San Diego Chargers – 1961-1966
Miami Dolphins – 1966
TT – Tell me about who scouted you and how you came to the Chargers.
EF – I’m trying to get a fix on that question. Now this is personal. Are you talking about me personally?
TT – Yes.
EF – I can’t really tell you who scouted me, but I can start with the fact that I was drafted by the Chargers number one and I was drafted by the Detroit Lions number three. In the process there was the fact that the Canadian team wanted me. But I wanted to play in the AFL because they were then the Los Angeles Chargers. So my last game, which was against Purdue, I was flown the next day to Los Angeles and got to meet with a lot of the people from the Chargers – the Hiltons, Al Davis, Klostermann, a bunch of the executives. We cut a deal. I didn’t particularly like the deal that we cut, but we cut a deal. I called back home to Indiana, to my college coach to let him know about the deal that we had cut. It was four or five o’clock in the morning for him, 1 o’clock for us out here. He thought it was a good deal, so I eventually signed with the Chargers. In the process of doing that, I went back to IU and the Detroit Lions had been trying to contact me. I came out and told them that I had already signed with the Chargers and there was no need to mess around with me. They were quite irate and upset that I didn’t them a nod or a chance. I took a trip to Montreal and let them know the same thing.
TT – What was your interest in signing with the AFL? Was it to move out West?
EF – It was to get away from the climate, the racial climate that represented Indiana and Virginia where I was from. I thought that it would be better in Los Angeles at the time. And the cold weather.
TT – Did you understand at that point that they would be moving to San Diego?
EF – Oh no. That never even entered into the picture. As far as my going to the Los Angeles team, Los Angeles Chargers, it was my thinking that that’s where we would play. When I came back and as the year progresses, I read in the newspaper that the team was moving to San Diego. My first reaction was “San Diego? Where the hell is San Diego?” Somebody said, “close to Mexico.” And I had never seen it, never heard of the place, or anything. So I wondered about it, but when I came out here it was love at first sight.
TT – What benefits do you think, and I am not talking about monetarily, you got playing with the Chargers that you may not have gotten from playing with any other team in the AFL?
EF – I think I got an opportunity to play with a wide-open brand of football. I got an opportunity to number one start, even though deep-down inside of me I think I was possibly good enough to start for the Detroit Lions, I don’t think the mind-set at that particular time of the pro teams was that they would give too many rookies an opportunity. They had sort of a closed shop. Guys weren’t allowed to express themselves. They represented a lot of the slave mentality. And so they were the only game in town and I did not want any association with it. So I thought I would take a chance with the new league.
TT – The fans in Balboa Stadium were very close to the sidelines when you were playing down there. What was the fan interaction like during a game? Was there any between the players and fans during game time?
EF – There was a lot. It was great atmosphere to play a football game in. In fact, in most of our stadiums during that particular time, because of the league being so new, we played in small stadiums. Depending on where you were, you were treated accordingly. For instance, up in… While at home our interaction with the fans was absolutely terrific, in Oakland at old Frank Youell Field, we were 7-10 feet away from the fans. It was an old high school stadium. And they would throw down bottles, throw down anything they could find. We sat on the bench with our helmets on the whole game.
At the Chargers stadium, Ernie Ladd and I used to throw pillows that the people used to sit on. The cushions, if we lost, they would throw them at us and we would turn around and toss them back into the stands.
I remember one game in particular, my first year. I was sitting on the bench and I looked across the track behind me into the stands and I see Charlie McNeil sitting in the stands. So I knew I had seen Charlie McNeil in the locker room prior to the game. We dressed close to each other. And I ran over to Ernie Ladd and I told him, “Ladd, the goddamn Sid has cut Charlie, he cut Charlie. He cut him before the game.” And he said, “No, no, Charlie’s down there.” And I said, “Look behind me, look over there.” And he looked in the stands and there was Charlie McNeil, or so we thought was Charlie McNeil. Then we ran over to the defensive coach. “Coach. Charlie is in the stands. Charlie is in the stands.” The coach looked at us and said, “No. Charlie’s standing right over there.” Charlie had a twin brother and we didn’t know. Looked just like him, the spitting image. But we were that close to the fans and we thought something drastic had happened to Charlie and we raised hell there.
But the fans were absolutely tremendous in the acceptance of the team at that time. The city just opened for us. It was a good marriage, right from the very start. And we did things for the city as players, that the players now expect to be paid for, like public appearances and things like that. We thought it was an honor that somebody asked you to come speak at a school assembly. We didn’t anticipate any type of payment, we looked forward to it. But to answer your question, it was just great. It was a tremendous thing to play at Balboa Stadium. Even though the airplanes would come over.
TT – Who do you feel were some of the toughest guys you played against?
EF – Oh God. I tried to remember that and I can’t remember too many of those guys. I did figure that you might ask me that question. I think of them as teams, but as individuals I can’t remember too many of them anymore.
TT – Well, what about some of the teams?
EF – Well, Kansas City was always tough. The Houston Oilers always gave us a difficult time. And even though we used to beat Oakland, I thought we beat them pretty well, but they always gave us a pretty tough game. We had scores like 44-37 or something. Something pretty wild like that. Denver, as a team, was no challenge. The New York Titans, no challenge. I mean those teams were teams from a foreign era. I mean we would look over to the sidelines and see those guys drawing plays in the grass and dirt trying to design something to attack us with. We got most of our competition from the Dallas Texans, as they were known then, and the Houston Oilers and sometimes New England. But that’s basically it.
TT – How did you get the nickname “Tree?”
EF – That came about my last year in college. The guys on the team didn’t call me that. It was more of the newspaper thing. Some newspaper guy put it on me and the guys on the team never referred to me as “Tree.” They were wondering where it came from too. But it was a figment of a sportswriter’s imagination in Bloomington, Indiana. And when I came to the Chargers, they really didn’t call me “Tree.” The guys on the team didn’t, but sportswriters referred to it occasionally. I might have added to it by answering to it. But that’s basically how I got it.
TT – What were some of the things that the team might have had you do to promote the AFL? You had mentioned speaking at school groups.
EF – Just making public appearances at different venues. I see you have one of the old strength books there. Sid Gillman had me go up to San Francisco someplace and try to peddle this book at a convention. I had a stand set up and I think I might have sold about 20 books at the time. But basically we just did PR work within the city, here in San Diego. That’s basically what we did, go from to school to school or CONVAIR, a picnic, make a public appearance for somebody somewhere and that’s basically it.
TT – Did you stick around town in the off-season?
EF – I went back east to complete my degree the first year. The next year I stayed in town and took employment with Coca-Cola and The Evening Tribune. Once again, it was a liason as the outreach programs that they ran and I promoted the Chargers even though they paid me. It was more promotional-type work.
EF – Oh these are the Los Angeles Chargers here. This is at USD. The coaching staff. Hank Schmidt. I saw him the other day. He loved to eat his meat raw. A lot of these guys I never even heard of. Joe Amstutz, I played against him. He played at Illinois, I think.
Dick Chorovich, the white whale. He came off the field one game we played somebody. He knew he was about to get cut and he came off the field with a broken arm. His badge, “It’s broken, it’s broken. Yeah, it’s broken.” Meaning, “I’ll be around, I’m getting paid. You can cut me if you want to, but you’re going to pay me.”
Rommie Loudd, deceased now. He’s been deceased. He ran the New England Patriots for a while.
I was a rookie and came to San Diego to play and Paul Maguire was the first guy that really made me feel accepted on the team. I wasn’t a drinker or anything and I went to this nightclub with some of the guys. Now I guess they had already come in, but they were seated at one end of the bar, some of the players and Paul Maguire. I was a rookie and I was seated on the other end of the bar. He came over and got me and said, “Hey come over here with us. You’re part of our team.” That made me feel real good.
Volney Peters, Ron Nery, Dave Kocourek. I wish we could go back to these old uniforms. Great uniforms.
Glenn Turgeon – How did you feel when you saw the 1994 Chargers in them?
EF – I was pissed off. Those guys got to keep them and they didn’t mean a thing to them, didn’t mean a thing to them.
Keith Lincoln, Mr. Inside. Small man, big heart. 205-pound fullback in the days when fullbacks weighed 235, 240. Big Heart. He and Paul Lowe used to have a running rivalry, friendly rivalry. People talk about the camaraderie of our championship team of ’63. There was a lot of guys there on that team that Ernie Ladd intimidated. So we had some racists on the team, but they better never open their mouth. Keith Lincoln and Paul Lowe used to have a rivalry where if one carried the ball one time one game more than the other one, they would come back to the practice field and they would sulk. Sit on the sidelines sulking. “He carried the ball more times than me. He got more yardage than I did.” But when we got to the ball game, they were all on the same page, we were all on the same page. Despite the locker room disputes and those types of things.
And Ernie Ladd, he was just his own man. God, the man had a tremendous… Little Sampson, we never called him that. But he had a wonderful working relationship with Sid Gillman. I think Sid feared him. We were up in Denver playing at one game and this was a negotiation year for Ladd and myself and we hadn’t signed a contract. So we changed up for the game, went out for pregame warm up. And we came back. The defensive team got together, offensive team got together. Everybody looked around, “Where’s Ernie Ladd?” He was gone. Come to find out, we played the first half without him. He had gone across the street to a bar and watched the game on the TV screen and came back at half time. “You need me now don’t you? You know you need me. You need the big fellow all the time. You tell me that you don’t need me, I saw what you were doing.” And he was over there drinking in his football pads and helmet, everything. Across the street at the local bar. He’d do that all the time.
He and I were roommates. He used to tell me, “Hey roomie. Watch me piss Sid off. I’m gonna piss Sid off.” He’d get on the phone, “Hey Sid, I’m thinking I’m not gonna play in the game tomorrow.” “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” “I don’t want to, I think I need some shrimp down here. I’m hungry.” Any kind of reason. Everything would be forthcoming. He’d send it right on down to him.
Charlie McNeil, I remember going in as a rookie the guys thought I had a big contract because I was the number one draft choice. I didn’t necessarily have a big contract, most of them probably made more money than I did. And I was somewhat of an outspoken guy. Not quite as vociferous as Ernie Ladd, but I would speak up. So they got me to go in to argue with Sid about Charlie McNeil’s contract, and I’m a rookie. I go into Sid’s office and I sit down across from him and I tell Sid, “I came in to Charlie McNeil. I understand you are only paying him $6,000 and we’ve got guys on the team making $12 –15,000. I think he should make more.” Sid looked up at me and said, “You’re a rookie.” I said, “Yeah, you know that.” He said, “You’re making more. As long as you’re with me, on my team, don’t you ever come in here and talk to me about somebody else’s contract. You better be concerned about your own.” “Yes sir, Mr. Gillman. Good talking with you.” I got up and left. Sid was a consummate; he was a master at negotiating contracts. He knew how to squeeze the most out of each of us and he played us against each other intelligently. Never anything detrimental, but we were constantly competing against each other for favors from Sid Gillman. How did you get all these signatures?
TT – Each time I meet with somebody…
EF – I’m talking about my signatures.
TT – You signed them all.
EF – I didn’t think I signed all these. You’re forging these… Walt Sweeney. Well we know the history there. Pat Shea, Walt Sweeney. Two guys on our team, two of the heavy, heavy drinkers. And when they drank, they became very ugly. Pat Shea had a history of beating everything and fighting anything and anybody in town. Somebody from the department gave a boat party. There are two boats and we are out cruising in the ocean, about 4-5 miles off shore. Pat Shea and Walt Sweeney are already drunk. They were drunk from the time they got on the boat. So I’m in the first boat, Pat and Sweeney are down behind us. They get to screwing around with each other so Pat throws Sweeney overboard. This was at night. The boat is cruising along. Fortunately the boat in the back saw what happened and they picked him up. Otherwise he would have been left out there.
Tobin Rote, when he was here, and Don Norton, they used to get drunk together and go down to Tijuana. The night before one of our big games we had to get them out of the Tijuana jail, Don Norton. We never thought they’d get back in time. Fortunately Sid worked some kind of wonders and got them out of prison. But those guys, they were quite a bunch of guys.
John Hadl, we used to call him “froggy.” Kenny Graham, he’s a crazy guy. Kenny used to hit so hard, he and Charlie McNeil. There was a classic billboard picture of Charlie McNeil hitting a Houston Oiler and it looked like the guy had been separated. But that was on the billboards all over town during the time. But we used to tell him, “Hey, you guys are not gonna make it in this game,” because they were small and they were hitting 250-300 pounders. They were tough, they were tough.
I remember when Speedy Duncan came into the league. As a rookie he used to think he was tough. He used to run back kickoffs with his head up. “I gotta see, I gotta see.” You know how Speedy used to talk real fast. “I gotta see where I’m going, I gotta see where I’m going.” We’d tell him, Ernie and I pulled him aside one game. “Hey, keep your head tucked in when you’re going through a pile. Otherwise somebody’s gonna stick their arm out and cold-cock you.” “No, no. They can’t catch me.” Sure enough, he was running a kick off back one game and he’s got his head on a pivot. Somebody stuck an arm out and caught him and man. He came back, his jaw was broken, his face bones were broken. He told us, “I should have listened.” Through his wire that they had put in his mouth after the ball game. Ended up drinking out of a straw for two weeks. Milkshakes.
I don’t remember when Tom Day was here. I think that was right after they cut me in ’66.
You remember when Lance Alworth, we were up in Rough Acres. No, we were in Escondido at the training camp there. The season had gotten started, about two weeks into the season and we had been working out pretty good. You know how hot it gets up there. So Sid gives us one Wednesday off, he cuts out practice. And we go out to one of the little bars and sit around and drink some beer and everyone’s feeling pretty good with a 10:00 curfew. We come back to the dorms and were walking around outside the dorms, waiting to go in the hotel where we were staying. Lance comes out, he’s a little toasty and Don Norton comes out of another car. So Lance has found a rattlesnake somewhere on the highway. So he gets out of the car and Don gets out of the other car and Lance just hurls the rattlesnake and it wraps around Don’s neck. Don looks back, “OOOOOOOH!!!” Nothing happened, but I swear to God it was comical to see a guy sober up instantly with a six-foot rattlesnake wrapped around his neck.
TT – What was it like the first time you saw yourself on a football card?
EF – Unbelievable, unbelievable. I thought they had reached an all-time low. Because you know, as a kid I tried to get into saving these things and it wasn’t something that I was culturally involved in. We used to take the cards when we got the bubble gum and you know where we put them.
TT – In the spokes of your bike.
EF – In the spokes of your bike. We wanted to make the noise. That’s what we did with them. And then to suddenly see yourself on one, it’s unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable. And actually to have been approached be somebody like that, oh God. It’s a big honor to have somebody come up to you and ask you to sign a card. You got Sid Gillman here with the Chargers Fan Club. Is this Balboa Stadium? No, it’s San Diego.
TT – I’ve never seen a ticket from Balboa Stadium.
EF – I’ll have to look around. Maybe I can find something for you. Of course my stuff has been packed up for 30 years. Sam Gruneisen, another tough old character. Dick Harris. We used to tease him about being on the team as a token defensive back. We said, “You’re the slowest thing out there.” He knew it, we knew it. We said, “The only reason you’re playing back there is because you’re white.” But he would always end up with some heck of an interception to contribute to the team. But he was a small guy. Smart. Harry Johnston, he married some millionaire. Millionairess. This guy was the funniest man alive, Howard Kindig. And Gary (Kirner), he was so forgetful. I remember we went on a trip someplace and we had to tie the playbook to his wrist so he wouldn’t leave it. Dave Kocourek, the businessman. He and Paul used to own a bar over here in Pacific Beach someplace, The Surfer.
Bill Lee – That’s where MacKinnon used to hang.
EF – We all used to hang out there. Dick Harris. In fact Dick Harris and I sat out there and got looped one night and I bet him $50 that I could put the shot 50 feet still. He bet me that I couldn’t. Se we went out and bought a 12 or 16 pound shot, whatever it was, and damn if I lost the bet. I threw it 49 feet, some inches. We went to a high school in Mission Beach somewhere. Oh yeah, we were serious. We were all juiced, fired up. We went out and bought a shot and carried it out to the track and tried to put and I came up 49,something.
Bill Lee – Good thing you weren’t a pole vaulter.
EF – We were juiced enough, I would have bet him. Paul Lowe was one of the greatest halfbacks I ever saw. Joe Madro, one of the greatest coaches. He was small, intense. We used to sit across the line and watch him coach the offensive players. They were all 6’6”, 6’5” and he came right around everybody’s crotch level. And he’d go, “You’ve got to block them like this.” And he’d punch them in the crotch.
There’s Fred (Moore). We used to call him Deputy Dog. This was the funniest man, he kept the team rolling. Out of Alabama, somewhere down there. He and I were good buddies. We used to run together. I guess he called me a couple months ago. I wasn’t home, my wife answered and said she thought that he talked very sickly. I tried to call back, but I couldn’t get anybody. I guess it wasn’t long after that that we found out that he’d passed away.
Chuck Noll, my first coach, taught me everything. Came from the Cleveland Browns. He was up here, we were down here. But he was a hell of a teacher. But we always kept something going on with him. Particularly Ernie Ladd. I remember one practice session we were over at Westgate Park practicing. Ernie and I came out of the locker room last. So Chuck Noll yells out, he sees us strolling out of the locker room, “O.K., you guys take a lap.” Ladd had his helmet on, had his shades under his helmet and he looks over at him, “ You take a lap around the head of my dick.” Chuck Noll went, “Sid! Sid! Did you hear that? Did you hear that?” “Yeah, I heard him,” and he was laughing. Everybody on the field was just laid out. I think that led to him leaving town because he felt that he had lost all credibility with us.
Ernie Park, good little guard. Bob Petrich, he’s another crazy guy. He and I used to party together sometimes. Except when we went down to Miami. He and I went to Miami together. He went the white way and I went the black way. That was the separatism of the time on that particular team. As football players, with the Chargers, he and I were on our way to Houston and we sat next to each other on the airplane. We hit such bad air turbulence, we were bouncing, bouncing for what seemed like over an hour. I don’t think it was really that long, but it seemed like it. But then all of a sudden we’re bouncing, bouncing and bouncing and the plane just dropped off to the right. It just kept going down. It didn’t seem like it would ever come up. The stewardess and everybody that were walking along in the aisles, they were thrown up to the room and landing all over everything. But when it finally straightened out, fortunately it did straighten out, Bob and I found ourselves wrapped up in each other’s arms. Digging into each other. And when it leveled off, we didn’t realize that we were like this, and we turned and looked into each other’s faces and , “Oh man, get away from me.” But I’m sure that everybody else was doing the same thing.
Tobin Rote came from the Detroit Lions and he’s a guy who knew how to party. But he had a great winning attitude about him. Couldn’t throw a lick, could not throw the ball but 30-35 yards down the field. But he knew when to throw it, when to try. God, he’s a terrific team man.
Don Rogers, we all know about Don. Walt Sweeney, I feel sorry for the guy. Still fighting his demons. Steve Tensi, the quarterback. That boy couldn’t quarterback a lick. Herb Travenio, the black Italian place kicker. That’s what we used to call him. Old Herb, postman. He worked two jobs, postman and football player.
Jimmy Warren, Illinois. Jimmy and I, his rookie year and I think I was a year ahead of him. We were in New York, and this is true. We were in New York, we had just gotten in and we were into our hotel, the Hilton Hotel. I look out my window and I’m looking up at this gigantic building and there are clouds around the top of it. I exclaimed, “My God. That’s the tallest building I’ve ever seen in my life.” And Jim come over looks out and matter-of-factly says, “Hey man that’s the entire state building.” I said, “What did you say?” “That’s the entire state building.” “You mean the empire state building.” “Yeah, well whatever.”
Alvin Roy, “Earl you are the strongest man in football. You’re going to be the strongest man in the world. You’re stronger than the Russians.” And that’s what he used to think. He’s the one that got us on steroids. We were the original team to use steroids until we found out that they weren’t good for us. Mix, somehow Mix found out from a doctor that steroids would hurt your chances of producing children. When we heard that, we just stopped it. Wouldn’t take it. Sid would try to force it on us, but we wouldn’t take it.
This must be the Buffalo game. That field goal that beat us. I bet you. The field goal that beat us 27-24 in the championship game. Damn, I didn’t know I put forth that much effort. I’m in the air. Boston Patriots. This game here was a masterful game plan by Coach Gillman. I mean we had just beaten this team 7-6 in the season and then to come back and beat them 51-10 in a tremendous achievement. They had a very good team, but Sid put together a beautiful offensive plan. Deception, a lot of veers and swings to take advantage of their pursuit patterns and there was holes all over the field for the runners.
This is our first PR man, Bob Burdick. Good man. I think Sid fired him because he went out and got drunk and somehow got into somebody else’s station wagon and the key started. But that was the last of him. But he was a good guy.
In those days the coaches and the players, we’d party together. We went out to dinner together, we had drinks together. On the airplanes Pernicano used to bring food from his restaurant, Casa di Baffi, on our trips. We’d sit in the back of the plane with him and play poker and eat Italian sandwiches and drink wine. Get sick, drink more. Four or five coaches, that’s all we had. Now they got 15 and still can’t get the right guys on the field.
These are from our championship year in Balboa Stadium. There a lot of famous people in this picture here. Barron Hilton, Lute Mason, Conrad Hilton, a lot of notables. Is this Ozzie’s Marching band? No these are players dressed in band gear. These are the USC guys.
This guy was the most graceful offensive end I have ever seen, Lance Alworth. He made bad quarterbacks look good. John Hadl didn’t have a strong arm either. Not like some of the arms that we expect that quarterbacks would have. But he had a knack of going up and getting the ball at its highest point, coming down and proceeding right to the end zone. Great acrobatic catcher. We got to the bench and we would look to watch Lance, watch the backs, watch Paul Lowe. We were the biggest fans of the offense.
This is Dick Wood. I remember when the Chargers traded him to the New York Jets. He came back to play a game against us in Balboa Stadium. He dropped back to pass and I started after him. He let the ball go, I jumped up, caught it, started down the field and somehow he got between me and the goal line. He was going to tackle me. I said now, “Do I want a touchdown or do I want to run over a quarterback?” So I started right for him. I headed right for him. He turned and ran. He turned away from me. Smarter than I thought he was. But he played a long time, so he was very smart.
Sweeney is a tough, tough cookie. I think he came up without a father and mother. He lost his family somehow.
Jack Kemp, our congressman. He and I used to argue on the planes, talking politics. He was a Goldwater man, back in those days. John Birch. One day I received a package at home, a bunch of stuff advocating John Birch Society. I thought that it had to come from Kemp. So whenever we practice, or whenever we played against each other, I delighted in trying to hit him. I mean we would argue, he, myself and Dave Kocourek. We’d get off the plane at some stop, go to the restroom and be standing next to each other and we were still arguing politics. As fate would have it, back in ’63, I replaced Kemp at The Evening Tribune. He was doing the PR work prior to my doing it, and I replaced him there. Those are good memories.
One of the things that I am most proud of the Chargers is that we were at the forefront of Civil Rights, the Chargers were. And I think it stemmed from the fact that Barron Hilton owned hotels. The Chargers used to stay at those Hilton Hotels and we were the first blacks to ever stay in many of them in the south. I remember there were Civil Rights pickets in front of our game in Houston at old Jeppeson Stadium. Lloyd Wells used to be a photographer for the Kansas City Chiefs and then turned photographer for Muhammed Ali. Well, somehow he was a newspaper reporter with a black newspaper in Houston. He would come around to us and ask us not to play the games because the blacks weren’t allowed in the middle of the stadium, they had to sit in the end zones. So we protested some of those games and didn’t play a couple of them. Well we played, but we let it be known that we didn’t like it. So eventually they started giving open admittance to blacks. Little Rock, Arkansas, Dallas, Texas, we went into certain movies that we would go to Saturday night before a ball game. In Dallas there was one theater there that we went into. We had the whole mezzanine to ourselves, we were seated up in the mezzanine. And during the course of the movie, we kept hearing laughter behind us. We didn’t know what was going on. And the lights came on and there were black people seated up in the very top of the theater behind chicken wire. Naturally we had to leave. They wouldn’t allow us to go down to the lobby to get popcorn and drinks, so we walked out of the theater. But the Chargers, at that time, integrated a lot of places, and helped the South along. Because a lot of the other teams, Boston Patriots, and all of those other teams that were coming down there, if they went to Houston, Texas to play the Oilers, whites lived in a hotel and the black guys lived someplace else, separately. Except for the Chargers. All those places, we’d open them up. Players and management, they would support us. We would go to them and let them know that we didn’t like what was going on and they supported our cause. If you were thinking about boycotting the game, I mean there were games in Atlanta, Georgia where we decided that we were not going to play and the mayors and everybody else came in to try to talk us into playing the game. Convince us to play the game. We let it be known that it took more than that. That never made the newspaper, those types of things. Never made the newspaper for some reason.
Bill Lee – When you were in high school or Indiana, did you have a favorite NFL player that you modeled yourself after?
EF – I used to always watch the Baltimore Colts. Gino Marchetti and that’s who I admired as a defensive player. I used to watch him cross his legs at the line of scrimmage and stand with his hands on his hips. That’s who I patterned myself after. He’d be off standing by himself after he got the defensive call. He’d be standing there. The man was tireless, worked hard. I used to like Doug Atkins. And you know, it’s amazing that I used to watch those guys during those particular times because, at the time I was playing in college, I had to play both ways. Offense and defense.
Bill Lee – Were you an end on offense?
EF – Oh yeah. I had to run down and catch and do all those types of things. Run back to the line of scrimmage after the incomplete pass and the referee blowing the whistle before you would even get past the line of scrimmage. That used to kill me.
Bill Lee – Did you play any sports besides football?
EF – Yeah, I played basketball, a track man. State champion in the high jump. Shot put and discus and all that stuff. I used to read about that (decathlon) , but I wasn’t really into the decathlon. At least my high school wasn’t into training me for it. I picked up those things on my own. At my high school we didn’t have a track. My coach used to take the sprinters and the runners every day and they would go practice at Hampton Institute, which was a local college. They left me there to do my own thing with the shot put and the discus. I was bright enough that I started reading about the shot put, started reading about Pat O’Brien when he came up with the reverse spin. I started reading and I started doing that and all of a sudden I started adding 6-7 feet to me puts. So I was state champion back there about four years in a row.
Bill Lee – referring to the 1963 AFL championship and challenging the Chicago Bears of the NFL.
EF – I knew that we would play the Bears equally well, if not beat them because at the college all star game we had practiced against the Bears. I knew then that they didn’t have anything. This was 3-4 years later. The Chargers, with the innovative techniques that Sid Gillman was utilizing, he would have just killed the Bears offensively, as he did the Patriots who were utilizing a lot of the old time defensive techniques that the NFL used. The NFL was very conservative and Sid just used it against them, took advantage of it. I had confidence that we would do well.
That night after that ball game we had a big party and Lee Marvin came down for our party. He was on the sidelines with us during that game. But we had a party at John Mabee’s house and Kid Sheleen(?) that’s when Cat Baloo(?) was big. In fact, Lee Marvin came down because Sweeney was a big drunk the way Kid Sheleen was in the movie and we started calling Sweeney Kid Sheleen. Marvin found out about it and Sid invited him down for the game and he came and we partied with him. My mother came out for that game and we walked into the house and Lee Marvin was standing next to the door. My mom looked up at him and said, “ I know you. I know I know you.” We told her who he was.
Glenn Turgeon – Were there any innovative things that the Chargers did on defense?
EF – We were blessed with a lot of defensive talent. We utilized a four-man rush primarily. Sid used a three-man rush very, very infrequently. We never really had to go the prevent defense. I always thought it prevented you from winning. But we did the typical things, blitz, nothing really innovative other that just say “sick them.” Four good defensive linemen. I gave Paul Maguire a 12-year career. Helped him along. I tease him now about that, playing behind me. He never had to do anything but make a tackle. Never had to fight off a blocker because we ate them up for those guys.
Glenn Turgeon – Has anybody not gotten the recognition they deserve?
EF – From the defense of that era? That’s a good question in the sense that we had good defensive linebackers, we had good safeties, good cornerbacks. Wow, I would have to really do some reflecting on that. That’s a good question. Nobody has ever asked about the defense. They tend to forget who gave the offense the ball at the 35 yard line, who shortened the field for the, and made teams punt the ball where they could get it and have a decent starting position. We were there. Almost like Minnesota. You get to the party, but you forget why you’re supposed to be there. O.K. If you think of anything else, feel free to give me a call.