In ordinary years rookies of the National Football League are the promise of tomorrow, not the fulfillment of today. But by last week it was clear that this season's rookie runners and receivers were an extravagantly gifted lot. They had taken the play away from the old-timers, and in some cases even the outcome of the conference races was dependent on last year's college boys. Such players as Baltimore's Tony Lorick, Cleveland's Paul Warfield and Los Angeles' Bucky Pope were making dolts out of the old pros whose axiom has always been: "You can't win with rookies." Like the Médoc winegrowers of France, the owners and coaches of NFL teams knew for certain that the 1964 crop was the best in a good many years—if not the best ever.
DAVE PARKS: Most pro football people were astonished last year when the 49ers drafted Dave Parks, an end from Texas Tech. Tight-and split-end positions seemed strongly occupied. But the scouting report on Parks was valid: "He has the hands and he's fast."
TONY LORICK: Although Lorick did not become a starter for the Colts until the middle of October, he already has gained 478 yards, averaging 5.3 yards a carry. He also is a bull of a blocker. "This kid loves to hit," Coach Don Shula says. "When he hits, he smiles."
BILL MUNSON: "Nothing bothers Munson," says the Rams' offensive coach, Ray Wietecha. "He Just gets cooler and cooler." Early in the season, when starting quarterback Roman Gabriel was hurt. Munson, fresh from Utah State, took over, played like a five-year man.
CHARLEY TAYLOR: Washington's first draft choice, who played bail at Arizona State with Tony Lorick, probably is the best of them all. The usually unemotional Redskin fans wildly cheer his running. He could be one of the future greats.
PAUL WARFIELD: For Ohio State, Warfield had been a halfback, but Cleveland turned him into a pass receiver. Coach Blanton Collier knew what he was doing. Warfield has caught 41 passes, eight of them for touchdowns, for 726 yards.
LESTER JOSEPHSON: A standout blocker, this 210-pound back has power and speed. He played for tiny Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S. Dak. The Vikings tried to get him. The Cowboys got him, but traded him to the rookie-laden Rams.
BUCKY POPE: The Rams are pleased—no, delighted—by the way Pope has turned out. Elroy Hirsch scouted the former Catawba basketball forward and, on Hirsch's insistence, Pope was drafted eighth. He has caught nine touchdown passes.