How did the lonely end get his signals? As a strategist and tactician, West Point's Earl Blaik has always been a hard man to outguess; so when he told a New York Touchdown Club dinner last week that he was going to answer the most baffling technical riddle of the 1958 season—how Bill Carpenter got his signals—listeners automatically took a defensive grip on their chairs, uncertain whether to prepare for the truth or a tease. Some of the newspapermen present may have gripped so hard that they dropped their pencils. At any rate, hardly a single report next day agreed with another.
"If you recall," Blaik told them in a confidential tone, "Caldwell, the quarterback, stood behind the huddle and he always had a towel on his back.... Well, he'd take that towel and massage it. [A short dramatic pause.] All he was doing was wiping his hands."
Listeners were sure of a tease now as Blaik went on: "But if you had watched Caldwell closely, and many did, you would have noticed, for example, that when he lined up facing the huddle that his two feet were in different positions at times. If his feet were parallel or in close stance...it meant a run. If his left foot was forward, it meant a run. But if his right foot was forward, it meant a pass." Some accounts next day stopped with that: it was all just footwork.
But Blaik went on to say that the footwork was only the first signal. "We transmitted [the rest of it] to the lonely end by another man.... The end knew, for example, that if it were a run he had certain cuts; if it were a pass he had certain cuts: these cuts were identical. Therefore, you only had to have a group of signals, which could be thumbing your nose, if need be, or touching your helmet...that would tell you where to go. Now isn't that simple?"
Later in the week Blaik named the man who regularly gave the lonely end the rest of the signal: All-America Pete Dawkins. And he answered some other questions.
Why did the lonely end never join the huddle? "In the first place, he'd have worn himself out running all that distance each play.
"But the main reason is that having the lonely end out there forced the opposing team to commit themselves in advance to a set defense. That's the essence of the lonely-end formation. It's the only offense I know of that forces the other team into a set defensive pattern."
Now that the veil of secrecy has fallen from the lonely-end formation, members of the Army team can talk freely about it. But last week Pete Dawkins still spoke with hesitancy about the code and seemed to regret the romance lost by the disclosure. He could pride himself, anyway, on having kept the secret himself even under the most trying circumstances.
When Dawkins appeared before his Rhodes scholarship selection committee last month, the first question put to him was: How does the lonely end get his signals? Replied Dawkins crisply, "Gentlemen, that is a military secret." They awarded him two years at Oxford.
A SEASON-LONG PUZZLE—HOW LONELY 87 KNEW THE SIGNALS—GOT AN ANSWER FROM COLONEL EARL BLAIK