Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Phil and Terry ... and 4-16?

Phil Robertson, Louisiana Tech
starting quarterback, 1966 and '67
       Every day it seems I run into  Duck Dynasty, and the Duck Commander.
       Not literally, of course; I haven't seen Phil Robertson in person since about 1968, or the season after he quit football and left the No. 1 quarterback job at Louisiana Tech University to Terry Bradshaw.
       No, it's figuratively -- TV promos, TV reruns, dozens (or hundreds) of links on the Internet, videos all over YouTube, an ad for Phil's new book: Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander, a story telling of Miss Kay's new cookbook and the new collectibles featuring Uncle Si, Jase Robertson showing up supporting LSU at the College World Series, a story on the Willie and Korie's family audiobook, a link to the Duck Commander cruise next year
       Oh, wow, what else? In case you are reading this and you haven't heard of this Northeast Louisiana backwoods family -- and that might be the case for some of my readers in ... Holland and Israel -- just take my word: This is one of America's hottest topics. It's a craze ... maybe because they're kind of crazy.
       We made a weekend trip to a cabin on the Little Red River in north-central Arkansas -- Bea and I, our kids and their kids -- and some of the family we met there, the Dowers (15 of them) from the Sulphur/Moss Bluff, La., area began talking about ... Duck Dynasty, their favorite TV reality show.
       Plus, on the way to Arkansas, they stopped in West Monroe so they could visit the Duck Commander Co. headquarters. And they were excited about it.
       Just today, The Shreveport Times had a story that the Duck Commander Co. has entered a long-term agreement with America’s oldest family-owned and operated firearms manufacturer.
       Like I said, they're everywhere.
       I look at Facebook and there's a link to Terry Bradshaw's recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, with Terry talking about his Las Vegas stage show this Friday and Saturday at The Mirage. It's based on his life and is entitled "America's Favorite Dumb Blonde: A Life in Four Quarters."
       Yes, Bradshaw on stage in Las Vegas.
       I close that link and up pop a dozen other video links, and one is "Phil Robertson talks football and Terry Bradshaw." Hadn't seen it before; couldn't resist.
       For those of us who grew up in Shreveport and/or were at Louisiana Tech in the mid-1960s, we don't forget that in the 1966 and 1967 seasons, Phil and Terry were our Nos. 1 and 2 quarterbacks -- in that order. The national media -- ESPN and elsewhere -- jumped on that story earlier this year.
       We already knew. And -- I don't know how to say this gently -- both of them played terribly. I've got some numbers to bear that out, but I'll save them until the end. Just look at the team's records those years: 1-9 and 3-7.
         They were miserable, frustrating, disappointing seasons.
          So this is proof how much losing football seasons -- in the long-term -- really mean in life.
          I've written about Bradshaw's career previously: We had Oak Terrace Junior High, Woodlawn High and La. Tech in common.
         In my first game as a manager for Woodlawn's football team, Sept. 6, 1962, Phil Robertson was the winning quarterback. Trouble with that was, he played for North Caddo High. In the rain, on a soaked field, Phil was 4-of-8 passing for 30 yards -- and that was much better than our QB fared. North Caddo won 8-6, only one of two games we lost all season.
             So his name stuck for me. The next year, we beat his team 13-0 to open the season. The following season, 1964, he was a redshirt freshman at La. Tech already married to Miss Kay.
             One of Phil's older brothers, Tommy, was already playing football at Tech as a fast, talented cornerback/running back/kick returner.  An even older brother was my first connection with the Robertsons -- Jim was a sports writer at The Shreveport Times for little more than a year in 1963-64; he now lives in Elgin, Texas (near Austin), and has written a book, The Legend of the Duck Commander.
             Honestly, I've seen little of Duck Dynasty. It's not my thing -- neither duck hunting nor reality series. At this risk of hearing from its fans, it's too hokey, too contrived for me, too many stories that are embellished just a bit.
             But I appreciate Phil's ingenuity and the dedication to family values. He had a vision when he invented his duck calls, and started the company 4-5 years after leaving Tech, as he transformed his personal life and found religion, he was on his way to making millions of dollars.
             "He deserves everything he's got," said Jesse Carrigan, who grew up in the North Caddo area near the Robertsons and first remembers Phil as a junior high basketball star and then was an all-conference offensive lineman at Tech.
             He had a strong right arm and could throw a football with accuracy, could read defenses and run the pro-style offense legendary coach Joe Aillet put in at Tech before just about any other school in the area did. We expected Phil would step in nicely as the starter in 1966 to replace Billy Laird, who had been an all-conference QB before him.
             We also knew -- everyone knew -- how much Phil loved hunting and fishing, that few at Tech (maybe no one) was better at those things. He was popular with his teammates because he was -- literally -- so down to earth. He was all country; it was no act then, but he was sharp, too. As he's said and written, football wasn't everything to him, it was a means to get through school.
             The stories of him showing up for practice or QB meetings and wearing camouflage or smelly clothes from hunting or fishing trips, and of him skinning deer on his dining room table, they're not embellished. And so maybe he wasn't as dedicated a football player as he could've been.
             Still, we expected to have a good team in 1966. Tech had a coaching staff that had been together for a decade, plus Lee Hedges -- Bradshaw's high school coach and arguably the best high school coach in Shreveport-Bossier history -- had joined that year as offensive backs coach.
             And Joe Aillet -- brilliant, detail-oriented, soft-spoken -- had been guiding QBs and teaching winning football for 25 years with nearly twice as many wins (150) as losses (77). Two years earlier, Tech had gone 9-1, and the loss (at Southern Miss) was a disputed one. 
              Somehow, it all came apart that year.
               There is a clip on YouTube, 6 minutes and 17 seconds of the game's top plays, of Louisiana Tech vs. Alabama in Birmingham, our second game of the 1966 season. Alabama was the defending national champion and had a typical quick, aggressive, talented Bear Bryant team. Kenny Stabler was the quarterback, Dennis Homan the top receiver.            
       Bama would finish the season 11-0, ranked No. 3 in the country, uncrowned national champs (Notre Dame was No. 1 at the end of the regular season; that what counted then),
        Bama beat us 34-0, but the video shows Phil moving Tech's offense smartly several times, completing at least 13 passes -- many good reads, to backs out in the flat or on screens -- but also throwing four interceptions, one under duress, the other three right to Bama defenders.
             But you could see his talent.
             That Tech team, though, had spotty line play, some key injuries on defense, and a tougher-than-expected schedule with some opponents having great years, such as arch-rival Northwestern State (which had its best team ever and beat us 28-7).
              In February, 1967, Joe Aillet, at age 62, retired from coaching and became the fulltime athletic director. His successor was Maxie Lambright, and with an almost new coaching staff and not as many talented players as in previous years, the 1967 season was only slightly better for Tech.
             Phil was terrific in a couple of games, including a then-school record 302-yard passing day (but in a loss). Bradshaw was better, too, but neither of them made a big difference.
              In the season's final game, against Southern Mississippi in Shreveport on Thanksgiving Day, they combined to throw seven interceptions (five by Bradshaw, two by Robertson) and we lost 58-7.       
              As I've noted often, neither Phil nor Terry were very funny that day.  
             Sometime early in 1968, as I remember it, we got word that Phil had decided not to play football that fall. As he tells it now, football was no longer what he wanted to do, and that hunting and fishing was. Perhaps, too, though was the sense that Bradshaw was going to emerge as the No. 1 quarterback.
              Phil doesn't address that in the YouTube video recounting their reunion last November at the Los Angeles airport.  He does talk about Bradshaw's potential to play in the NFL and how he encouraged him.
LA airport reunion last fall: Terry and Phil, with Miss Kay
 and Willie Robertson (photo by Korie Robertson on
             What's funny is Phil telling Terry, "Bradshaw, son, you've got the arm. I said you certainly have the desire to be a great pro football player. I said, you've got the brains.' He said, 'You think so?' He only questioned me about the brainpower.
            "I said, 'Hey, you got enough sense. ..." and then adds, "You'll do well, my boy. I said, I'm gonna hunt ducks because I just love it more than throwing touchdown passes. So good luck to you.
           "Of course, he appreciated it because it moved him up to the No. 1 slot [at Tech].
            "So 44 years later, he runs me down in an airport, he grabbed me and I looked around and said, 'Good night, Bradshaw, is that you?'
             "So he went to tell me about his ailments: 'They broke my neck, they broke my ribs, they tore my knee up.' He's telling me all the things that happened to him, you know. I told him back there some 40 years ago that I was going the less stressful route."
          Through the years, some ex-Tech players would ask me about Phil or tell me that they'd heard he'd done quite well in business with the duck calls, etc.,, and that he had grown a long beard and had a "mountain man" look.  But it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I saw what he looked like, when he had an appearance with Conan O'Brien just prior to the Duck Dynasty pilot show.
            And Phil that night was much funnier than I had remembered. Bradshaw, of course, has always been quite the character/entertainer ... while he was playing football and certainly for three decades since he retired.
              So we, the people from Tech who saw them struggle in football for two seasons, certainly are proud of where they are now.
             Robertson said Bradshaw told him, "You know, you ain't done bad" and Phil told Terry, "Well, you did pretty well yourself son, four Super Bowl (titles). He said, "But now you're a movie star.' I said, "There you go.
                "Hey, we both came out of it pretty good.
              "But it was good to see him. He's a good guy. Bradshaw's a good dude."
                Jesse Carrigan has a good twist to it.
               "You know, I used to tell people that I played football with Terry Bradshaw," he said. "Now I tell them I played football with Phil Robertson.
                  "Actually, now we can all say we played with both of them."
               Now the numbers I promised. In 1966, Phil threw 18 interceptions and only four touchdown passes; Terry threw eight interceptions and no TD passes. In 1967, Phil threw 14 interceptions and five touchdown passes; Terry threw 10 interceptions and three TD passes.
               Add that up: Phil, 32 interceptions, nine TDs; Terry, 18 interceptions, three TDs.
               I could give you more, but here's the idea. Those aren't winning numbers.
               And obviously -- as I always tell people -- those two seasons didn't exactly ruin their lives.
               They are, in the Duck Commander's way of putting it, two good dudes. Yeah, they both came out of it pretty good.   



  1. From Raleigh Whitehead: As always, I enjoy your blogs. Most people who attended Tech forget how miserable the football team was in some of those years that we were there. It brings back some memories, though. I do remember that whipping Southern Miss put on Tech in Shreveport. I also remember the Southern players coming across the field after the game and giving Maxie Lambright handshakes and hugs.

    1. Maxie Lambright had been a quarterback at Southern Miss in the late 1940s and then an assistant coach there, in charge of the offensive backs, for eight years before coming to Louisiana Tech in 1967. So that was his first game against his alma mater. The next season, 1968, one of Tech's sweetest victories was at Southern Miss, 27-20, and it wasn't that close because USM scored a TD in the final minute.

  2. From Dr. Richard Leach: Good job, Nico. Thanks for the work. Seeing the comments from Jesse brought back some good thoughts about our football days at Woodlawn.

  3. From Tom Morris: This Duck Dynasty thing has just blown out of the water. People detour their vacation travel through West Monroe just to stop at the 40x40 souvenir shop in the warehouse. Phil & Co. know it's not a real reality show, but re-enactments of family and company history with, yes, embellishments for entertainment's sake.

  4. From Cynthia Sellman Mendez: I wonder how different things would be if Phil hadn't walked away from that '68 season.

  5. From O.K. "Buddy" Davis: Good blog on Phil and Terry. I did a column (in the Ruston Daily Leader) several weeks ago about both of them, too, and the flatout slim odds of two guys of such national prominence not only attending the same university, but playing on the football team and at the same position in the same era. A four-time Super Bowl winner and patriarch of the No. 1 reality show in America; what are the odds of that happening?
    Also did a "mood" piece several weeks ago after going to West Monroe and "just happening" to drive by the Duck Commander store to buy a bobblehead doll of Phil (honest ... ha) and the tourists were lined almost around the building. Guy at the front door handing out Duck Commander catalogues said 200-300 folks DAILY show up these days, and Kay told me recently that, on a DAILY (not weekly, not monthly) basis, they get 200-300 request for public appearances; she said she and Phil hardly are getting to enjoy "retirement" days. Ha. Amazing, isn't it?

  6. From Maxie Hays: I love it, Nico. I didn't know these things about either of them. I was in the beginning of my coaching career in Southwest Louisiana in 1966 and 1967 and kind of lost touch with Louisiana Tech football. I had graduated with my football heros in 1962-63: Jack Lestage, Wayne Parker, Billy Jack Talton, Billy Ware (I roomed with Billy, a center from Selma, Ala., for three years), Andy Farless, Johnny Hudson, Mickey Slaughter, Charlie Bourgeois, Andy Malone, Mickey Strother, Pat Lynch, Pat Collins, John Robert Williamson, Jerry Griffin, Bud Alexander, Pat Garrett, etc., etc. I knew Terry and Phil were QBs at Tech at that time, but that's about it. Your blog is so interesting and funny.

  7. From Larry Powell (Shreveport Times, 1967-68): Do you remember that 1968 was the year the new Tech stadium opened -- not quite complete. I recall stepping over an open-to-the-ground gap near the press box entrance. I got sent to cover the SECOND game at the new stadium because The Times had neglected to cover the first game and people were ticked about it and I don't think anybody else wanted to walk into that storm. I had a great time -- Bradshaw threw a long, long TD pass to Robbie Albright and it got called back. So they lined up, ran the same play and it looked like instant replay.
    It was a great day....
    Because I was the "floating staffer," that year I got to cover high school games with Bert Jones and Joe Ferguson at quarterback and college games with Bradshaw and James Harris at quarterback. And I covered some Shreveport Braves games with Ralph Garr working his way into the majors. No misguided sportswriter ever had a better year than that; met Joe Louis, too. And the pitcher Cecil Upshaw ...
    OK, I'm done. My old guy pills are wearing off and I have to go back to typing on something that might pay money ...maybe.

  8. From Ike Futch: There were some good people and good times when we were all at Tech together back then. Great blog.

  9. From Dick Concilio (NSU linebacker, 1966-68 seasons): I didn't realize that their stats were that bad in '66. That explains how we (NSU) beat them so badly. It didn't hurt that we had Deacon Lewis at QB (Gulf States Conference MVP in both football and baseball). We had a pretty good defense also. The next year we won 7-0. Those two games were the prelude to the famous 42-39 last-minute Tech victory which you love to remind me about occasionally. Good story, Nico.