe. I had my own cotton-picking sack, and written on it in big letters was TP, Terry Pack. That's what all my relatives called me, Terry Pack. I learned how to thump a watermelon and tell from the sound how sweet it is. I learned how to drive a team of Clydesdales and stretch out a mink on a board so its eye sockets would dry out round. I learned how to pull a calf, and if the cow had a prolapsed uterus, I knew how to stuff it back in with brown sugar and sew it up with thread to save that cow and get her pregnant again the next year. I learned how to build a sweet potato shed and how to make buttermilk and paste.
It was four miles to town, and Pawpaw, particularly when I was little, would hook up the Clydesdales, Tony and Shorty, to his wagon and we'd ride to the cotton gin sitting on a bed of cotton. Then we'd go to the general store and buy fifty pounds of flour and ten pounds of Mrs. Tucker's Lard. We bought everything big, and everything got used. Mawmaw made her dresses out of the flour sacks. Pawpaw would make his own anvils and harnesses for the horses. On Saturday nights the men in the family would go into town to Slim's Barbershop for a haircut. I'd sit up on a board, and Slim would give me the high tight one. There were nine of us all getting the same haircut, and I'd listen to Slim and Pawpaw talk coon hunting. In the background the Grand Ole Opry was playing on the radio.
This is how I grew up. This was my foundation. This is my blood. This is where I learned my values. In my whole childhood I never heard an unkind word spoken about family. Nobody talked about one another. I learned my place, and I learned about love and trust, and more than anything, I learned on that farm in Hall Summit that it is the simple things in life that make all the difference.
In addition to football I played baseball and threw the javelin. In baseball, I was always a pitcher. I couldn't play any other position because I just couldn't stand still. I always had to be moving around, doing something. I learned how to throw the javelin by looking at the diagrams in the encyclopedia. Basically, the key to throwing it was...throwing it. And trying not to hit anybody. Unlike football, there are no plays in javelin throwing. The strategy is very simple: Throw it. Just throw that sucker as far as you can, and don't cross that little line. Just chunk it, put it out there. The track coach recruited me my sophomore year because he'd seen how far I could throw a football, and the team needed a few points in a meet. I didn't take it seriously. I don't think I ever threw it farther than 150 feet until the district meet. Then I threw it 175 feet and won the trophy. It was just a little aluminum thing, but it said "District First," and I loved it. It was like getting my varsity letter jacket in football; they gave me the heavy jacket in June, and I wore it proudly all summer. Sweated like a plow horse, but I wouldn't take it off because it was my letter jacket.
My junior year I competed against the state champion. This boy was a serious javelin chunker, and he definitely had big feet. People used to say, That boy's got big feet. I had been throwing about 180 feet, but I beat him in the district finals. Everybody just stood there shocked. I didn't even have big feet. Where'd that throw come from? I had no answer. It was like an out-of-body experience. I threw it, and it just went. It just...went. It was spectacular. It was pretty. It just hung in the air and...went. And it pierced the ground.
The rule was it had to stick in the ground. Like a spear. Several times I threw it 270 feet, 280 feet, but it landed flat on the ground so it didn't count.
During my senior year I'd been throwing it 208, maybe 210 feet. Then at the state meet it did something I had never done before: it got up there and just kept going. Two hundred forty-four feet, eleven and three-quarter inches. A national record. Reporters asked me, "How you'd do that, Terry?" What did they expect me to say? I studied those diagrams in the encyclopedia real hard? I just chunked it. I threw it as far as I could. That was my game plan, and it worked.
I learned something about myself too. When it mattered, I always did what was necessary. For whatever reason, I could produce when it was necessary.
School was not my first priority. My very first day in school I got my hand spanked with a ruler because I couldn't sit still. That never changed. If I enjoyed a subject, like history, I did well in the course; but for the most part learning wasn't fun for me. If I didn't understand a subject, I just ignored it. I went an entire semester without ever opening my geometry textbook, so I flunked every geometry test; F, F, F. The only good thing about that was that I showed consistency. For a long time I believed I just wasn't as smart as the other kids. It was a horrible feeling. Awful. But my real problem was that I could not sit calmly in my seat and focus on the subject for any period of time. I was always moving, always pulling at my hair or biting my fingernails. My mother used to say I was a "squirmer." Or a "fireball." "Terry is a very energetic young man," she used to say. "Terry really likes to hang from the ceiling."
As I discovered much later in life, there is a name for that besides, "Oh, that's just Terry." It's called an attention deficit disorder, ADD, and I could have been the poster boy for it. Of course, my picture on the poster would have been blurred.
ADD is not one of those tragic diseases about which they make movies-of-the-week. If they did, the movie would have to star the Road Runner. But ADD is a disease that prevents children from reaching their intellectual potential and therefore can affect their entire lives. As I've learned, it doesn't mean they're not every bit as smart as the other kids, it means they have difficulty processing certain information. They have difficulty focusing on one task for any length of time. For a child, it makes learning hard. For an adult, it makes life an interesting adventure. I remember telling my ex-wife one time, "We're going to buy just thirteen acres and no more. That's it, just thirteen acres." Next thing I knew I had forty-five acres. Then I had the whole ranch. I had a big ranch, so I had to buy more horses. Suddenly I found myself wondering why I was so deep in debt. To get out of debt I had to sell the ranch and the horses. And then I got so upset when I sold everything that I bought it all back.
I just couldn't sit still and study. When I became a broadcaster, the single hardest thing for me to do was learn all the players' names and numbers. Other broadcasters hated it when they had the same team three or four times during the same season. Not me. I loved it. This is great, I figured, I got these guys down. Hell, let's do their game next week too!
Until the last few years very little was known about ADD, and it was rarely diagnosed. There are still a lot of people who think it isn't an actual problem, it's just boys being active. Real, real active. My mother took me to several doctors, but they had no idea what was wrong. Even when doctors recognized that a problem existed there was little they could do. Medicines like Ritalin or Dexedrine didn't exist. Finally, long after I had finished my playing career, I decided I wanted to know what was wrong with me. So I took a battery of tests and as a result learned I have been ADD my whole life.
I truly wish I had been tested when I was a child so I might have been able to reach my potential academically. Not that I cared about academics, but I wouldn't have had to struggle quite so much. But I wasn't tested, I struggled, and in football I found my answers.
Which is one reason the game of football was so important to me. It was a healthy outlet for all that excess energy, and I loved it. I loved everything about it. I'd throw a football all day and all night if I could find somebody to throw it back to me. When I wore out everybody else, I'd throw it up on the roof and try to catch it when it bounced down. Or I'd throw it at objects. I hung a tire and a five-gallon bucket from a swing set -- the tire and bucket lasted, but I broke the metal chains. It was 128 degrees in Shreveport, Louisiana -- so hot, flies were sweating -- but I'd be outside throwing my football. When we lived in Iowa the snow would be nineteen feet deep, and I'd be outside throwing passes into the snowbank. I threw a football every day of my life, and eventually I got good at it.
When I was seven years old, I told my father that someday I was going to play in the National Football League. Now, did I really believe that? Well, of course I did, with all my heart and soul. And I also believed I would win four Super Bowls and get elected to the Hall of Fame, but I didn't tell him that part. I also didn't tell him the part about me cohosting the Fox network's NFL pregame show every Sunday with James Brown, Howie Long, and Cris Collinsworth and a cast of supporting characters, or having my own television talk show and having to let a tarantula walk on my head, or that I would someday make several movies with Burt Reynolds and Mel Tillis, and I didn't tell him that his very own son would be making speeches to a big bunch of the Fortune 500 companies in the country, and people would actually be listening to what I said. I wanted to surprise him.
For a long time though, it seemed like I was the only one who knew how successful I was going to be. I was not a great athlete; I was tall and awkward and clumsy. All I could do was throw the football. In eighth grade I could throw it sixty yards. But I didn't start on my junior high team until I was in ninth grade. I didn't start at quarterback on my high school team until my senior year. I cared, it was painful for me, but as long as they let me put on a football uniform and play a little, I never complained. I was a team player. I sat on the bench and waited my turn. The same thing happened in college and again in the pros. And when my turn came, I got in the huddle, and I said those two most beautiful words in the English language, "Go deep."
Many kids with ADD compensate for not being able to keep up academically by living on the edge of life. They can be kind of wild. They play harder at athletics or drink more alcohol. If they don't have strong parental supervision, they can have a difficult time. I had strong parental supervision. I had my father.
My dad was a strict disciplinarian. He taught us the value of honesty, discipline, and hard work. We were taught to take responsibility for our actions. We raked our yard and dug up the garden with a shovel -- the size of the garden expanded each year as we got older until it covered probably half an acre -- and we washed the dishes and cleaned our rooms. My mom hit me a hundred times more than my father, but now I can admit the woman had a weak right arm. "Oh no, Mom, not that," I'd tell her, "not the big Double Whammy!" And when she finished, "Whoa, Mom, you done whup my ass out. My oh my, I just can't take another beating. From this moment on I am going to be a fine young man."
My dad was a lot tougher. He whupped us. I got my strong right arm from him. Like a lot of parents he didn't believe in corporal punishment; he believed in four-star general punishment. When my dad looks back on those days, he says nostalgically, "Today they'd put me in jail for that."
When I did something wrong, he would discuss it with me. The discussion went something like this; whup, whup, whup. End of discussion. Dad had learned that from his father; when he was a child his father had only hit him a few times, but for emphasis he'd used a chain and a whip, and when you do that, it only takes a few times.
Dad insisted that we complete all of our homework every night. That seemed a little harsh to me. But education was really important to him; he was a welder who had gone back to school to work on his engineering degree while supporting his family. We had a desk at which we would all study. Well, one morning my junior year in high school he found out I hadn't done my homework. He marked me pretty good with his one-inch belt. There was no "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you" stuff. It hurt me and only me. I had welts on my legs. I went to football practice that day, and we were working out in shorts and pads. The coach saw those welts and suggested I wear my long warm-ups to hide them. I wouldn't do that. I believed that I had gotten what I deserved. I was sorry that it happened, but I was wrong.
I would never hit my two girls, but that was a different time, and I was a different child.
And my father was not an unreasonable man. I remember when I was eight or nine years old, a friend of mine got a pool table. A pool table! I had never even seen a pool table. I couldn't hardly wait. But on Saturday my mother sent me to get a haircut and told me to come straight home afterward because I had chores to do. Well, I diverted. I came straight home in a wiggly kind of way that took me right by that pool table. I told my mom I was late because I had to wait in a long line at the barbershop.
The NFL Championship game was being played the next day, and my brother, my father, and I were going to watch it together after church. That game was the most important event of the year for me. But at breakfast that morning, I made a terrible mistake. I told my brother Gary, "You should see Bubba's pool table. That baby can cook ..."
My mother said pleasantly, "Terry, didn't I tell you to come straight home? That I didn't want you going by there to shoot pool? You lied to me, didn't you?"
To me, it sounded more like, "YOU LIED TO ME AND NOW YOU ARE DOOMED." "Yes, ma'am," I admitted.
That was followed by the most terrifying sound I ever heard in my house. Silence. That meant she was thinking about my punishment. "I'll deal with this after church," she finally said.
NOT AFTER CHURCH! That was terrible. It meant that I was going to have to wait for about four hours. All the way to Sunday school, I was thinking, You know, Lord, this would be a real good time for a sermon about forgiveness. And while You're at it, a little reminder that "Jesus loved all the little children," would be mighty appreciated.
But through the service, the only thing I could think about was the terrible whupping that was about to be bestowed upon my behind. And rather than forgiveness, the preacher sprinkled his sermon that very day with threats of Satan. Well, even Satan couldn't scare me that particular day, 'cause my momma was thinkin'!
But when we got home, nobody said a word. I began to believe in the power of prayer. My mother was cooking dinner, and then the game would be on. We sat down to eat, and I'm basically pretending to be invisible. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, she forgot. Maybe I was going to get by. Finally, my dad asked, "Son, did you lie to your mother?"
My fault. I didn't pray hard enough. "Yes, sir."
"When you get through eating go to your room. I'll be in there in a minute."
Oh no! I was busy preparing for a momma beating -- if you were quick enough you could make her miss a bunch and tire her out -- but my dad had persistence, stamina, and the belt. I just sat there on my bed waiting for him. I knew what was about to happen. What did my dad hate more than anything in the world? Lying. Anything else he would listen to reason. Or pleading. But for lying you paid the penalty. When he came in, I apologized. "I don't know why I did it," I said, "I just wanted to shoot pool. It was really neat."
"You going to do it again?"
"Dad, I promise you I will never lie to you or Mom again."
"All right," he decided, "I'll give you a choice. I whip you, you can watch the game. If you don't want a whipping, you stay in your room."
What kind of choice is that? "Dad, I'll take the whipping."
"Son," he said, "I'm real proud of you. Now you keep hollering, okay?" And then he started beating that belt on the bed. As I stood there in astonishment, knowing that my morning in church had been well spent -- Thank you, sweet baby Jesus -- My dad gave that bed a whipping.
Finally my mother couldn't bear it any longer. "Honey," she yelled from the living room, "that's enough."
About fifteen minutes later I gathered myself and went into the living room to watch the game with my family. I actually did wipe a tear or two from my eyes. But my mom was there to offer comfort.
Now, admittedly, on occasion I did give my father reason to take a good whack at me. When my father was eleven years old, he got bit by a spider, then rolled over and killed it. His leg swelled up badly. The bite left him with a scar and a phobia. He hates spiders, hates them. Naturally when my brother Gary and I learned about this, we were sympathetic. Naturally. One afternoon we were digging a hole for a tree we intended to plant. My father was holding a piece of wood that we were going to use to hold up that tree until it could take root. I took a shovelful of dirt, flipped it toward my dad, and hollered, "Spider." In retrospect, it's fair to report that he didn't think it was as funny as I did. Here's a good lesson: Never ignite a man's phobia when he's holding a thick stick.
My father balanced discipline with dedication to his family. We spent a lot of time together. My family members are still my best friends. My father taught me how to hunt and fish and enjoy the very basic things of life, and except for those occasional times when I almost killed him, we always had a wonderful time.
Accidents happen, okay? I didn't like hunting. I wasn't good at it. And if there is something you are not going to be good at, it's much better if it doesn't involve guns. But I always went with my father and my brother because I loved being in the woods. I have a passion and a deep respect for the land. I'm always happy just looking at the land as God made it or walking quietly in a meadow or alongside a lake.
I don't enjoy shooting things, but I've done it. The first bird I ever killed was walking on the ground. I only shot it to save my dog. I love all animals, but especially dogs and horses. Horses are limited intellectually, but they are honest and sincere. Treat them with kindness, and they will reward you.
Of course, that was pretty much the way I felt about offensive linemen too.
Dogs have a pretty basic philosophy of life; they live just to live. I had a German shorthaired retriever named Buck. Dad spent hours in the backyard with Buck trying to teach him to point and retrieve. But mostly Buck enjoyed playing with me, maybe because Buck also had a limited attention span. He'd be in the woods ready to sniff out some birds, he'd be so close -- and then he would see me and forget all about hunting. That was my fault; when my father was training him, I'd sneak him out of the pen and wrassle with him. My dad had him to hunt, I wanted him for fun. But one day I heard my dad tell someone, "This is Buck's last time out. Hell, he's not panning out for me."
Now Buck did not grasp the gravity of the situation. He just wanted to play with me. He did not seem concerned that his long-term future was in serious doubt here. I knew my father was serious. Several years earlier I'd had a dog named Sandy. Sandy was supposed to be a working dog. I turned her into a pet. At night I'd lean outside my bedroom window, holding on by my toes, and pick her up and bring her in the bed with me. One day I came home from school, and Sandy was gone. Gone. My parents told me they'd given her to a little crippled child. Maybe so, but I never saw her again.
So I took Buck, and we went off by ourselves. He was jumping up and down on me, waiting to play. I was on my hands and knees, crawling through the corn rows, when I saw this bird strutting along. I grabbed Buck, turned his head so he was looking directly at the bird, and held it steady. That got his attention. All of a sudden Buck got rigid; his ancestry was kicking in. I shot that bird's head off. He ran and picked up that bird and proudly put it in his mouth, and together we walked to the end of the road. My father heard the shot and had come running. And I told him in great detail how Buck had hunted down that bird and I'd shot him. It was a miracle, I said. That made Buck's career.
The first time I ever pulled the trigger of a gun, the recoil knocked me down hard. It was a 12-gauge shotgun, and I think my Dad wanted to see me tumble backward. Bam! There goes Terry. During my playing career I got hit hard by some big football players. There were times when I didn't just see stars, I saw entire galaxies. But I never got hit by anything as powerful as the recoil of that rifle. My father wanted me to have a healthy respect for the power of a rifle.
I got even. We were living in Comanche, Iowa, and went to hunt some pheasant. Suddenly this one lone bird came gliding from our right to our left. In the field in front of us a farmer was on his tractor picking corn. My father told everybody to get down real low. I didn't see the purpose in trying to hide from a bird. I was wondering who was going to get to shoot this bird. It was an easy shot. I knew it wasn't going to be me, I never got the easy shots. This bird was just gliding in. It was beautiful. I couldn't help myself. While everyone else was ducking, I raised my double-barrel and fired. Either it was raining pheasant, or I'd hit it. I dropped that sucker right on that farmer. Of course, if anyone had stood up while I was shooting, I might have hit them too. I spent the entire rest of that day sitting alone in our car, "thinking about it," as my father said.
About the only place I could sit reasonably still was in the Calgary Baptist Church of Shreveport, Louisiana, in the presence of Brother Buck Buchanan. Brother Buchanan was a big man with a big booming voice, and I just loved listening to him. He was so good that you could get saved on Sunday, and by the next Sunday you wanted to get saved again. Hallelujah! If there had been TV evangelists back then, Brother Buck would have been a star. He was a fine speaker! He would let it rip! He would raise heaven and hell and let you know in no uncertain terms what evil Satan had prepared for the young man foolish enough to fall for his charms. Brothers and sisters, there is danger lurking out there. Satan has laid his traps, and he will lure you in. Do you hear what I'm saying to you? I said, do you hear me! Satan will win every debate with the flesh of man. He is clever! Some of you, some of you will fall for them, yes you will, because Satan is clever. And when he gets his hands on you, Satan will hold tight and drag you down. But the Lord is watching you, He is looking over your shoulder, He is with you. Lemme have an Amen on that, brothers and sisters! Glory Hallelujah!
Brother Buchanan mesmerized me. He was awesome. I was raised in a Christian household, and there still isn't a day that goes by in my life that some aspect of my faith doesn't make itself known. I've slipped. Oh Lord, I've slipped a lot. Just like a lot of people when things were tough I called on my faith to help me, but when things got good I sort of forgot about it. But I've always come back to my faith. When I was growing up I felt like God had His hand on me. I looked at most things differently than my friends, I acted differently. I was pretty much a loner. I didn't join groups, I didn't hang out, I didn't drink, I wasn't a carouser -- although admittedly like most young men on occasion I would dream about one good carouse.
During my career I was never particularly vocal about my religious beliefs. To me, it was sort of like my Super Bowl rings. I won four of them, but I never wear any of them. I know I won them, I just don't feel it's necessary to wear my success on my finger.
I feel the same way about my faith. When I watch a sporting event and I see an athlete thanking the Lord for letting his team win the game, I get real uncomfortable. If they are serious about it, that's fine; but that means they'd better give Him praise after they lose too. When I watch people like that, I wonder, would they still be giving thanks to the Lord if things were bad? To me, that's the real test. I wonder how many people are really going to be like the great football player Reggie White. I've known Reggie White for a long time, and he lives the life he preaches. I know he means it when he gives thanks, and I respect him for it. But there are a lot of players wearing $150,000 crosses around their neck. As I've learned, it ain't the size of the cross you're wearing, but what is in your heart.
When I was in junior high, I would visit different churches around Shreveport to give personal testimony. It was very difficult for me to stand up in front of a church full of people. I didn't know and confess my sins and praise the Lord. I didn't enjoy it. I didn't have any interesting sins to confess -- I was just a kid, I had never even had a beer or kissed a girl -- and I was too nervous. But I felt it was the right thing to do, and I knew it made people happy. I have always tried to please people, always, and this was simply another example of that. So when several years later I did commit those sins -- I did mention that on occasion I slipped -- I felt tremendous guilt. I felt like the Lord's hammer was clanging on my head.
When I began speaking in public after I retired, I drew mightily on those early speaking experiences. The difference was that I never did feel guilty talking about appliance sales.
Early in my life I thought I wanted to be a preacher. And one summer, while I was in college, I served as a youth minister for a Methodist church. That job is the reason I now sleep with a .357 magnum near my bed. I don't remember very much of what I told the youth, mostly do good things and don't do bad things, but I do remember getting hit over the head and getting shot at. Of course, that was not a direct result of my work as a minister.
I was staying at an old Methodist parsonage way out on the edge of town. Late one night I woke up, and I just felt that someone was watching me. Maybe I heard something outside, I don't know, but I crawled down to the end of the bed and parted the blinds.
A man was looking right back at me. Oh, my goodness! The window was open, and Bam! He whopped me over the head with a Dr Pepper bottle. I fell back on the bed, and by the time I got up, he was long gone. I was definitely scared, but I wouldn't leave that house. I was doing the Lord's work, and I knew the Lord would protect me.
The prowler returned about a week later. Woke me out of a sound sleep just banging his way through the house. I could hear him clomping around the kitchen breaking plates and glasses and throwing pots around. Under the circumstances I did what any intelligent person would have done. There was an old oak bureau that must have weighed 300 pounds in the room. Like Samson I picked it up and put it in front of the door. Finally, I heard him leave. I immediately waited about an hour, then slowly moved the chest of drawers and walked through the house. It was a mess, but whoever it was, was gone.
I didn't know what to do about it. I told my friend Tommy Spinks about it, and Tommy told me, "Don't worry, whoever it is, he's just trying to scare you."
It certainly was working. I was definitely scared. Then one evening I came home and found a knife stuck clean through my pillow with a note on it reading, "I'll be back." I'll be back! With a knife! I promise you this is absolutely true. I realized then that the Lord definitely did work in mysterious ways. I still wouldn't move out of the house, I still believed the Lord would protect me, but just in case He was busy at the crucial moment, I decided to give Him a little help. I drove home and got my shotgun and bought me a dog, a boxer puppy. I put that shotgun on the floor next to my bed, and I slept just like a baby -- I got up every twenty minutes.
Our final confrontation began the middle of one night. The intruder came in and started slamming doors. I could hear him crashing through the house, coming closer and closer to my room. This was the moment I had been dreading -- I was either going to have to stand or run. I took a deep breath and made my decision: Run! Run for it! I grabbed my shotgun and the dog and bailed out the bedroom window. I ran to my car. This was a brand-new yellow-and-black Pontiac GTO with an unusual transmission: to put it in reverse, you had to push a button and pull back on the stick. I turned on the car, put it in reverse, slammed down on the accelerator -- and drove the car straight ahead into the wall. I smashed up the front pretty good -- but I didn't have time to worry about that, I backed up and took off.
I told my buddy Tommy Spinks about my burglar, and we decided to go back to the house. Tommy was carrying a big stick, and I had a club. We decided to circle the house, meeting in the back. I went around the left side, keeping low, being very quiet, making sure that no one...All of a sudden this guy steps out in front of me. He was carrying a shotgun. He leveled that shotgun and fired at me. All I saw was flames and pellets, flames and pellets. I turned around and started running as fast as I have ever run in my life. But as I was running I started worrying, Where's Tommy? Where's my buddy Tommy? Oh, Lord, no, I didn't want to desert my best friend in a time of great need. Then I looked up, and there was Tommy -- about 500 yards ahead of me. He was way, way ahead of me. I never did catch him. That's the fastest that boy ever ran in his life.
We ran practically all the way to the police station. Several police officers returned to the house with us. They went through the house, and way in the back they found the burglar. The detectives told me he had been living in the attic for who knows how long. The only way to get up into the attic was to climb up on a desk and pull yourself up through the trapdoor. The attic was filthy, littered with beer cans, food cans, girlie magazines, all kinds of dried meat wrappers. He was just trying to scare me out of there, he said. He never intended to hurt me, and had intentionally missed with that shotgun blast. I had only one question: Exactly what constitutes an intentional miss with a shotgun?
While I try to practice in my life what I am taught by my faith, I have never tried to convert anyone. I respect the practice of all faiths. One time, I remember, I attended a Pentecostal service. The Pentecostals are what is called a charismatic religion. They believe that the Holy Spirit speaks through them. While it might sound a little like gibberish, it's known as "speaking in tongues." At this service the preacher was raising the Holy Spirit: "God said we are going to rise to the top of the mountain. We are going to take God's children up. We are going to yadda, yadda, yadda -- "
I couldn't understand a word that man was saying. What is that? I wondered. I turned around and asked the person standing behind me, What is he saying? Speaking in tongues, I was told. It didn't matter if I understood it, God understood it. It is the perfect communication with the Lord. That definitely got my attention.
When I was with the Steelers, I would occasionally join several players in a Bible study. At one of these meetings they asked me if I would like to receive the Holy Spirit -- meaning would I like to learn how to speak in tongues. Well, of course I would. I'd taken French in high school and could speak a few sentences, but this was something entirely different.
The only way to get the Holy Spirit, I was told, was from people who have received it. God gave it to them, they can pass it along to others. It's done physically through what is called the laying on of hands. We went into my dormitory room at training camp and I sat down on my bed. A group of my teammates surrounded me and started praying loudly and fervently. They laid their hands on my body -- and where they were touching me, I could feel heat. Something was definitely happening -- the whole room started getting very hot. They started shouting, louder and louder. LORD WE ARE SAVED! SAVED! I don't know if the room got hot because I was receiving the Holy Spirit or simply because I was so nervous, but I definitely could feel the heat rising inside me. People were praying and yelling, they were yabba-dabba-doing all around the room; it was an old-fashioned tent revival meeting right there in my room.
I kept waiting for the message to come through me, I was ready to yadda yadda yadda...but nothing happened. Finally, everybody calmed down and they began teaching me how to speak in tongues. Wait a second, I thought, if this is supposed to be a natural outpouring of emotion, why is it being explained to me? If God speaks to me, and the Holy Spirit is in me, then the Holy Spirit should be doing the talking. So why did I have to be taught the words?
That was a question I never could answer. The only conclusion I can reach is that I never received the Holy Spirit because I have never spoken in tongues -- although some people who have seen me on television might argue that I have said a lot of things that didn't make any sense.
While my faith was important to me throughout my entire playing career, it was even more important to me during my sitting career. Most football players who eventually make it to the National Football League have been stars from Pee Wee League right through college. Not me. Growing up, I spent a lot more time sitting on the bench than playing. At Oak Terrace Junior High School I didn't even make the seventh-grade team. In eighth grade I was the second-team quarterback, and in ninth grade I was a starting quarterback for the first time. At Woodlawn High School I played for a wonderful man and legendary coach named Lee Hedges. Joe Ferguson, the great Buffalo Bills quarterback, also played for him. Football was big-time at Woodlawn; we would draw crowds of 15,000 people. It was at Woodlawn under Lee Hedges that I learned how to sit on the bench with pride and determination. Years later in Pittsburgh, when we lost our first three games my rookie season and Chuck Noll benched me, I knew how to sit on that bench thanks to Lee Hedges.
At Woodlawn the quarterback playing in front of me was a high school All-American named Trey Prather. But rather than being discouraged because I wasn't the varsity quarterback, and pouting, I practiced as hard as I could, believed in my ability, and waited for my chance. Coach Hedges was always supportive. He treated his players with respect, telling them the truth. I always knew right where I stood with him, I didn't have to guess why I wasn't playing. I wasn't playing because Coach Hedges believed Trey Prather was a better quarterback than I was. My junior year, when we would get a lead, Coach would slip me in for a few plays to get some experience. "Just keep the ball on the ground," he'd tell me, "don't you go throwing any passes."
"Yes, sir," I'd tell him, then go out and immediately start throwing passes. Anybody could run with the ball or hand off; I loved just rearing back and throwing that ball thirty, forty, fifty yards in the air. My brain was making promises my arm could keep. What was Coach Hedges going to do, bench me for throwing touchdown passes?
What I really remember best about playing quarterback in high school is being so scared that when I tried to pass the football I couldn't even do it. In high school I did not call my own plays. In one of my very first games Coach Hedges called a play-action pass, meaning we would fake a run to the right, and I would bootleg it out to the left and look for my receiver. I took the snap, faked the handoff, and ran to my left. I looked up, and my receiver was wide open. He was thirty yards down the left sideline, running with his hand in the air, calling for the football. The closest defender was in Nebraska. There wasn't nothing but air near him. The play was perfect. Perfect! It had developed just as it had been planned. All I had to do was throw it to him.
Ladies and gentlemen, I could not get the ball out of my hand. It was a nightmare. I just held it and held it, I could not throw that football. It felt like it was stuck. Finally, at the very last second, I reared back and threw it -- and instead of it going straight to the open receiver, it slipped off the side of my hand. Maybe it slipped, but it was a perfect spiral. I never even looked in that direction. The running back I had originally faked to had continued running down the right sideline. The ball hit him in midstride, seventy yards for a touchdown.
The place went crazy. I danced off that field feeling pretty good; awright, okay, I'm cool, seventy yards, acting as if I knew what I was doing. When I got to the sidelines everybody was patting me on the back, cheering for me.
The next day we looked at the game films. Coach Hedges took me aside and asked me, "Where were you throwing that ball, Terry?"
"Right to that receiver, Coach," I said emphatically. "Where else would I be throwing it?"
"That's what I was wondering." he said. On the game films it was obvious. No wonder that back was so wide open; I fooled everybody. Even fooled myself. I didn't think I was throwing to him either.
I was our starting quarterback my senior year. I didn't have a lot of experience, but I had raw talent and a rocket arm, so I attracted the attention of college scouts.
More than two hundred colleges offered me track scholarships -- I even got track scholarship offers from schools in Europe -- but as it seemed pretty certain no one was about to start a professional javelin-throwing league, I knew that if I was going to have a career in sports it was going to be in football. Among the few major colleges to offer me a football scholarship was Baylor University. Baylor is a fine Baptist university in Waco, Texas, whose motto is Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana, which roughly translates, "Terry can't even understand the motto, so no way is he going to go there." But I did go there for a visit, and it was an impressive place. Before I visited the campus I believed that Baylor was a fine Baptist university and that all the students there spent their time doing praiseworthy things for God Almighty. During my campus visit I spent time with a player I knew from high school -- and I was shocked at what I saw: Shocked! We were in his room, and from beneath his bed he pulled out a six-pack of beer and offered me a drink! I had never had an alcoholic drink in my life, and I wasn't about to attend a Christian college where football players kept alcohol under their beds. It was clear to me that the devil was on the loose there.
I wasn't going to go to a university where football players drank alcohol. In retrospect, perhaps I was a bit naive. But the real truth is, I really didn't want to go to Baylor. It was too far away from home, it was too big, and it was in Texas. In my mind, Texas was always next to Louisiana, even though some people thought I wasn't very good in geography. Like most people who grew up in the great state of Louisiana, I loved it. My dream was to become a football star close to home so my parents and friends could come to all my games.
I was also offered a scholarship to Louisiana State University. LSU had a great football tradition, and there was a lot of pressure on me to accept that offer. I was ambivalent, even before I knew what that meant. While it was an honor to have been offered the scholarship, I wasn't sure I could compete in big-time college football. I had played only one year of high school football. I had no real confidence in myself. And a year earlier LSU had recruited the very same player I sat behind in high school. He was one year ahead of me -- and he was sitting on the bench. Now, if the quarterback who had put me on the bench in high school was sitting on the bench his own self in college, what were the chances that I was going to play ahead of him? Maybe I wasn't too good at math, but that was a problem I could figure out. Any big number you multiply by zero is still going to come out zero.
Just about everybody I knew -- as well as a lot of people I didn't know -- wanted me to go to LSU. I didn't know how to tell them that I didn't feel comfortable in Baton Rouge, so I purposely flunked the entrance exam. I have never much liked people who make excuses for their failures. I am not claiming that I could have passed that exam easily if I had wanted to go to LSU. I'll never know if I could have passed it; I know I didn't study for it, I didn't care about it, and I definitely didn't want to go to LSU. And I also didn't pass the test.
Maybe it was because of my ADD, but I always had difficulty taking standardized tests. I think I got about a 5 on the first test, and they give you 7 points for getting your name right. To qualify for a scholarship you had to get 16 -- when I took the test a second time I got 15. Instead of being upset about it, I was relieved. All it meant to me was that I couldn't go to LSU. Of course, I absolutely could not imagine how failing that test would affect my life. If I had known how it would damage my reputation, how it would cost me a fortune in endorsements, how embarrassing it would be, I would have put some real effort into studying, and I could have failed that test with style!
Instead I attended Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. My high school preparation immediately began paying big dividends as I sat on the bench for two years. I was sitting on the bench for a small Louisiana college that few people had even heard of, that played teams that few people even knew existed, yet I continued to believe without any doubt that I was on my way to a career in professional football.
That is the definition of faith.
The quarterback playing ahead of me, Phil Robertson, loved hunting more than he loved football. He'd come to practice directly from the woods, squirrel tails hanging out of his pockets, duck feathers on his clothes. Clearly he was a fine shot, so no one complained too much.
I warmed the bench my freshman and sophomore years. After two seasons, that bench was plenty warm enough. At the end of my sophomore year I began to see my dream slipping away from me. I don't quite remember how it happened -- my father might have made the phone calls -- but we got in touch with a coach at Florida State University who invited me to transfer. My older brother, Gary, and I got in the car and started driving to Tallahassee to meet the coaching staff. But before we could get there, the coaches at Tech found out we were on our way and threatened to inform the NCAA that FSU was tampering. By the time we got to Tallahassee, no one on that coaching staff would even meet with us.
The following season Phil Robertson got knocked out cold during a game against a real tough Delta State team. I took over and played well. Turned out that was the best thing that happened for both of us. During my junior year my body finally caught up with my arm. I set passing and scoring records at Tech, made some All-American teams, and my junior year led the nation in Total Offense. Robertson started making his own duck calls, which he eventually turned into a huge business. He made a fortune. If you need to call a duck, most probably you're going to use one of Phil Robertson's calls.
I worked hard at playing football. I worked out every single day. I lifted weights. I ran sprints and long distances. Maybe Louisiana Tech was a small school, but we had that electricity that we'd heard they had at big schools up north. Ain't that electricity somethin'? Hit one switch, it goes on, hit another one, it goes off! Our stadium had lights, and I learned how to climb a telephone pole and jack on the switches. We'd wait till it got real dark so no one could see us and then turn on the lights. We figured no one would know we were there. Worst camouflage concept since the lightning bug. Then my friends and I would run up and down the field throwing passes. Somehow the campus police managed to discover our secret and made us leave.
Then I would turn on the lights in the gym and throw on the hardwood floor. I absolutely loved throwing a football.
I flew on an airplane for the first time in my life while I was in college. We made three plane trips during my college career, but mostly we traveled to our games by bus. The definition of a long trip is a six-hour drive on an old bus back from Hammond, Louisiana, after you've played a terrible game. While we played by the same rules as the big-time universities, it was still a different game. When someone got hurt during one of our games, for example, we were such a small school we could only afford to give them second aid. Once, I remember, during a game at the University of Southwestern Louisiana I got tackled hard on the asphalt runway also used for the pole vault. Darn neared killed me. They had to wrap me in ice and drive me home stretched out in the back of the trainer's station wagon.
Naturally our trainer was mighty upset about that. The man had to leave his good spare tire behind.
At Louisiana Tech we also did not receive a lot of the rewards for winning that football players at major colleges supposedly received. We were given $10 a month laundry money. Once Tommy Spinks and I were so hungry we decided to have a fund-raising drive. Because we suspected few students were going to donate money for pizza, we decided to collect for the March of Dimes. We wrote up an official piece of paper that said, basically, "These people are definitely not collecting money to spend on pizza. They are raising money for the March of Dimes." We collected about thirty dollars for the March of Dimes and ordered four extra-super-large-family-size pizzas and gallon-gulps, and we still had money left over for dates. The Floor Resident nailed us. He wanted us to return every cent we'd raised. Naturally we couldn't do that, so we had to go room to room and explain that somehow we had made a small mistake, we forgot that we were actually not collecting for the March of Dimes, but that we were collecting for pizza. We got six weeks' strict campus probation and had to pay back every dime.
On another occasion my roommate, Larry Brewer, a fine boy from Minden, Louisiana, and I were alone in the athletic dorm, and we were broke and hungry. For some reason the dorm was pretty much deserted. We were walking all alone complaining that we didn't even have a dime for a soda. And then I noticed maybe a hundred empty bottles stacked up next to the soda machine. At two cents a bottle, I figured that was almost...almost two dollars. "Larry, look at these pop bottles. We can cash 'em in and get some money."
"Can we do that?" he wondered.
"Sure," I said confidently, "what can they do to us?"
That was always a bad question for me to ask. They usually could figure something out. This was the day I became Louisiana Tech's most notorious pop bottle rustler. We loaded up pillowcases with bottles and filled the backseat of Larry's car. Then we went to the other dorms and collected enough bottles to fill the trunk. We only stopped because we couldn't squeeze another bottle into the car. I do thank the Good Lord that at that time He did not see fit to give us a truck. But we knew we had enough for burgers and fries and probably a movie. Man, we were stylin'.
As we got ready to leave, a security guard stopped us and asked what we were doing. Now, consider this: You've got two people, one car, and a thousand pop bottles. What did he think we were doing? Going to an art show? Right about then I had to admit to Larry that I wasn't really up on the most recent pop-bottle-rustling laws.
The guard wrote down our license plate number, and we took off. We knew we couldn't unload our haul at the usual local stores. In case the police were tracking us, we stayed off the interstate. We took old Highway 80 and the back roads. We weren't exactly Bonnie and Clyde, more like Moe and Curly. We drove through several small towns until we figured we had made good our getaway and pulled up to the back door of a big store in Larry's hometown, Minden, Louisiana.
We made the deal, leaving with $80! No hamburgers for us. We were in the big time. We had some serious cash. We couldn't even close our wallets. We bought steaks and fries, salads and malts -- and we went to the movies.
By the time we got back to school, there was a note on our door instructing us to see the dean of men. Immediately. Faster than immediately. As the dean later explained to my father, "I keep a six-iron behind my desk. I just wanted to take it out an whip 'em with it."
I suspect my dad suggested that instead of an iron he get himself a wood and just drive me home. In the end, we were restricted to campus for six more weeks.
All my childhood dreams came true my senior year. I'd led the nation in total offense -- passing and running -- my junior year, so the pro scouts found their way to Louisiana Tech to see if I could play the game of football. That was a big deal for Ruston; with all those important football people driving through town, the town council even debated getting the traffic signal fixed.
Although we were picked to finish last in our conference, we had a great season and played the Akron Zips for the 1969 NCAA College Division Mideast Championship in the Grantland Rice Bowl in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The weather was terrible that day, cold and snowy, but I didn't even notice. I was going to be on TV for the first time. It was ABC's regional college game of the week, the region being Louisiana. Just about everybody I knew in the world was watching. At the beginning of the broadcast each player ran right up to the camera and introduced himself: we were told to give our name, position, high school, and hometown. Name, position, high school, hometown. Name, position, high school, hometown. I could do that. This was the coolest thing to me. I started getting really nervous. Finally I ran up to that camera and said my name just as if I'd been saying it my whole life, "Terry Bradshaw. Quarterback. Woodlawn High School. Shreveport, Louisiana." Then I peeled off to the right.
I could just imagine how proud of me my friends watching at home were. Weren't Terry great? He just got up there and said his piece just perfect like.
As it turned out, the scouts were impressed too. I was a big, strong kid who could run and throw deep. Late in the game three Akron players grabbed hold of me, and as I was going down I managed to throw for a touchdown. It was the kind of moment that made me wish someone would hurry up and invent instant replay.
Until that time my dreams of playing professional football had been more in the abstract; suddenly they became real. The scouts were telling my father I was going to get drafted. I was going to get a chance to play pro football. It seemed like just a few years earlier that my father had taken me out to the Fairgrounds to see my first pro game, the New York Titans against the Houston Oilers of the American Football League. Well, actually, it was only a few years earlier. The Oilers had players like George Blanda, Charlie Hennigan, and tough running back Charlie Tolar. The old AFL played my kind of football -- wind up and throw deep. Defense in that league was mostly a rumor. They played the worst defense since France in World War II. The defense held teams to 40 points. The people who formed the league believed spectators wanted wide-open offenses, high-scoring games. That always made sense to me.
But by this time the league was being dissolved, with several teams forming a new division inside the National Football League.
Although I rooted hard for the New Orleans Saints, I really didn't care much who drafted me. While a lot of teams seemed interested in me, they were concerned that I hadn't played against the best collegiate competition. Seems like they would have had more confidence in my ability if I'd sat on the bench at Notre Dame instead of starting at Louisiana Tech. "That ol' boy is a good one, sat on Notre Dame's bench for four straight years! 'Member that great game he didn't play in against Michigan?"
I thought I'd probably be selected in the third or fourth round, which still would have been thrilling for me. But after I played against the best seniors in the country in the Senior Bowl and was selected co-Most Valuable Player, the pros began to take me very seriously. My dad spent time with the great quarterback Y. A. Tittle, who was real high on me. Then we began to hear stories that I might be taken with the first pick. That didn't seem likely; no player from a small college had ever been the number-one pick in the draft. But Don Shula told my father he was ready to trade six people for me. Sure, I thought, Groucho, Harpo, Chico...Johnny Unitas told my father he was really high on me. And through all this excitement I remembered my dad's words, "Terry, put the football down right now and go to sleep!"
So, at about that time it dawned on me that my reward for playing so well in college was a chance to play with the very worst professional football team in America. I was first prize for being awful. How bad are we? Bad enough to get Terry Bradshaw! Wow, that's bad.
There were two teams fighting for that dubious honor, the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They played each other in a game that became known as the Bradshaw Bowl -- because the winner might lose the opportunity to finish dead last and draft me. The Bears were 0-7 and the Steelers were 1-6. By winning, the Steelers lost. The two teams finished the season tied at 1-13.
To determine who would get first pick in the draft, the two teams met the day before the draft and tossed a 1921 silver dollar. The Bears called heads. It landed on the floor tails. That's how my future was determined.
I intended to go fishing draft day. At about two in the morning I got a phone call from the Bears telling me they were in the process of making a trade and they intended to make me the first selection in the draft. Thank you kindly, I said, and then I went back to bed.
My father told me I had to stay home that day. Our local TV reporter heard that I was going to be the first pick and came out to interview me. Finally, the phone rang and I was informed that I had been the number-one selection in the draft. It really was thrilling, though for a time I thought it was the Bears who had drafted me.
I don't remember too much about that day except that I did a lot of telephone interviews. And instead of being humble, I probably said some things I shouldn't have said about playing in the NFL and winning a championship. I do remember being asked a question about "belittling" an opponent. I responded confidently, even though I had absolutely no idea what "belittle" meant. But I was certain I was going to go to the NFL and belittle everybody!
Eventually I learned I had been drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In thirty-seven years of existence the Steelers had never won a playoff game. In the past the Steelers had released a young quarterback and future Hall-of-Famer named Johnny Unitas. In a draft they had selected future Hall-of-Famer Len Dawson rather than future Hall-of-Famer Jimmy Brown, but let Dawson sit on the bench before sending him to the Cleveland Browns. In another draft they picked Gary Glick over future Hall-of-Famer Lenny Moore. Once they traded draft choices with the Bears to pick two defensive ends and allowed the Bears to take future Hall-of-Famer Dick Butkus.
And now they had picked me.
Copyright © 2001 by Terry Bradshaw
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