Dave Kocourek – August 28, 2000
Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers – 1960-1965
Miami Dolphins – 1966
Oakland Raiders – 1967-1968
TT – Tell me about who scouted you and how you first came to the Chargers.
DK – I don’t know that I was really scouted. I played football in Winnipeg in 1959 and they have an import rule. So many Americans allowed maximum, and I kind of got caught in the shuffle. I was out of football for a brief time there after the ’59 season in Winnipeg. I had to go back to school the University of Wisconsin, for nine hours to get my degree, and that was very important to me. So I got back to Wisconsin and… Or I was going to go back. I registered and everything and I was in the Chicago suburbs, figuring that my football career was over. A friend of mine, Bob Zeman, who had played with Wisconsin, and played in the Rose Bowl that year, they got beat by Washington by a big score. But anyway, he said he had signed with the Los Angeles Chargers and thought it was going to be a fun league. And I wrote a bunch of letters. I wrote to the Chargers, and I pretty much wrote to what I thought were the good-weather areas and places I’d want to be, Houston and Dallas and Denver and Los Angeles. I wrote to an old coach that had coached me at Wisconsin, Perry Moss. He was coaching in Canada. And I didn’t hear from anybody for about a month. All of a sudden I got a call from Sid Gillman and he said, “Dave, this is Sid Gillman. I don’t know if you remember me, but I got your letter and I’m the new head coach/general manager of the Chargers and we’d like very much to sign you to a contract.” They offered me $10,000 and a $1,000 bonus, if I made the team. That was more money than my father was making at that time and I thought it was a pretty good deal, so I signed the contract, not knowing what was going to happen or anything about the AFL. I started to learn about it. I got my schedule as far as training camp goes, and they were bringing them in. We were at Chapman College in Orange. That’s where the first training camp was. They were bringing them in in boatloads. Sid had camps all over the Los Angeles area looking for athletes and former athletes. There were truck drivers and other guys that might have played high school football and thought they could play. There were very few guys that ever made it out of those original camps, but I got fairly early into Chapman College. I was a back-up tight end and also I started playing a little bit of wide receiver. I think that kind of helped my pass-catching skills and maneuverability skills. I started the year behind a guy named Royce Womble, as wide receiver on the right and Howard Clark was the tight end at the time. Somehow or other I worked into the starting lineup. I think my first entrance was as a wide receiver. I think it was Buffalo in Buffalo, and I had a pretty good game. I was wide receiver and Howard was the tight end. I don’t know if he got hurt, I guess he got hurt in the second year and then I became the tight end and pretty much gave up the wide receiver stuff. But it was kind of fun and I think being a wide receiver kind of helped my maneuverability and things like that. I went on from there and had some fun years, winning football teams. Al Davis was our original end coach and I learned an awful lot from Al. He was very diligent about the way the feet would go and you making an in move or an out move or whatever. I was just trying to soak up as much of that stuff as I could. He had coached at Baltimore a little bit and helped Raymond Berry and some other people, so I felt very comfortable and went on to play a total of 10 years and I had a lot of fond memories and here I am.
TT – What benefits do you think you got from the Chargers?
DK – Well, again it could have been anyone. Incidentally, after I signed the contract with Sid, I got calls from all the other teams. I don’t know if the word got out or if the mail was late or whatever happened, but I never regretted signing with the Chargers and Sid Gillman. The staff, Al Davis of course, the end coach, Joe Madro was our line coach, Chuck Noll was the defensive line coach, Jack Faulkner was the secondary coach. I mean it was a five-man staff. Now they got about 20-man staffs and I think they got a guy for every individual player and every skill. But I don’t know if there was anything special. I was given an opportunity to play and I think I took advantage of it and had a lot of fun and we met the San Diego people. Our son was born here, our daughter was born here, so it’s a real soft spot in my heart. And I’m just happy to be back. We’ve been back a few times for some outings, some tournaments, some things like that, but this is neat really because he (their son) had a chance to come and join us. It’s been one of our highlights.
TT – Tell me about Sid Gillman.
DK – Well, he was just a great, great offensive mind. He was a good coordinator of what was going on. He’d had experience and we had some real horses. You know, you look at the lineup and who we had in the early years, and Jack Kemp. I was one of Jack’s favorite receivers because I was a pretty big target. But we had some wonderful skill people and a lot of camaraderie. We had some great speed, which was important. We had some tremendous size. You know the Ernie Ladd’s and some of those kinds of people. Earl Faison and the defensive line, Paul Lowe in the backfield. I remember Paul Lowe as a 175-pound running back out of Oregon State. Opening kickoff, opening game in the Los Angeles Coliseum, he went 105 yards against the New York Titans in those days. He could really fly. He’s now about 70 or 80 pounds heavier, but boy, it was a real pleasure watching Paul run. We also had Bo Roberson on our team, who was an Olympic sprinter and broad jumper. They one time had a little race, which I don’t think the coaches should have allowed because somebody could have pulled a muscle or something. But Paul had him for most of the start and Bo kind of dropped it low, low and showed the pure sprinter’s speed. But we had some skill players and we had a lot of defense, which was wonderful. They set the all-time, and I don’t think it is ever going to be broken record, as far as intercepted passes goes. Charlie McNeil and some of those guys. Zeman and Dick Harris. We had a nice mix of people.
TT – Anything you disliked about being a pro football player?
DK – No, it’s been good to me and I’ve just had a wonderful, wonderful time. A lot of memories and it just was really fun seeing the guys. Jack Kemp last night and some of the other people. I had a lot of fun sitting next to Eddie LeBaron, who was one of the pint-sized quarterbacks, but what a great guy and a wonderful skill player. I don’t know that size-wise, I don’t know if he’s 5’ 8” or 5’ 9” but he was pound-for-pound one of the great quarterbacks of all time. And I also sat with Herb Klein, who Jack Kemp acknowledged as one of the guys that were instrumental in bringing the Chargers to San Diego. Leon Parma was also there. But anyway we had a very nice evening and I just love that we went back and kind of getting a little nostalgic, but back to our old house. We were one of the few players that owned a home. We bought a home. Most of the guys would rent for the football season and then they’d go back to wherever home was after the season ended. We went back to our old neighborhood and one of our old neighbors had a party. We had about 7 or 8 couples there, some of which, this gal who hosted the party hadn’t seen in 12 or 15 years. They were still living there, so there were some internal problems or disputes, and the fact that they all came together to have fun with us really meant a lot for my wife and I. We went back yesterday and saw some of the people, in fact the gal who used to baby sit our son when we went out, she’s still living there. Then we went to another house where my son’s two pals were when they were just little guys and they used to play together. So we’ve seen a lot of our old pals and it’s just been a wonderful, wonderful visit and we’d like to do this again.
TT – How would you like people to remember you as a football player?
DK – Well, when I saw Paul Lowe, Paul used to call me “Iron.” I said, “What do you call me ‘Iron’ all the time for?” He said, “You’re an iron man. Whenever you’re hurt, you’re playing. You’re always there.” And probably more than anything else, those words meant more to me than anything else, or any praise. I had some good years, I had some all-league years. I’m proud of the accomplishments on the field, but the fact that I was always around and always available, and acknowledged that I was around, I feel very comfortable with that. I’m very proud of that.