has heard the old story. This football coach was driving through the Minnesota
farm land one day. He saw this big, raw-boned kid plowing in the field and
asked him which way to the city. When the kid picked up the plow and pointed
with it, the coach knew he had found another Big Ten tackle.
If the story was
amusing 30 years ago when college football's linemen stood a strapping 6 feet 1
and weighed a ponderous 215 pounds, it now should be the most hilarious
anecdote on the whole roast-beef circuit, because Big Ten linemen today are big
enough and strong enough to point with tractors.
There are a lot
of theories about why people are getting bigger. Shoe and suit and theater-seat
manufacturers are all supposed to be concerned about the trend. Some believe
the reasons lie somewhere within or among better prenatal care, better medical
care in childhood, better diets, more athletic activity and vitamins. Pragmatic
Big Ten recruiters don't care what the reason is as long as they manage to get
their share of the big people. The evidence is that after a hiatus of some six
years they have done so, and now the Big Ten is back with a firm hold on many
of the best interior linemen of the country (see cover).
Before 1957 it
was considered almost natural law that the Midwest had the good lines, but in
that year the Big Ten instituted its "need program," an attempt to
regulate athletic scholarships on the basis of a student's finances, or lack of
them. The program remained in effect through 1961, but it resulted in a modest
de-emphasis. Most Big Ten coaches feel they are just now getting over the
experiment that profited Big Eight schools—notably Nebraska, Missouri and
Kansas, who recruited in Big Ten territory—more than it did their own
But that is done
with now. While last year was distinguished in the Big Ten for the quality of
its top linemen—among them Ed Budde and Dave Behrman of Michigan State, Bob
Vogel and Daryl Sanders of Ohio State, Bobby Bell of Minnesota and Don Brumm of
Purdue—this season there is quantity. Wisconsin Coach Milt Bruhn, who has the
best won-lost record in the conference over the last five seasons and whose
team, while upset Saturday by Ohio State 13-10, may still win the title, says,
"The material is everywhere. It's bigger and faster."
His center and
co-captain, Ken Bowman, one of the Big Ten's outstanding linemen, is more
explicit. "Last year," says Bowman, "I played at 212 and no one
pushed me around. Now I'm 230, and I'm getting pushed plenty. Even the
dark-horse teams are big and tough."
At the start of
the season there was no bigger dark horse than Illinois. Coach Pete Elliott's
team had won but two games in 1962, and the year before had lost all nine. But
Elliott had done the best recruiting job in the conference in the past two
seasons and suddenly the word went around: he had animals. If Elliott could
harass them enough to make them angry, look out.
ferocious of Elliott's linemen are 6-foot-3, 237-pound Center Dick Butkus, the
best linebacker in the country, and 6-foot-4, 260-pound Tackle Archie Sutton.
He also has a swarm of Goliathlike sophomores and juniors who seem likely to
complete Illinois' resurgence as a power. Mostly Pete Elliott recruited in
Chicago and its suburbs, which, with 200 high schools, is one of the great
reservoirs of talent from which all Big Ten schools—and Notre Dame—draw.
If Chicago had
provided no other player than Dick Butkus, Illinois would be pleased. Among all
of the other promising sophomores and juniors on Elliott's rejuvenated team,
Butkus is the player he most wanted and recruited the hardest. At Chicago
Vocational High School, Butkus was a fullback who had power and speed. More
important, he made roughly 70% of his team's tackles on defense. Every Big Ten
school wanted him, but they were not sure how to use him. Elliott was, though.
He convinced Butkus he should play linebacker—for Illinois.
With good lateral
speed, brute strength and a "feel" for plays, Butkus made 78 tackles in
Illinois' first five games and seems certain to be chosen on the various
All-America teams. "He has that uncommon knack for doing the right thing at
the right time, and I've never seen him take a loafing step," says