SIZE HELPS but it isn't everything, except maybe in a hog-growing contest," Tommy McDonald wrote in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in 1964. He knew of what he spoke. As a member of the Future Farmers of America, he had attempted to turn a runt into a prize hog. Things did not end well for McDonald—or, presumably, the pig.
He was right, however, about the importance of size in other pursuits, especially football. The 5'9", 175-pound speedster—"a mackerel among sharks," he called himself—was a big-play threat on Bud Wilkinson's Oklahoma teams, which won 47 consecutive games. (McDonald was in Norman for the first 40 of them.)
As a pro, McDonald—who died last week at age 84—scored 13 touchdowns for the Eagles as they won the 1960 NFL championship, which helped make him the toast of the City of Brotherly Love. He drove around town in a cherry-red convertible, courtesy of Phillies Cigars. McDonald peddled their wares in a commercial dressed as a cowboy while riding a pinto, which was second nature for a man who grew up on a farm in Roy, N.M.
"I love to act, to perform," McDonald said in 1962, when he made the Pro Bowl for the fifth of six times in his Hall of Fame career. "It's easy for me to get the right expression for a cameraman. You know, cocking an eyebrow the right way and all. There's a lot of acting to catching passes. Especially for a little guy like me. I roll my eyes and fake and feint and play possum."