J.W. Slack – November 22, 2002
Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers Training Camp – 1960-1961
JS – Joe Madro was the coach that signed me in the Spring of ’60. Frank Leahy, in the Spring of 1960, he called me. At the time he was going to be the general manager.
TT – That’s right. He was for about 5 months and then he took ill.
JS – OK, right. Well, he was my first contact. And then Joe Madro, I feel like it was in the Spring of ’59 when I was still at Louisiana Tech, and he signed me to a contract. They didn’t have a draft as such. I don’t know exactly how they did this. They came up with names and then they would pick them.. Well, anyway, Joe Madro signed me in the spring, and he signed me to a… I have the contract somewhere, if I could find it. I think it was an $8,000 contract and it probably was an advance, but they gave me a $500 bonus. That was kind of the going thing on the contracts. Of course, some of those bigger named guys, I don’t know what their contracts called for, but they probably made considerably more than that. Jack Faulkner was the defensive back coach. That’s what my position was going to be, a defensive back. Of course, Al Davis was there and I cannot think of any of the other coaches.
TT – Chuck Noll was there.
JS – Chuck Noll, right. I’m gonna write that down because I had forgotten that. We reported to Orange County Community College, I don’t know if you knew that or not. I never will forget, I got in there about midnight, I think. The flight, that was the time of the arrival. Everybody had gone to bed and I was lost as a goose around there. I was a small town guy that came to a big place. But it was quite an experience. But that’s about the extent of my being able to remember. The Hilton’s, I guess, were the owners of the team. Who was the guy? It wasn’t Conrad, was it?
TT – It was Barron.
JS – Barron, OK. Barron Hilton. I don’t know of too much more of interest.
TT – Were you concerned at that point that the AFL might not make it?
JS – There was always some thought of that, but you know… I guess as a young person, I didn’t really think too much about it. They seemed to be on the side that had all the other entrants into the league. They seemed to have good backing.
TT – They had owners with money.
JS – And ultimately it ended up making it and merging with the NFL. It did a pretty good job. Early on we were pretty representative, I guess. I think about that a lot. I guess I’m kind of a small-time guy, going into a big place, I was homesick. I already had a wife and a child by then. I was homesick. I was ready to go home real quick. There were some guys from LSU, and I may be confused with ’61, when I went to San Diego. I cannot think of their names. Dwayne Leopard. Is that a name that has come up? I was thinking he was from LSU. One guy that I ought to remember his name, because we palled around a bit. But anyway, my memory is not what it used to be.
TT – How did that training camp differ from others that you had attended?
JS – Actually that was the only training camp I ever attended, other than the one at San Diego the next year.
TT – Was it any different because there were so many guys trying out?
JS – Well, it was a whole lot alike. Like you said, they brought in a bunch of guys. And the only reason I went back the second year was in the summer of ’61, I got a call from Mike Holovak. He was with Boston. And he wanted me to come to Boston, and I told him that I would be glad to, of course not knowing the legalities of the contract. It bound me over to them for another year. So Al Davis called me and I guess he said that I was their property and I would have to come back out to San Diego. So anyway, that’s how I went back to San Diego. But that’s about it.
TT – Did you get the opportunity to go to Boston after San Diego?
JS – After I got cut, no. I guess it was too late, or I don’t know what happened. But they didn’t pick me up. And then I went on with my vocation after that.
TT – Tell me about Sid Gillman.
JS – Very impressive guy in 1960. He was obviously knowledgeable about the game of football, and particularly offense. I really probably had less contact with him on the practice field. Jack Faulkner was primarily my defensive back coach. I don’t know whatever happened with him. Seems like the last recollection of him, he was with Denver.
TT – He had a head coaching job with Denver, started in ’63 and I think he was there two or three years. But he has been all over the place, and he has been in the front office and he has been on the field.
JS – Still connected then. He was probably a younger guy than I thought he was. He was a little older, but I’m sure not much older. Of course, Joe Madro was getting up in age, and I’m sure he has passed away. I don’t know where Chuck Noll is. Obviously Al Davis, you know where he is. And Jack Kemp. I ran into him when he was on the vice presidential ticket with Dole. He came to town and I was able to speak with him briefly. He of course didn’t remember me. But we spoke a little bit about it. I ran into Paul Maguire in New Orleans some years later. He wound up with Buffalo. He was doing the radio color commentary. I ran into him and had a good, long visit with him down there. And now he has gone on to bigger and better things. He’s now with ESPN, of course. Ron Waller played in one of the Pac 10 schools out there. I think he had been out there with the Rams. What about a Sears? Was there a Sears?
TT – Jim Sears. He just passed away a couple of years ago. He went to USC and played with the team for just a couple of years.
JS – I maybe confusing this guy. There was a guy from Oregon or Washington State, a linebacker.
TT – Chuck Allen?
JS – That’s him.
TT – He’s back up in Washington. He coached and worked with the Seahawks for a number of years and he’s back in Washington now. At that time the Chargers coaching staff had three future Hall of Fame coaches in Sid Gillman, Al Davis and Chuck Noll. Did it appear to be a knowledgeable or overly impressive staff at the time?
JS – Well, for a guy like myself coming from a small place, yeah, I guess I could say that might be true. I was kind of in awe of Sid Gillman. He was pretty synonymous with football, even when I was in college. I don’t remember exactly where he had been prior to his arrival at the Chargers. But that thought probably never occurred to me back then, when I was a young guy.
TT – What did you think about the competition level between the AFL and NFL at that point?
JS – Well, I thought it was maybe not on the same level, but it had a good chance to get there. And apparently that did happen. Of course, there were some pretty outstanding football players with the Chargers. I was very much impressed with some of those guys. I guess being a little naïve, I thought it was something that was going to succeed and maybe even be competitive. But I don’t know how much thought I gave at that time.