The Times from Shreveport, Louisiana on June 1, 1975 · Page 52
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The Times from Shreveport, Louisiana · Page 52

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Shreveport, Louisiana
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Sunday, June 1, 1975
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2-P Sunday, June 1, 1975 Don Maynard Remembers When Try outs Were By Gerry Robichaux Times Assistant Sports Editor Don Maynard watched intently as the skeleton crew of receivers burst out over the field like a covey of quail at Fair Park High School. Saturday's one - day tryout conducted by the Shreveport Steamer was quite, different from what Maynard had known in his playing days with the New York Jets. This one was carried out on the lush grass of the local high school's football field. "I can remember Weeb (Jets' Coach Weeb Eubank) used to hold these in the parking lot outside Shea Stadium," said the lean Texan who is the latest addition to the Steamer coaching staff. Maynard and the rest of Coach Marshall Taylor's staff spent the better part of the day running prospects through their paces in the tryout and then retired to their quarters to evaluate the returns of the stop watches and compare notes. Nearly 200 were in on the trials and most went home to hang up the cleats until another such tryout is held sometime in the future. But some will be called back to the Steamer preseason camp which will start June 26. "We have at least five areas of evaluation," said Taylor who had planned and carried out an extensive and businesslike session. The Steamer trials went farther than the usual sprints and agility drills, including skeleton drills of offense against defense. Charles Battle, the former Grambling linebacker, was among those who rated high on the list of those who would be By Bill Mclntyre Jack "If you had one more eye, you'd be a Cyclops ! " Ron Franz, onetime player with the defunct New Orleans Buccaneers, in an aside to a basketball arbiter while at the same time wearing the colors of the Switzerland Alpines. "Tweeettt!" Technical! Louisiana's Jack Holley who has played and coached basketball in a lot of places, mostly in Coushatta but also at Ringgold and Centenary College and Nicholls States, plus time off for good behavior at Imperial Valley in California taught bounceball defenses this most recent winter in Switzerland The team was called the Alpines, and it darted all over what is labelled the European Professional Baksetball League (EPBL) against a collection of opponent posing as the Belgium Lions, Israel Sabras, Munich Eagles and the Iberia Superstars operating out of Barcelona "The league schedule called for 40 games," says Jack, for the present domiciled in Bossier City "We played 28." He notices the look, the shrug "But don't get the wrong idea," he says "The players got paid through April 15th and the league terminated on the 1st They got two weeks EXTRA salary They originally signed for five months salary, and when the league aborted our owners paid full salaries " Average salary per player was $1,500 per month, plus an apartment and The Shrfat.port Times rH ir given further consideration at the preseason drill Area quarterbacks Bobby Wattigny (Northwestern) and Joe Comeaux (Grambling) threw well and likely will return in June Others who are being given strong consideration, according to Taylor, are linebackers Alan Klein (now a professional wrestler) of Southeastern and Dave Wilkins of Louisiana Tech, runningbacks Richard Bryant of Bishop, Greg Chambers of Lamar, Gordon Glider of SMU, Arthur James of ETSU ( who had a couple of 4.8s), multitalented Larry Hamilton of Texas Southern and Booker Washington of Missouri, receivers Rory Best of SMU, who scored well in the agility drills, Warren Gardner of Prairie View, Bob Nowak of Oklahoma State, Reggie Thompson of NSU and James Scott who has no college experience and interior linemen Warren Calhoun (258) of Howard, Edward Lewis (239) of Arkansas Pine Bluff and Bob Reed (278) of Tennessee State. The later evaluations of the workouts could produce more. Punter Dave Almstead of Ohio Wesleyan made an impression on evaluators also in his kicking stint during midmorning. Ross Oglesby, the Huntington Park High coach, was among those exhibiting their wares and it was his third such one -day tryout. "This is the best of the three," he said as the day wore on. "It's the most thorough The others were only a couple of wind sprints and some agility drills." Oglesby was in on a Washington Redskins tryout in Memphis three years ago, the one which produced Herb Mul ; i Holley: The Highs and transportation to and from Europe. Among pUyers landed were George Reynolds out of University of Houston, one of Holley s hands with the Alpines; LSU's Collis Temple and USL's Roy Ebron, both recruited by Beryl Shipley for the Iberians, North Texas State's 5-foot-lO Joe Hamilton, league-leading scorer with Munich, and Pete Perry out of Clinton, La., another Alpine Louisiana figures keep popping up on mention of the EPBL Robert Hecht of Houston, once of Shreveport, is the league president, Lee Meade, out of Lake Charles, was general manager at Munich, and co-owners of the Swiss Alpines are banker Jess Smith of Oak Grove and rice farmer and auto dealer B C Kirkland of Epps "Yes sir," says Jess Smith, son-in-law of B C Kirkland, "I guess it's odd for a small town banker and a rice farmer to get interested in it, but we had some friends involved and got in on the ground floor " One friend was Steve Arnold, original owner of the Houston Texans, now the Shreveport Steamer "We started out being the IBA, International Basketball Association," says Smith "But then we reorganized and elected our own president under the auspices of the FIBA We're hopeful of being back in November, and we have a league meeting coming up soon in Houston " An 80-game schedule is on the agenda for the talks in Houston Three locales - London, Holland and Lyons-Grenoble in France were to have r t sW Key, and at the New Orleans Saints' trial here a year ago. Ross was given a second look by the Saints. "But this is the first one when I'm so out of shape. I'll sleep for a week," he said. Oglesby stayed out the duration Saturday, from a 9 a.m. weigh in to a 3:30 dismissal of linemen. They came in all sizes and shapes, right down to Allan White of Stamps, Ark., among the runningback hopefuls. White claimed to be the smallest in the trials "... at 147," he said. "I'm going to try to help the club with ticket sales in southeast Arkansas," he added, somewhat resigned that he might not be immediately signed to a player contract. Battle was back on his home turf at Fair Park. He was an All - City football selection, later was signed by Colorado but returned to Louisiana to finish his schooling at Grambling. He's now in the insurance business in Denver and flew in especially for the tryout. Battle was drafted by the Patriots when he graduated and later played here with the Detroit Wheels. The big linebacker seemed to be one of the players drawing most of the coaches' attention when he arrived in the morning. "I'd really like to play in Shreveport. It would be nice to play at home," he said. The workouts were blessed with cool weather in the morning "I was worried about the humidity," said Battle. "Denver is at altitude and when I left yesterday it snowed . . . two inches in May!" he said. Some of the prospects who came from distance might have fit Almstead 's pattern. He ranked fifth in the nation among NCAA Division 3 schools in been in the original package, but never got to the opening tipoff. "We'll be adding franchises," says Smith. "We're looking to England I have personally had letters from a gentleman in Italy, people from Ireland. There are possibilities in Yugoslavia and France. France is the hardest nut to crack because the president of the FIBA (amateurs) is trying to keep us out "Did we make any money? We did not expect a profit last year We expected to go two, three years before showing a return. We're going into this year as a break-even year " And that was the word from Oak Grove "Those trains over there are something else If your train leaves at 8:51, at 8.51 that train's moving If you're 20 seconds late, you're out of luck!" Jack Holley on the rigors of travel in Europe Holley should have been suspicious in the beginning It took 23 hours for the Holleys, a dozen players, five players' wives and six babies to go from New York City to Geneva After four passes, the plane couldn't land at Luxembourg. Instead, it landed in Brussels Practice facilities weren't available in Geneva - two days before the opener with Munich so players spent their days running 300-yard wind sprints down the halls of a hotel in Munich. That's right, 300 yard hallways Ask Holley The season opener in Munich was played in the stadii'm built for the 1972 Olympiad It was a doubleheader. . . . tael vs. Germany in 4 1?J 4 in 4. " s vsJ JSfoXi U V v! VW J ,f i I 912 Under the watchful eyes of Shreveport Steamer coaches such as Don Maynard (upper left) and with the stop watch a crucial factor throughout, hopefuls went through their paces at a one - day pro football tryout camp Saturday at Fair Park High. Agility drills and pass catching were taken up after each man was registered and numbered and all of it was met with the same intensity that shows in Alan Klein's face (upper right). (Times photos by Ken Aclin) punting. Dave flew in from Delaware, Ohio, after getting a letter from the Steamer. "I scrounged up all my savings. It nearly broke me and my brother," he said of the trip. Almstead played at a school which doesn't give football scholarships and his center there had never been at the position before. "I got experience catching snaps at all angles," he chuckled. While the timeclock was an important factor in the drills, Maynard had eyes for There Goes Anotlier Dreamer By Jim McLain Times Sports Writer "Down, set, go," barked blond-maned Joe Robb, setting in motion a pair of huffing, puffing, arm-churning prospects Saturday at the Shreveport Steamer tryout. The Steamer coach was working with a mixed group of defensive linemen, some like ex-Northwestern State baseball star Darrell Woods with limited football experience and others who had been eating at the training table but not training. The overcast day was cool, which lessened the agony of wind sprints for the big fellows on the Fair Park High practice field. After one squat propsect had wheezed past the finish line of the 40-yard dash in a time of 6.4 an onlooker commented "There goes another dreamer." That's what it was chasing a dream Lows of a the opener, then Holley's Alpines lost by 18 points to the Belgians, based in Brussels. The Swiss played home games in Geneva, Martigny, Lausanne and Neuchetel The season's second game was booked three days after Munich's opener in Neuchetel Mike Westra, out of Southern Cal, forgot his passport on a train changeover in Neuchetel and remembering their punctuality there went Westra 's train in one direction while off in the opposite direction rolled the rest of the Alpines. American Basketball Association rules were used in the EPBL. "Extremely rough play," says Holley "A lot of physical contact. Hand checking And with all that traveling we had no practice time. Very little time to coach and the pros need fundamentals like anyone else." Holley's forte was defense In one game against the Swiss, five 30-second violations were turned over by the Iberians. "We either broke even or had a winning record against every other team," says Holley "We won seven of eight games at one point, and had a five-game winning streak We were supposed to have a three-team playoff. The other teams were Israel and Belgium, but the Lions backed out We didn't go to Israel for the final game, so I don't know if we forfeited the championship The war situation was a factor - I was at the wailing wall in Jerusalem one time and a week later they found a bomb in it and we got orders from upstairs, general lfaiiiMiiP" f 1 S , j S j 1 ! r '4rf 4" X i r " '"fk -- &. IT."? ' si si v:t ff ? -r"" Jam, "tt.'SJa it- Much Different other things as well. "Speed is important but I look for smoothness," sajid the All -Pro and Super Bowl vet who. will coach Taylor's receivers. "I want to know how coanfortable a man is running his patterns," he said, stressing the importance of nalaxation in his approach to receiving. "I was one of those who n ever played catch before the season. I spifsit my time running routes. That's what F worked on before the season. Some run patterns and catch at the same time to get ready. And for the majrotiy of the men who gathered to display what athletic skills they possessed for Coach Marshall Taylor and the Steamer assistant ooaches. But there were success stories. Bobby Wattigny, a former player at Northwestern State, was one. He was asked to come back to Shreveport June 26 when the World Foottaill League team opens its training camp at Centenary College. Bobby was a defensive back and reserve quarterback rat Northwestern, finishing up his football career in the fall of 1971. Wattigny had been living in New Orleans, working on, jig boats on the Mississippi River vdnen he heard the Steamer would conduct a tryout. "I almost didntc come, but John Noonan (a former Skxithern Mississippi defensive back) was coming so I decided I'd ride up with him.. Switzerland manager Dean, Kirkpatrick, not to leave for Israel. I gujess it was a combination of terrorists and finances." Over-all, tlae caliber of play was good. John Vallely out of UCLA and the Hawks, coached Belgium and his top hands were 6-9 all-star forward Ed Mast from Temple and Joe Ellis,, an ex-Frisco Warrior; Herb Brown, out of C. W. Post and brother of Larry Brownj, coached the Sabras in Tel Aviv and blasted 7-foot all-star center Roger Brovrn from Kansas and Joe Macaluso o? the Buffalo Braves; Larry Jones from Akron and the Philly 76ers was playerncoach and also had Hamilton and 7-foot-4, center Bob Rozier in Munich. General manager in Israel was well-known; sports researcher Haskell Cohen. Jack Holley had his own all-star in 6-6 Shaler Halimon, a standout at Utah State. Despite his height and 215 pounds, Shaler played guard, averaged 20 points a game, 8 to 9 rebounds, 5 assists per game and hit 55 per ce nt from the field. Halimon also crocheted mostly shawls and tasted his first escargot in Geneva The crocheting of a 6-foot-6 giant brought some nriuce to the Alpines But fthat was nothing There was one game cancelled in Liege, Belgium It was snowing INSIDE THE BUILDING Over two days, the club took a 9-hour train nVde from Geneva to Brussels the next naurning caught a 7-hour train hop to Cuxhsen, Germany, on the North Sea, the nixt day, a 27-hour train ride to Barcelona on the Mediterranean "Typical road trip," nods Holley "Our 1 V;;A lf 1 1- m- 111 ' - ''A -tx& M , both phases might suffer. When I got my patterns down, all I had to do was catch the ball." Maynard, who set an NFL record for most receptions in a career and totalled better than 10,000 yards receiving, admitted that standing on the sidelines watching the drills Saturday was a little tough for a man 17 years in pro ball. "When they start doing things out here, you want to take your turn," he said. "I had been training for about three weeks, but I quit about a week and a half ago. I'm not very fast and I got discouraged. Bobby, like most of the prospects at the camp, was high in his praise of Steamer coaches for conducting a fair and extensive tryout. "They really took an interest in us," he said. "I believe it was a fair tryout." The ex-Demon always had faith he could play quarterback although he didn't get much opportunity to do it at Northwestern. "We had the big offensive linemen and were using a running offense, so I really didn't fit in," he said. Wattigny has passed the first test, but a far more difficult one looms on June 26 when Steamer veterans and other quarterbacks with pro experience arrive. As Noonan, a fellow Crescent Citian, said, ' 'It's a thousand to one shot " Alpine players were really happy when they hit a city with a McDonald's. Really, we saw so many sites it interfered with our play." Cologne, Rome, Tel Aviv, Jeruslaem. The names roll from the tongue of Holley. Fans were reserved for a time at home games of the Alpines, but by season's end they were "adopted" by the people of Geneva. Holley, at the moment, is watching the NBA and ABA drafts, and admits openly that he'd like to land Leon Johnson of Centenary, drafted in the eighth round as a guard by the NBA Houston Rockets. The first two players Holley signed last year were Halimon, who played for Jack in California, and LSU's Apple Sanders, who didn't report to camp in Tennessee. Then Jack landed John Pete Perry out of Clinton, a collegian at Pan American and a backup center with the New York Knicks. There was also ex-Houston Cougar George Reynolds. George once pulled down the goal and half a plastic backboard on a dunkshot, and once on an elevator got his foot caught in the door. "But I got the team Dumb Bell award," says Holley "We moved into a new apartment and there was a long slot under the mail boxes. I thought it was for outgoing mail. It wasn't, it was for Junk mail So for a month-and-a-half they were burning up my checks and letters." This was life in Geneva Later this month, Holley and Halimon will return to Switzerland for a series of basketball clinics Then Jack will return to restock the Swiss Alpines. f I

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