Dennis Gaubatz, 62, lives in West Columbia, Texas (pop. 4,372),
three miles from the house in which he grew up. Every Wednesday
he plays dominoes with friends, many of whom he has known since
high school. He shares a four-bedroom house with his wife of 43
years, Carolyn, whom he also met in high school. He coaches a
youth football team that includes one of his eight grandchildren.
In fact, much of his family is within driving distance of West
Columbia, which is 45 miles south of Houston.
Talking to Gaubatz, you get the sense that he didn't need to
spend much time trying to find himself. The only other place he
felt at home was on the football field. After starring at LSU, he
played seven years in the NFL, the first two with the Detroit
Lions and the rest with the Baltimore Colts.
His days in Baltimore are the ones he remembers most fondly. "In
Detroit everybody scattered like a covey of quail after the
game," Gaubatz says. "In Baltimore everybody, it didn't matter
who, went out together. Most of us ended up at Art Donovan's
country club after hours." From 1965 through '69 Gaubatz called
the signals for an unheralded Colts defense and left an
impression on opposing offenses by clotheslining receivers
whenever the opportunity presented itself. "Today I'd be thrown
out of the game in two plays," he says. "Back then it was a
15-yard penalty--if the officials caught you. Now it's a fine."
Not only did he share a locker room with Johnny Unitas and play
in Super Bowl III against Joe Namath, but he was also captured in
verse on the cover of Life magazine in December 1968: SINCE
GAUBATZ ACTS LIKE THIS ON SUNDAY,/I'LL DO MY QUARTERBACKING
MONDAY, wrote Ogden Nash. "He used to come by the locker room,"
Gaubatz says of the Baltimore poet. "He was a friend of the
Colts. We had a lot of friends."
After retiring from the NFL in 1969, Gaubatz remained in the
Baltimore area for five years selling construction equipment.
But he and Carolyn missed their families, so they moved back to
Texas. Dennis worked mostly out of the Freeport office of Dow
Chemical as a contracts administrator, checking on construction
sites. He retired in 1997, his body worn down from football and
fieldwork. Since then he has had his hips and knees replaced.
Considering the pain he's endured, Gaubatz has been asked by
friends whether, if he could live life over again, he would
choose a football career. "I wouldn't even have to think about
it," he says. "I thoroughly enjoyed playing." --Bill Syken
COLOR PHOTO: NEIL LEIFER (COVER) MIDDLE MAN Gaubatz was at the center of the Colts' defense for five seasons.
COLOR PHOTO: PAM FRANCIS [See caption above]
At home on the range in West Columbia, Texas, the retired
Gaubatz is happiest when surrounded by family and friends.