The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana on July 29, 1990 · Page 18
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The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana · Page 18

Indianapolis, Indiana
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 29, 1990
Page 18
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The Indianapolis Star SUNDAY, JULY 29, 1990 Summer Sunday .Bob Griese takes final stee to fame (dfefcW(SK-&W Lightly regarded Purdue recruit became big star By JOHN BANSCH STAR STAFF WRITER Thirty-one years ago, in a high school gymnasium in Evansville, Bob Griese's football career took its first tentative steps. Next Saturday morning, on the front steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio, his career reaches its zenith when the quarterback who led the Miami Dolphins to three straight Super Bowls and the only perfect season in National Football League history will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame. But were it not for a chance decision on that rainy August day in 1959, who knows what the future might have been for Bob Griese? As a freshman, entering Evansville Rex Mundi High School in its first year of existence, Griese went out for the football team. Until then, his only experience with the sport had been in sandlot games. "The coach asked me what position I played," says Griese. "I told him I centered the ball, I caught the ball, I ran with the ball, I kicked the ball and 1 could throw the ball. On my first play, I lined up at wide receiver. On my second play, the coach suggested I try quarterback. He knew I was a good athlete and I guess he had read some of my press clippings which talked about my Little League pitching." From that day forward, Griese was Rex Mundi's quarterback. He also became a basketball and baseball star and earned four letters in track. Purdue University was the next beneficiary of Griese's talents although, oddly enough, he was not recruited as a quarterback. He ran, passed and kicked the Boilermakers to their lone Rose Bowl appearance, twice was a consensus all-America, finished second in the 1966 Heisman Trophy voting and played varsity basketball as a sophomore. In 1967, Miami drafted Griese In the first round and laid the foundation for its future. Griese played for the Dolphins from 1967 through 1 980 before a right shoulder injury forced him to retire. "I'm just like a gunfighter without any bullets," he told Bob DeMoss, the Purdue coach instrumental in the development of Griese and former Purdue quarterback and Hall of Famer Len Dawson. Until then, Griese had riddled NFL foes with his right arm and his mind. With Griese at the helm, Miami won five American Football Conference East Division championships, three AFC titles and Super Bowls VII and VIII. No other player quarterbacked three straight Super Bowl teams. A six-time Dolphin MVP, he was the NFL player of the year in 1 97 1 and again in 1 977. He played in six Pro Bowls and two American Football League All-Star games. In his 14 NFL seasons, Griese completed 1,926 of 3,429 passes for 25,092 yards and 192 touchdowns. The late Joe Robbie, who founded the Dolphins, once called Griese "the cornerstone of the franchise." Coach Don Shula says, "Bob was the master of the position." But despite all the glowing statistics and success, Griese was not master of his fate when it came to induction into the Hall of Fame. He was not elected to the hall until the fifth year he was on the ballot, too late for his wife, Judi, to share the joy. Judi died of cancer in February 1988. "She's in heaven smiling bigger than anyone down here," Griese said shortly after being notified of his selection. "This meant a lot more to her than it did even to me." Going to the head of the class Few men have been the equal of Griese as a student of the game. His NFL files were immense . . . and immaculate. "I would update them as clubs changed coaches and philosophies, but there's still stuff in there on how John Sample of the Jets or Johnny Robinson of the Chiefs would play a certain pass or how Ben Davidson of the Raiders would rush under this-and-such conditions," he says. "After every game, I would write myself memos. I always tried to remind myself to do what 1 hadn't done, or not to do what 1 had done if it was wrong." Griese still has those files. "I spent so much time putting them together I can't throw them out," he says. filled Wv thtttu ialillii 22i jjak 1.1). DwV;' 1 i ,, . ',-T Jaaimi 7W? Win v i-JV mmm-ii w ! One of Bob Griese's finest hours at Purdue University was a 1965 upset victory over the University of Notre Dame. "The other day I sat down and pulled out some of the Super Bowl files. It was interesting to see how precisely the plan was put together for the Minnesota game. (Miami won 24-7 in Super Bowl VIII). When I looked at it I knew there was no way we would lose that game." Griese, according to Shula, had "the perfect mental approach to the game. He knew people and how to use them, he knew defenses inside and out and he was probably the most unselfish player I've ever been around. "I can recall numerous times in goal-line situations when we would send in a pass play we thought would be wide open for a touchdown. In those situations, most quarterbacks couldn't wait to come up to the line and start the play. Griese would look over the defense and if he thought it was better to run the ball he would call an audible and give it to Larry Csonka. When we scored, he would come off the field with the biggest grin of satisfaction on his face." One of Griese's most memorable and satisfying moments occurred in the 1972 AFC championship game. The undefeated Dolphins trailed Pittsburgh, 10-7, early in the third quarter when Shula benched Earl Morrall in favor of Griese, who had been sidelined nine weeks with a broken leg. Griese guided Miami to touchdowns on drives of 80 and 49 yards and a 21-17 victory. Two weeks later, the Dolphins completed the NFL's lone perfect season with a 14-7 triumph over Washington in Super Bowl VII. Winning two Super Bowls brought Griese his most satisfaction in the NFL. As he simply puts it, "when you win the war, you're the best." Shula won't come right out and say Griese is the best quarterback he's ever coached. What he does say is "Dan Marino knows all the aspects of the passing game, Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall had a good understanding of it, but Bob was special. "He didn't have the arm of a Terry Bradshaw or John Elway," Shula says of Griese, who enjoyed handing the ball off to Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris as much as he did throwing it to Nat Moore, Paul Warfield and Howard Twilley. "He had intelligence, outstanding work habits and tremendous pride. He never made a bad decision in practice or in a game." Shula will present Griese at the enshrinement ceremonies. "It is a great honor to be asked," says the second-winningest coach in NFL history. "One of the great benefits of coaching Is to be a part of the Bob Griese story." Catching a spiral to the top Griese only learned to throw the football properly after arriving on the Purdue campus as a less than highly recruited athlete. The Boilermakers brought him in to help lure Tom Neimeier, a 6-9, 210-pound phenom from Rex Mundi. Neimeier played in all 24 basketball games as a sophomore, then went home to Evansville. "Bob was a good athlete, just like all the guys we took, and we thought we could use him as a defensive back," says DeMoss. "In spring practice of his freshman year, the quarterback position was up for grabs because our two top people had graduated," DeMoss adds. "We worked Bob in some, but he spent about 60 percent of his time with the defense. His mechanics were good and he was one of the guys who made good decisions. He knew where the ball should go and it got there, but it sure was kind of funny looking. He had a tough time throwing acceptable balls. They did not spiral that much." DeMoss had a notion Griese might be good if he could solve his throwing problem. "Cecil Isbell (a Purdue and Green Bay Packer passing star in the 1 930s and early '40s) was in town and I said to him, 'We've got a player who can be a pretty good quarterback, but there's something wrong with his throwing motion and I haven't figured It out.' Cecil agreed to watch film of Bob in a scrimmage. When he saw about three passes, he said, 'Turn it off, I can tell you what's wrong.' "The problem was with the wrist. We brought Bob in, put him in front of a mirror and had him go through his throwing motion. We then took him on the field and he threw spirals. He worked on his motion all summer, came back ready to play and the rest is history." What history it is. While at Purdue, Griese set eight career records, seven season standards and five single-game marks. Purdue was 21-7-1 overall and 16-5 in the Big Ten during the Griese era. He averaged 6.9 yards every time he handled the football and is second on the all-time scoring list with 189 points. One of the most versatile players to ever play for Purdue, Griese ran for 14 touchdowns and kicked 75 extra points and 10 field goals. One of those three-pointers, a 35-yarder with three seconds remaining, beat Michigan 17-15 at Ann Arbor in 1965. It was the second of three victories for Purdue and Griese on Michigan's turf by a combined total of four points. "I think Bob could have played any position he wanted to," says George Catavolos, secondary coach of the Indianapolis Colts and an outstanding defensive back as Griese's teammate at Purdue. "He was physical, he was heady, he had great anticipation. You could count on one hand the mental mistakes he made in three years. Many people forget he was an excellent kicker. Everyone talks about the versatility of Leroy Keyes, but Bob could do it all. He deserves every award he receives." Griese also displayed his versatility by playing the guard position in basketball and starting most Big Ten games for Purdue during his sophomore year. Colts coach Ron Meyer was a graduate assistant at Purdue during Griese's freshman year and rejoined the staff two years later. "We used to play basketball in the old fieldhouse and I can remember staying to watch the freshmen work," Meyer says. "Whenever they ran the fast break, Griese was the point guard. My first Impression was he had a great field of vision and great wrists. He had a quick release, just like he did with the football. When I returned, he was the main man. He was the gun, he was Wyatt Earp." Ironically, Griese might not have had the oppor-' tunity to shoot down Boilermaker football opponents had a Cincinnati prep star named Roger Staubach attended the school. Staubach had committed to Purdue the year before Griese arrived, but at the last moment he enrolled in the Naval Academy. "He even had one of our playbooks," says DeMoss. Staubach later starred for the Dallas Cowboys. Griese took advantage of the opportunity and credits DeMoss with his development as a passer. "We didn't have any keys or reads in high school," he says. "DeMoss and Isbell worked on my throwing and taught me how to get It done. (The late) John Jardine (a Purdue assistant who later became head coach at Wisconsin) was also very helpful. He was on the sideline during the games and would calm me down when I made a mistake." As Purdue fans can attest, Griese made few mistakes. And he was at his best the day he led Purdue to a 25-21 conquest of Notre Dame in 1965. Griese completed 19 of 22 passes in Ross-Ade Stadium that afternoon, and his three incomple-tions were balls tipped or dropped. The final three completions were delivered in the waning minutes as Griese took the Boilers 57 yards in four plays for the winning touchdown. "That last drive was fantastic," says DeMoss. Irish coach Ara Parseghian marveled at the See GRIESE Page 3 Pk u ' ' h J ) ft? Vi--; Versatility was Griese's trademark. While at Purdue (first three photos) he played quarterback and served as kicker for the football team, and played basketball. Later, he directed the MiamKDolphins to two Super Bowl victories (far rightj.

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