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Original Issue


The American drama of football recruiting, as observed in the case of Abilene's No. 14, is a phenomenon both somewhat ridiculous and somewhat sublime

Every year he turns up in some little dry-bed town, where the folks are God-fearing, mother-loving, flag-saluting and psychoneurotic about football. He is big, tough, intelligent, unselfish, a leader. And fast? He runs the hundred in 9.4—uphill. He runs the quarter in 46 flat—in the rain. And his arm? Why, it's like one of those bazookies that we kill the Red Commonist Nazi menace with. Everybody in town has seen him flick the ball 60 yards on his knees with two linebackers jerking on his face guard. Man, if he doesn't have an arm then Johnny Unitas is an old woman. He's got it all, which is why Ara Parseghian and Bear Bryant and Darrell Royal and the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Celtics and the Morgan Guaranty Trust have all been trying to sign him up since he was in the fourth grade. And it is why whoever winds up with him will announce it in a press conference on the battleship Missouri, and why those who don't will go running off to the NCAA and the FBI.

He goes by several familiar names, of course. He is known as the No. 1 Blue Chipper, the Prized Recruit, the Top Prospect, the Most Wanted, the Most Highly Coveted, the Leader of the Tribe, the Boss Stud, the Head Hoss.

He has had a lot of other names, too. Several years ago he was Bill De Correvont from Chicago's Austin High School, a kid who put 120,000 in Soldier Field for a city championship game. Once he was Ronnie Knox out on the West Coast. A couple of times he came out of Louisiana and was called John David Crow and Billy Cannon. But as often as not, he has risen from that holy land of high school football known as the State of Texas and has been named things like Doak Walker, Bobby Layne and Kyle Rote.

It is sort of expected for Texas to produce a Head Hoss every few years. After all, the state has 1,007 schools playing football in an interscholastic league that permits championship playoffs in four different classifications. This enables a lot of varied parts of the vast region to go cuckoo, such as last year when the championships were won by teams from Austin in the Hill Country, Brownwood in central Texas, Plano up in the north and Tidehaven on the coast. This season's winners may have even more interesting names, for among the favorites are Alice, Mission, Granbury and Poth.

Outside of the large cities—Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth—high school football is just about the sole interest of everybody from the banker and the undertaker to all the guys hanging around Snap's gas station. Coleman's Fighting Blue Cats are absolute celebrities during the season, and so are El Campo's Rice Birds, Port Lavaca's Sandcrabs, Hutto's Hippoes, Trent's Gorillas, Itasca's Wampus Cats, Cuero's Gobblers and all the others.

Because of the vast exposure it has become almost impossible for Texas not to have at least one player emerge each fall as a near-national figure before he is ever issued a college freshman's T shirt, a convertible and a Bluebonnet Festival queen. San Antonio's Warren McVea, for example, was certainly well known to about 50 colleges before he ever selected the University of Houston. A film of a 55-48 state playoff game that Warren starred in was already on the banquet circuit and threatening to make its way to Lincoln Center. McVea felt compelled to hold press conferences to announce he had narrowed his choice down to just 20 campuses. A year later a young man named Bill Bradley came out of Palestine with the nickname of Super Bill, and before he chose the University of Texas the public somehow had the feeling that he had been forced to turn down 17 major league baseball offers, all of them worth $500,000 each. Two years ago the village of Bridge City finally gave a diploma to a lad named Steve Worster, who was modestly considered to be "the greatest power running back in Texas history." In the midst of an ABC television special on him, the University of Texas beat LSU in the finals for Worster, and 50 other proselyters got out their road maps and scurried off in search of Blue Chip Prospect No. 2.

Last season Texas offered up its usual phenomenon, this time a quarterback from the flat, arid plains of Abilene. He had all the attributes that make recruiters dance and holler—size, speed, arm, brains, moves, family, church, statistics, leadership and handshake. Jack Mildren was his name. He had been throwing touchdown passes on organized teams since the fifth grade, he had always been a winner, he had the savvy that only the son of an ex-coach could have, he had come from a formidable high school with an eight-man coaching staff, and everybody knew about him from UCLA to West Point.

It was only natural that he would lead recruiters on one of the merriest chases of their careers—over farm roads, oil pumps, city streets and Astrodomes—before he would eventually put his signature on a pre-enrollment agreement while flashbulbs exploded and a proud family brushed away its collective tear. This is the story of that chase, which is pretty much the story of college recruiting everywhere.

It began last summer before Jack Mildren even started his senior season at Abilene Cooper High, in which he would complete 147 passes for 2,076 yards and 20 touchdowns and run for 787 more yards and 24 more touchdowns, all of it in what is generally considered to be the ruggedest "big school" league in the state, a thing called District 3-AAAA, which includes a lot of the pillars of Texas schoolboy football: teams from Odessa, Midland, San Angelo and Big Spring. It was before Jack would lead the Cooper Cougars unbeaten through 13 games and right into the state finals, where they would lose 20-19 because, it would be ruled—controversially—he did not score a touchdown from the one-foot line on the last play of the game.

The way it started was that Mildren's coach, Merrill Green, a former Oklahoma player, asked Jack's father if he had any idea where his oldest son might want to go to college. Was Jack still a big SMU fan, as he had been as a youngster, or was his mind open? Well, the father said he just hoped Jack would get some offers.

"He won't get more than 100," Green said. The coach then suggested that the family brace for this by taking the quarterback on an unofficial tour of some of the campuses Jack might be interested in so that he could see them without the frills of a big game weekend or without the adulation that can be poured over a kid when the recruiters notice that he is 6'1", weighs 190, passes, runs and makes nothing but A's in school.

Larry Mildren, the father, who had been a high school football coach before eventually settling down in Abilene as a salesman for a cable TV company, knew enough about recruiting to agree with Merrill Green. He honestly did not know where Jack might want to go to college. It might be SMU in Dallas, a Methodist school that would tie in with the family's religion and a school Jack had been a fan of because of Doak Walker, Kyle Rote, Don Meredith and all that. It might be TCU, the nearest campus, only 150 miles away in Fort Worth, a school enthusiastically endorsed by Jack's middle brother, Richard, who also played for Cooper. Photographs of TCU players were all over the walls of the bedroom that the brothers (and teammates) shared, leaving little space for Jack to hang the All-State and All-America plaques he would win. Or it might be Texas, the school that never lets a big one get away and is a favorite of the third and youngest brother, Glynne. Larry Mildren was only sure that it would not be Texas A&I down in Kingsville where he had played and the town where Jack had been born.

Jack was eager, of course, to see a few of the campuses in the summer, not particularly because he wanted to ask a lot of questions about their engineering departments or business courses. In a statement characteristic of most prospects, he told his father, "I just want to go somewhere I might be able to start as a sophomore and where we may have a chance to win a national championship before I get through."

Although that did not exactly narrow it down, the family decided to show the quarterback a mild variety of schools within a reasonable driving distance from Abilene. They agreed to visit Texas A&M first (320 miles), then TCU (150), then Arkansas (500), then Oklahoma (300) and then Texas (220), and do it on different weekends if possible.

The trips were made, but not exactly in the manner that Merrill Green at first had suggested. The Mildrens never were able to sneak into any town at all for a pedestrian look-around, unless one considers it sneaking to be met everywhere by the coaching staffs and given a guided tour of every landmark from the training room to the admissions office.

Whether the visits accomplished anything for Jack or not, they served to whet the appetites of the schools. Their logic was that if Jack Mildren was interested enough in them to take a look at their campus before his senior season had even begun, then he was surely a prize to pursue.

In recruiting a coach looks for any edge he can find, and there were 10 colleges that had a perfect right to go after Mildren ahead of any other prospect. Merrill Green was indirectly responsible for three of the reasons himself. First, Green had played at Oklahoma, which justified the Sooners in being serious about him from the beginning. But Green had coached for a while at Arkansas under Frank Broyles, whom he liked and admired, and this certainly made Arkansas believe it had a chance. To complicate it further, Green had been the former roommate of, and best man for, Coach Eddie Crowder at Colorado. Crowder thought his old pal might just help point Jack toward Boulder. And then, of course, there were all of these other tie-ins. Texas Tech sits out there only 160 miles northwest of Abilene. It has always been a favorite for Abilene students. And Baylor prides itself on sending a lot of quarterbacks to the pros, which might appeal to Jack. And one of Larry Mildren's old friends, Jake Helms, was the freshman coach at Texas A&M now, which could be a persuasive force. Another of the father's old friends, Emory Bellard, was an assistant at Texas, which might be the same. The president of the Abilene school board was a Rice man, and that wouldn't hurt the Owls. TCU had the bit about being the closest Southwest Conference campus, and the family already knew several of the TCU coaches. Finally, the family was, after all, Methodist, which never stopped giving SMU hope.

Sometimes a prospect can add to the complications of his ultimate decision by doing the very natural thing of answering his mail. Soon after the season started, Jack Mildren began receiving letters and questionnaires from all over the country—from Notre Dame, UCLA, Army, everywhere. If you answer them you begin to get more personal letters, then phone calls, then requests for game films and then visits from alumni in the area or by assistant coaches. This suddenly sank in on Jack Mildren one evening at home when the phone rang and it was UCLA Coach Tommy Prothro, who said, "We probably don't have a very good chance to get you, son, but I believe that if you'll just come visit us, you'll want to stay."

There are recruiting rules in the Southwest Conference designed to keep college coaches from stumbling over each other at high school workouts—and to keep prospective athletes from stumbling over recruiters. A staff can make only two official visits to a prospect before the date on which he can sign a letter of intent binding him to that school. The date this year was Feb. 21. Of course, accidental visits don't count. "Bump-ins" they are called, and there are a lot of them. A bump-in is when the athlete just happens to meet up with a college coach in a public place, like, for instance, a hamburger stand where the team hangs out, or a coffee shop where the father hangs out, or a department store where the mother shops. At any rate, the two-visit rule is fine for Southwest coaches to live with among themselves, but it has no effect on an outsider like Oklahoma, which happens to be located closer to a greater part of Texas than several Southwest campuses.

Not that Oklahoma needs anything to incur the anger of Texas schools. Long ago Bud Wilkinson started reaching into Texas for good athletes, and last year Oklahoma started reaching for Jack Mildren before anyone else. Maybe it was because of Merrill Green and maybe not. Maybe it was because Abilene, being a big oil town, had a lot of well-to-do and influential OU exes, and maybe not. Maybe it was because an Oklahoma coach, Barry Switzer, was practically camping on the Mildrens' front lawn, and maybe not. But on the one weekend he had free from playing a Cooper High game, Jack was invited up to Norman for the Oklahoma-Maryland game, and he went.

Everybody else howled about that later. They knew it must have made a huge impression on Mildren and would make their selling jobs even tougher. Darrell Royal put it better than anyone.

"I remember when I was a kid and went to Norman for the first time. I saw those big red helmets with the white 'O' on 'em, and those big shoulder pads," said Darrell. "Why, I knew I couldn't go anywhere else. I went back to Hollis and got my radio and put it out there on the porch on Saturdays so I could listen to the OU games and play like I had on one of those red helmets as I ran around dodging trees and stiff-arming anthills."

Jack Mildren had been a good prospect on the basis of his junior year, but as his team rolled along through last season he became a superb prospect. The Southwest recruiters could hardly wait until the Cougars finished their campaign to start their sales pitches, though Oklahoma, of course, had already started. After one particular game Green admitted some Sooner coaches to the Abilene dressing room where the Southwest coaches couldn't go because Mildren's season wasn't over yet. Darrell Royal got especially outraged. He called the Cooper coach to tell him he was granting Oklahoma an unfair advantage.

Green apologized and said he realized he had made a mistake, but he couldn't resist teasing Royal at the same time.

"Darrell, I wonder how many proselyters can take a kid out to the LBJ Ranch?" Green asked. "That seems to me like a little bit of an unfair advantage for Texas."

The recruiting season officially opens on a Texas athlete about one second after his final game. In Jack Mildren's case his pursuers waited an extra day for the quarterback and the family to recover from the heart-wracking loss to Austin Reagan in the finals at TCU stadium in Fort Worth. Jack had not played his best that day, although he passed for two touchdowns and ran for one and gave his Cougars a 19-7 lead that they blew. It was a very sad afternoon for Abilene. Nothing in life ever seems quite so monumental as that great big high school loss or victory. So the recruiters sort of stood back and stayed away from the downcast Abilene players after the game. They hung their heads like the families did and dug their toes into the concrete. It was a trifle difficult for Mike Campbell, an assistant at Texas, to look all that terribly torn up for Jack Mildren since Mike's son had played for Austin Reagan, but he somehow managed to keep it on a high plane. The Mildrens appreciated Campbell's position.

So Jack Mildren had a one-day reprieve, but it was the only one he would have for the next two months. Back at their home on Regent Drive in Abilene on Sunday—a small but nice development home on the new side of town—the phone calls started and the telegrams began to arrive.

The first call came from SMU Coach Hayden Fry in Dallas. He just wanted to express his sorrow at Cooper losing the game. But while Hayden was at it, he managed to mention that he hoped Jack was still an SMU fan like that little red-headed, 6-year-old boy he remembered so well. "You know in your heart you've always been a Mustang," Fry said to Mildren. A few hours later Jack would receive an effusive telegram from Hayden saying, among other things, that Jack was the best quarterback ever to play in the state of Texas.

Other phone calls rapidly followed Fry's. There was Darrell Royal, who wanted to set up an official visit right away, and then several condoling assistant coaches who more or less cooled it. They just wanted to make contact. Jack granted Royal the first official visit, which would take place the following Wednesday.

Royal is a tough recruiter, because he is a direct, businesslike person who throws a challenge up to a prospect and promises nothing. This approach is designed to appeal to the competitive instinct of the athlete. Royal deals from strength. Texas is the biggest school, a good one, a pretty one and his teams have been winners.

It took a while for Mildren to recover from Royal's dynamic presentation,

"Where do we stand, Jack?" was Royal's first question. "Is Texas in this?"

Mildren offered up several uh-uh-uhs.

"If you come to our place," said Royal, "you must know that your opportunities for success after graduation will be greater than they would be if you went anywhere else. If you plan to live in Texas you ought to attend the university. It's that simple."

Mildren, who is a most presentable and likable young man, one who has a quick handshake, a thorough knowledge of football history and the ability to converse with his elders, slowly managed to get across the idea that Texas might have too many good football players.

Royal said, "You're a competitor, Jack. Come to our place, roll up your sleeves and show 'em who's best. The challenge is there. The question is whether you're man enough to meet it."

Jack was hit hard by Royal. His competitive nature was aroused. He had not really ever thought that Texas would be where he would wind up, but now he did. He'd show 'em, just as Royal had challenged him to. Jack was in the perfect frame of mind to meet the easygoing entourage from TCU.

TCU's approach to recruiting over the years has always been wonderfully homey. Its basic appeal is to the small-town or country boy who wants a howdy-type campus and who likes to whip the big guys. There was a time when all of the TCU coaches chewed tobacco and pitched coins at a line outside the stadium in their spare time. A few years ago when TCU built a handsome field house with new offices for the staff, a Fort Worth columnist predicted the coaches wouldn't like it because there was no place to spit.

Jack Mildren did not hear precisely a country-boy kind of argument from Fred Taylor when the TCU coach showed in Abilene with an assistant, Allie White, and an alumnus with a private plane, Oilman Dick Lowe.

"All of the schools are good," said Taylor. "You won't be disappointed with any of us. But TCU's close to your home, and we beat Texas last year, don't forget. We're on the winning path. We're getting close to the top, and you can take us all the way."

By now the Mildrens were not only in the dazzling social world of being entertained constantly by coaches and alumni, but Jack was regularly receiving calls and letters from great players he had heard about forever, all of them urging him to attend a different university. He got them at the rate of 10 or 15 per day from the likes of Bob Lilly, Adrian Burk, Doak Walker, Tommy Nobis, Kyle Rote, a sort of Texas Hall of Fame on long distance.

One evening the phone rang and Jack answered, fully expecting it to be another assistant coach. It wasn't at all.

"Jack," a husky voice said. "This is Johnny Unitas."

"Huh," said Jack, followed by a couple of gulps.

"I just wanted to call and put in a good word for my old friend John Bridgers at Baylor," Unitas said. "If you're as good as John says you are, then you're probably thinking about playing pro football someday."

Jack said y-yeah, h-he guessed he was, maybe.

"Well, you can't play college ball for a better coach if you want to be a pro quarterback," said Unitas. "You give Baylor some thought now, O.K.?"

Mildren said he would, and thanks very much for calling John, er, Mr. Unitas, er, well, thankee. Thankee very much. Yes, sir, Mister, uh. Thankee.

It is not easy to sell Baylor, because the Bears have not won the Southwest Conference in 43 years, and it is a very Baptist school, and Waco, Texas is not Beverly Hills. In fact, Waco almost has to get two-up a side from Salado, which at least has a dandy restaurant called the Stagecoach Inn. For a while, however, John Unitas had Jack Mildren thinking about Baylor.

One by one, all of the head coaches got to Abilene. Jack heard Texas Tech's J. T. King emphasize the big money ex-Red Raider Donny Anderson had got from the Green Bay Packers, and Larry, the father, heard King explain how Anderson's dad was also on the Packer payroll at $12,000 a year, if that was any kind of inducement. J.T. said that one of the nice things about Tech is that a boy can walk right in and see the president. Which you sure can't do somewhere like the University of Texas, he said. The Mildrens listened to Houston's Bill Yeoman talk about his unique option play and why it's better to play in the Astrodome. They heard Rice's Bo Hagan stress education ahead of football, primarily, they suspected, because Rice has not won a conference title since 1957.

A man they listened to a little more intently than some of the others was A&M's Gene Stallings. Like Royal, he was speaking from strength, having just won the championship. He was in a hurry and he talked to the point, except to tell a few Joe Namath stories from his assistant coaching days at Alabama.

"If you want to learn football, there are only two places you can consider," said Stallings, drawling like Bear Bryant. "Alabama and Texas A&M. And I think Alabama is too far away for you. But let me say this. If you don't want to be a one hundred per cent Aggie, don't come to our place."

While Jack was giving some thought to the rather Spartan idea of being a 100% Aggie, he received what seemed like his 1,000th long-distance call of January. It came from Jerry Wampfler, a Notre Dame assistant, offering a chance to visit South Bend. Wampfler told Mildren the Fighting Irish did not go after just anyone; that he could be the quarterback to replace Terry Hanratty. All of the Mildrens were excited about Notre Dame phoning. It was, in a sense, the final recognition of success. Jack told the Irish he was flattered, but he truthfully wanted to stay closer to home.

Where exactly would Jack Mildren visit at this point? Well, he had managed to slim his choices down to about seven campuses. There were SMU, TCU, Rice and Houston, all four of which were schools where he felt he could play a lot as a sophomore. And then there were Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, where the competition might be greater but the chances of winning a national championship also greater. He had been to Oklahoma during the season, and Arkansas had yet to show all that much interest (although it would). He would visit the others, he thought, and hope to be persuaded, one way or another.

Normally, a potential recruit comes and goes quietly on his campus visits. He meets the coaches and also a few members of the varsity, if they aren't busy shooting snooker or sleeping. He timidly eats at the training table, and some player he may have something in common with is provided as an escort to show him a few of the prettier girls in the Student Union, and maybe some of the easier cabinets to jimmy open and steal test questions from. He is handed some folders, a brochure, some T shirts and pennants. Then it's dinner and sure hope you sign up with us, Hoss.

The Mildrens were treated a little differently, not too much unlike a royal family from the Continent. In Austin, Jack was turned over to Steve Worster, the Longhorns' prize catch from the year previous. He got Jack a date, took him to a dance and showed him around. Meanwhile Jack's younger brother, Glynne, the big Texas fan, was photographed with Chris Gilbert, Royal's star running back. The family was then taken to dinner with Royal and his wife, Edith, other coaches and their wives, and a man named Jack Crosby, who, at the time, was Larry Mildren's boss.

It was more of the same in Houston. Jack toured the campus with Bo Burris, a former Houston standout now with the New Orleans Saints. He went to the Astrodome and saw his name flashed on the big scoreboard. Later he would receive a personal letter from Judge Roy Hofheinz.

In Fort Worth the quarterback was turned over to Ross Montgomery, TCU's talented halfback. He was taken to lunch at Shady Oaks Country Club, where none other than Ben Hogan was his host. He was introduced to a lovely thing by the name of Molly Grubb, who happened to be Miss Texas at the time and a TCU student. None of this, however, made the impact on him that Dallas and SMU did.

First of all, he had been getting these wires from such notable Dallas citizens as Clint Murchison Jr., owner of the Cowboys, and Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs (former Dallas Texans), pleading with him to attend SMU. Then a group of Dallas businessmen—they were called "the millionaires" by Abilene people—made a special trip to see Jack and throw a lavish dinner at Abilene's Petroleum Club. They dwelled continually on the benefits of playing in Dallas. Big business wants you, Jack, they said.

So it was that when the Mildrens visited Dallas the first thing they saw when they arrived at the Hilton Inn, near the campus, was the marquee out front: DALLAS WELCOMES THE MILDRENS. Then, driving to the SMU campus, they saw another sign on a Tom Thumb grocery store: WELCOME TO SMU! DALLAS WELCOMES THE MILDRENS. When they got to SMU's coliseum the Mustang band, to their astonishment, was out front loudly playing the school fight song. Thereafter Jack was introduced at half time of an SMU basketball game, a party was thrown for the family at a private home and he met all sorts of Miss Teen-age Dallases.

A few days later it appeared that Dallas had won the battle and that Jack had made up his mind. When SMU Coach Hayden Fry phoned him Jack said, "The way things stand right now, it looks like I'll be coming to SMU."

Fry was jubilant. He said he would like to stage a massive press reception. He wanted copies of Jack's glowing statistics. He wanted to make the announcement for Sunday's papers. Then more wires began to arrive. Sign now, they said, and they came from just plain folks like Murchisons, Hunts and Merediths.

To his father, Jack paused and said, "I didn't think I was that definite. Did I mislead 'em? I'm still sort of thinking about some other schools."

And Jack did not sign.

It was at this point that Oklahoma and Arkansas, a new entry, made their big moves. Frank Broyles breezed into Abilene with his evangelistic style. No one sells anything the way Broyles sells Arkansas. He talked about his pro-type offense. He said he had hired the best quarterback coach in the country, Don Breaux from Florida State, the man who had taught Kim Hammond, and the best receiving coach, Richard Williamson from Alabama, the man who turned out Dennis Homan. He drew pass patterns incessantly, talked technical football over and over, preached the enthusiasm of the Razorback fans and got across the idea of nothing but national championships at Arkansas with Jack winning two or three Heisman trophies.

Now came Oklahoma Coach Chuck Fairbanks. Didn't OU have everything that Jack desired in a university? It's out of state but still close enough to home, only 300 miles. It was a campus town, Norman was, a beautiful school with some age to it. It would be like going away somewhere. Jack, but your folks could still see you play. And Oklahoma is winning again. You can play in the Cotton Bowl every year against Texas, don't forget, and probably go to some other bowls, too, in the postseason. You can start as a sophomore for us, Jack, and we can win a national championship at OU. You just can't do that at several other schools.

With the signing date past and Jack still not committed, it was natural that a lot of people, including some coaches, felt Mildren was holding out for improper inducements—that he was simply going to the highest bidder. Actually, a few exes from here and there had made some suggestions. Jack had been offered investments, with no cash output, of course. He could lease a new automobile at only $10 per month. Some splendid summer jobs had been casually mentioned. The offers were not definitive, nor were they listened to, and they were far from the reason that Jack had not signed. His was not an unusual problem for a teen-ager with a significant decision to make and parents willing to guide him, but not to decide for him. He could not make up his mind.

The talk continued. And now the family listened to all kinds of things that disturbed them. When the father left the cable TV company to go to work for American Mud, a company which sells to oil explorers, it was said that he had been fired because Jack wasn't going to Texas (the cable TV owner was a Long-horn booster) and that Oklahoma exes had fixed up the other job so they could give him a lot of business—if Jack went to OU. A newspaper ran the story that Merrill Green could join the coaching staff of whatever school Jack picked. Another paper printed the story that several schools would take the whole Cooper High backfield if Jack came. The Mildren's postman told Jack's quiet, pleasant and bewildered mother, Mary Glynne, "If he goes to Oklahoma, I'll never root for him again." And he kept getting anti-OU wires and letters. One of them said, "How will you feel when those stupid Okies boo The Eyes of Texas!" Another brutally said, "I is gonna be yo roommate at Oklahoma." It was signed, "Abraham Washington."

Finally Jack made up his mind. It was two months, 27 official coaching visits, 500 letters, 100 telegrams and 150 long-distance calls later, but he made his decision. He felt sure about his choice, but he wanted to sleep on it one more night. As he slept, both Oklahoma Coach Chuck Fairbanks and Arkansas Coach Frank Broyles were in Abilene waiting for the word. Mildren had managed to narrow it down to those two.

The next morning Jack awakened, and his family watched as he called Frank Broyles at the Starlite Motel.

"Coach Broyles," said the quarterback, "I just wanted to let you know first that it's going to be Oklahoma."

Chuck Fairbanks made a big thing out of it, as anyone could have guessed. He called a press group together and pronounced it "a great day for Oklahoma recruiting." Jack signed the surrender papers while the family and the Oklahoma coaches and a cluster of reporters and photographers looked on.

Some other coaches made a big thing out of it, too. They all denounced the two-visit rule in the Southwest Conference, which they thought was the biggest aid Oklahoma had. His high school coach guided him to Oklahoma all the way, they said. Some schools were strung along just for the publicity, they said. And for the trips. All of this was too bad, they said, because Jack was a good kid and they wished him well.

This week Jack Mildren will arrive at Norman. There will be no band playing and no press conference. His name will not be on the marquee of a motel or even on a sign at a supermarket. No Miss Wheatfield will greet him, and no millionaires will be around waiting to take him to lunch. He will be just another freshman who has been brought in to play football, like hundreds of others all over the U.S. The only thing Jack might be thinking about are the words of an Arkansas recruiter from a few giddy months earlier in the year. The fellow had said, "Once you make your decision, never look back."

He will certainly try to follow that advice, and the world may hear of him again, and it might not. Which won't matter at all to the recruiters. Somewhere out there right now is another Jack Mildren, another Head Hoss, and the recruiters are in pursuit.



While being entertained in Fort Worth by TCU enthusiasts, Mildren was introduced to one of the university's latest attractions, Molly Grubb, who is this year's Miss Texas.




A slightly weary Larry Mildren has his quarterback son off to school at last.