Joe Bellino, the old Navy hero and Heisman Trophy winner, is fighting for a starting position with the Boston Patriots. John Underwood, who last week saw the small, hard-muscled ex-Middie in a rookie game also featuring Joe Namath, writes in this issue (page 46) that Bellino could be a rare kind of athlete—the service academy star who makes it big in pro football.
Interesting enough—but, beyond its inherent interest, this story has a special significance. It is the first in a long line of articles, a kickoff. From now until mid-January, there will be at least one story about pro football in every issue of this magazine.
You would think interest in pro football could not increase, but it does. This is the biggest year yet—a year of $400,000 quarterbacks, $9 million franchises, soaring season-ticket sales and bare-knuckle expansion warfare between the two leagues; more important, it looks like a year of unexcelled competition.
But before we take you into the new season, we propose to take you back to some past ones. Y.A. Tittle, the famous San Francisco and New York quarterback who a few months ago decided to hang up his old-style high-top shoes after 17 years in pro football, has been persuaded to tell our readers the story of those years. Next week we publish the first installment of a three-part series Yat has written in collaboration with Tex Maule. The two men did most of their work on board Tittle's boat, the Giant Blitz.
Tittle's is an intimate account of a pro footballer's ups and downs. His style well reflects his personality—sober, responsible, but down-to-earth and decisive. He tells us what he thinks is the one essential to success for any pro quarterback. He analyzes the style and temperament of the coaches he played for: Cecil Isbell, Walter Driskill, Buck Shaw, Frank Albert, Red Hickey, Allie Sherman. He takes a strong stand on the currently controversial issue of drop-back vs. scrambling quarterback. He tells what it was like to be underdog in San Francisco and top dog in New York. He tackles the question of why the Giants failed in each of the three championship games of the Tittle era, reveals what really happened in the dressing room at half time on that frigid day in Chicago when the Bears clobbered his knee, and with it the Giants' title hopes. Finally, he explains what went wrong in 1964, when the Tittle passing arm lost its magic and the Giants dropped from first place in the East to last.
Tex Maule and Edwin Shrake will again form the nucleus of our pro football writing staff. Both men are currently visiting the clubs in summer camp, gathering the material for the assessments and scouting reports they will be writing for our September 13 Pro Football Issue.
There is no football writer in the country more respected—or contradicted—than Maule, and his annual forecast of the NFL race is again being awaited with fiery concentration in various quarters. Last season Maule did pretty well with his picks (up to the championship game); a year ago, notably, he crawled out on a lonely limb by emphatically predicting that neither the Giants nor the Bears, then the reigning divisional champions, would get close to repeating in 1964.
Tex loves to include at least one startler among his picks. Will he have any surprises this year? I'll be surprised if he doesn't.