Friday, October 28, 2016

A knee injury, USC ... and then Dr. Dossett

      (Third in a series)
      College football did not turn out as well as Drew Dossett had hoped it would. A damaged left knee cut short his career at the University of Southern California.
      Dr. Andrew Dossett's medical career has been a huge success, and still is, as we've expressed.
      So why USC when, in 1978 and early 1979, he could have chosen to attend college on a football scholarship wherever he wanted?
     He knew he would follow a pre-med curriculum, being a doctor had been in his mind for years and he had the grades it would require. So football was a factor -- and Southern Cal had been the national champion (split with Alabama) in '78.
     But why not LSU, which -- as always -- wanted any blue-chip prospect in Louisiana to stay near home? Sure, the Tigers could use a 6-5, 230-pound inside linebacker who could run and tackle, and was tough ... and smart.
     "Charlie Mac [McClendon] was a lame-duck coach," Dr. Dossett recalled earlier this week, and that proved true (1979 was the last of his 18 seasons as LSU head coach). But there was another reason.
     USC provided a "chance to punch out of the South, and I took it. I wanted to broaden my horizons. I knew I wanted to return to the South eventually [to live and work]. But I was never going to LSU."
     But he would be back on the LSU campus soon -- on the opposing team's sideline. 
     As his senior football season at Jesuit High in Shreveport ended, in the Class AAA state semifinals, and recruiting heated up, he had offers from "every major university in the South, Notre Dame, UCLA, USC ... "
     LSU was not even on the "visits" list. That included Ole Miss, SMU, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma and Southern Cal.
     "USC seemed like the right school," Dossett remembered. "I was interested in the city (Los Angeles) and the academics, and it was a good football program."
     Actually, it was better than good. The Trojans had a talent-laden roster (see below); a bright, young, personable head coach (John Robinson); a coaching staff that, Dossett recalls, "was pretty remarkable"; and a history of success, including Rose Bowl victories under Robinson in 1976 and '78.
      The '78 team's 12-1 record included a 24-14 victory over Alabama in Birmingham. Two games later, USC lost at Arizona State 24-14, and that cost it a unanimous national title.
     After the season, USC was voted No. 1 in The Associated Press poll, but the United Press International poll made Alabama No. 1 and USC No. 2. ("The coaches voted for Bear Bryant, imagine that," Dossett noted.)
     Still, Drew loved what he saw and felt at USC, and he signed the scholarship papers.
     Two months later, his football future was badly shaken.
      Playing volleyball in a P.E. class at Jesuit, "a freak accident" shattered his left knee. Torn ACL and a number of other problems -- Dr. Dossett, orthopedic expert, can detail them.  
      It looked as if there was no way he could play as a USC freshman in 1979 ... but he did.
      Dr. Billy Bundrick, the best-known orthopedic surgeon in North Louisiana, did the reconstructive surgery. Six months later, Drew Dossett was a special-teams regular for the Trojans.
      He would have preferred to redshirt, as many college freshmen do in athletics. But that particular year, Drew said, the NCAA rule was that freshmen could not redshirt.
      "They [the NCAA] twice came to our house to check out our recruiting process," Dossett said, "and they told us about the rule. I didn't want to waste a year, so I worked hard at the rehab -- three workouts a day -- and I was back. But I felt like I was only at about 70 percent."
Drew Dossett, University of Southern
California freshman linebacker-special
teams player, 1979 (USC photo)
      He was a young player among an accomplished, talented team.
      USC had four eventual Pro Football Hall of Fame players -- offensive linemen Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews, cornerback Ronnie Lott, and running back Marcus Allen. Tailback Charles White was the Heisman Trophy winner that year; Allen, his fullback, won it two years later at tailback. 
      The entire secondary -- Joey Browner, Dennis Smith, Jeff Fisher (future NFL coach) and Lott -- played significantly in the NFL. There were familiar NFL-players-to-be -- tight end Hoby Brenner and offensive linemen Keith Van Horne and Brad Budde.
      The coaching staff, among others, included three notable future Dallas Cowboys assistants -- Norv Turner, Paul Hackett (later also the USC head coach) and Hudson Houck.
      Turner, still coaching in the NFL, remains a good friend of Dossett's ("when our daughter was in college in San Diego, she rented one of his houses"), as does Houck, who is in a group with Dr. Drew that annually attends the Masters.
      Munoz was 6-6, 280 pounds -- "the biggest guy ever," Dossett recalls. "Now that's the tight end [in the NFL]."
      Matthews provided Dossett a light moment in their freshman year -- a reminder that he was from the South.
      "I was walking across campus one day, and I saw Bruce," Drew recalled. "He asked where I was headed. I said, 'I'm fixin' to go to lunch.' He said, 'Wait, fixin' to? What is that?'
      "It was the first time I realized that wasn't proper grammar."
      USC did not lose a game that season. Because it was his only season, Drew Dossett never played in a losing game at USC. But there was one tie. It was costly.
       Ranked No. 1 nationally for six weeks in a row, the Trojans had a 21-0 lead on Stanford at halftime. Then, as Dossett remembered, Turk Schonert -- subbing for John Elway at quarterback -- hit enough passes to save a 21-21 tie for the Cardinal.
       USC won the rest of its games, including a 42-23 rout at Notre Dame, and the Rose Bowl, 17-16 against Ohio State and gambling QB Art Schlichter.
       But Alabama went unbeaten (12-0) and was voted national champion, the last of its six national titles under "The Bear." USC finished No. 2.
       One game was special for Dossett, USC's fourth game that season -- Sept. 29 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. He told his teammates how raucous the crowd could be at LSU, and the game that night proved him right.
       It remains a legendary one. (See links below)
          The Tigers were ranked No. 20 and big underdogs to No. 1. But LSU's defense was dominant for three quarters and was trying to protect a 12-3 lead.
       But the Trojans' famed toss sweep took hold and two fourth-quarter TD drives won it for them.
       Many LSU people have not forgotten a "phantom" facemask call on a third-down incomplete pass that helped keep alive USC's late 79-yard drive for the winning touchdown that came with only 32 seconds remaining.
       It was arguably the best game of McClendon's last season at LSU (7-5 record), although the Tigers later lost only 3-0 to Alabama in a heavy rain.
       His left knee hurting, Dossett decided to take his redshirt year in 1980. When he hurt it badly again in spring practice in 1981, the USC team doctors "retired me." They told him, as he would tell Michael Irvin and Prince Fielder years later, that it would be in his best interests to not play again.
       "I was OK with that," he said. "I was scared to play. I was a shell of myself. The knee was unstable. I didn't feel like I had a leg under me."
       So he turned to academics, for good.  He graduated in four years with a degree in exercise physiology, summa cum laude with a 3.92 grade-point average. 
       He always wanted to be a doctor. When he was still in grade school, a visit to a young, smooth Shreveport orthopedics doctor, Carl Goodman, inspired him. "I told my mother, I want to be like him," Drew recalled.
       After USC, the road to a profession began at highly recommended University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. A huge jump in out-of-state tuition caused a year's delay as he established Texas residency.

       Once he finished med school, he did an orthopedic residency in the Parkland Hospital chain. Then, recommended by Dr. John Conway -- who had been the Texas Rangers' team doctor for 15 years -- and following his route, he returned to Los Angeles for a one-year fellowship in spine surgery, studying under Dr. Robert Watkins at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic.
      Watkins, Robert Kerlan, Frank Jobe (developer of Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery) ... big names in athletics injury treatments.
      Jobe, Drew says, in fact offered him a job. But the aim was to return to Dallas.
      Watkins inspired his choice to be a neck/spine specialist. "I thought I wanted to be a sports medicine doctor," Dr. Dossett said, "but from a technical standpoint, the neck/spine surgery was much more difficult" and the challenge was appealing.
      Now his reputation is established, and growing, and the Carrell Clinic Spine Center opened on Oct. 3.
       Dr. Dossett's left knee continued balky and tenuous for years. "I could dunk a basketball off either leg when I was a kid," he said, "but after I hurt it, I could never dunk off my left leg again."
       After 10 operations -- 10 -- a knee replacement five years ago was a relief. He's in shape, saying, "I've been 225 to 230 pounds since I was 16, my wife has me eating the right things, and I exercise [stationary bike] on a regular basis."
       Better yet, he can play as much golf as his busy schedule permits. With an 8 handicap, he's a good and willing player.
       He remains in touch with his old friends from Jesuit/Loyola College Prep, such as tonight's 40th anniversary state championship reunion in Shreveport.

       "He is the man," said John James Marshall, the senior quarterback of the 1976 Flyers. "To think that in a field like that, he's that good. He's that in demand. He has athletes from all over the nation coming in to see him."
       LCP assistant principal Tony Rinaudo, like so many others associated with the school, is an admirer.    
       "He is a genuine person, a classy person," said Rinaudo. "He always was like that as a student, and he still is."
       Marshall says the key to Dr. Dorsett's success is "he was driven. Drew wanted to be the best at whatever he did."
        At Jesuit, Marshall added, "He knew he was good. The talent was there, but he wasn't braggadocios, he got along with everyone. You knew he was going to make something of himself.
       "... Even after he got hurt at USC and had to quit football, he just turned to academics and then medicine, and made the very best of it.
       "... I'm a big, big fan of his. I've liked him since he was a sophomore.
        "He is very driven."
        The Cowboys' connection with Shreveport-Bossier includes cornerback Morris Claiborne (Fair Park High/LSU) and, from Haughton (in east Bossier Parish), the rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott.
         "Nice young man," said Dr. Dossett of Romo's current (and maybe permanent) stand-in. Drew said when he introduced himself to Prescott, he told him that Haughton was Jesuit's main rival when was a Flyer in the 1970s. "He laughed at that."
         Prescott, he added, "is up to the challenge. He is one of those guys who gets it. The game's not too big for him."
         He declined to offer an opinion on the Romo-or-Prescott question. "That's for other people," he said. "It's not my responsibility."
         Helping Romo -- and many others -- mend and prepare to play, that is his task.
         And it's not time to tell Romo that he need not play any more. "It's an L1 fracture, and it's healing properly," Dr. Dossett. "Once he's healed, he'll be fine." 
         So you might spot Dr. Drew at Cowboys' games in the bench area among the big guys. Hopefully you won't see him on the field. If you do, you know the hurting Cowboys are in good hands.

Before the 2014 baseball season opener, Dr. Dossett and his staff
wished the Texas Rangers well. (Facebook photo)

Thursday, October 27, 2016

For a five-star linebacker, high school football was a dream

          (Second in a series)
Drew Dossett, with Jesuit head coach Tony
Catanese and the 1978 high school
 All-America plaque.
       Dr. Andrew Dossett has been one of the Dallas Cowboys' lead team physicians since 1999, so he's never been to the Super Bowl with them.
       But when he was Drew Dossett in the late 1970s, he knew what winning football was like. He experienced it. He's won a Super Bowl of sorts (a state championship) and a Rose Bowl.
       In high school (Jesuit of Shreveport), when he was a starting linebacker as a sophomore, his team won the 1976 Louisiana Class AAA state title. Two years later, when he was a much bigger senior also playing tight end, his team made it to the state semifinals.
       And not only was he chosen the "Outstanding Defensive Player" on the 1978 Class AAA All-State team, he was among the nation's top college recruits.
       If recruiting services and ratings had existed in 1978-79 -- too soon -- he likely would have been a five-star recruit.
       Southern California, then a powerhouse program and a co-national champion as he was being recruited, was his college choice.
       In his only season (freshman, 1979)  before a knee injury ended his playing career, he never experienced a loss (one tie), he did hear the fury and noise an LSU Tiger Stadium crowd could direct at an opponent (in this case, the nation's No. 1-ranked team), and the last game he played in was a Rose Bowl victory. 
       Not bad for a kid -- the doctor-to-be -- who wasn't sure he even wanted to play football, and before the state championship season, wasn't expected to be a starter.
       The Dossett family lived in the South Highlands neighborhood, Ontario Street. Three blocks from Betty Virginia Park in Shreveport and close to the city's oldest public high school, Byrd.

       Young Drew went to Catholic schools -- St. John's four years (grades 3-6) and St. Joseph's one year (7th grade) -- but, he says, he was trouble for the teaching nuns and "I wore out my welcome." It was "suggested" he transfer. So he was at a public school, Broadmoor Junior High, for one year (8th grade).
       Once he went to the all-male Catholic high school, Jesuit, in ninth grade, he was home.
       Anthony Catanese that fall (1975) was 26 and in his first year as head football coach. A tough starting defensive lineman on the 1966 Jesuit team that lost 7-0 in the Class AA state final, he had returned to the school as an assistant coach [to school legend Tony Sardisco] in 1971.
       Dossett, said Catanese, was "a model student. All the teachers were always complimentary of him. He never was a problem, never had any trouble with him. He was great in every facet of the school."
       Catanese's biggest problem was convincing Drew he needed to play football.
       "I almost quit that year [1976]," Dossett remembered. "I really liked basketball. That's what I wanted to play. I went to talk to Catanese, and he said, 'No one from this school ever gets a basketball scholarship.' "
       Sure, Catanese remembers the meeting. "I couldn't let that happen," he said, laughing. "He could have been very good in basketball. He had great touch on his shot, he could run the court, he had the athletic ability. But what is he going to do in college at 6-4 or so? I thought he'd have a better future in football."
      Still, Drew wasn't convinced. Credit a football save to Sports Illustrated.

       Encouraged by his grandmother to read the magazine, given a subscription by his family, he was a devoted weekly reader of SI. A 1976 article on Pittsburgh Steelers middle linebacker Jack Lambert -- the fierce budding star a year out of Kent State -- made the difference.
      The emphasis on Lambert's training and his toughness was Dossett's motivation to stay with the sport.
      "I decided I would play as hard as I could, do the best I could," he said, "and it was like a switch came on."
      Still, in August he was a second-team linebacker. Then he excelled in 7-on-7 drills, did well in a preseason scrimmage and when a prospective starter was injured, a series of personnel moves made Dossett a starter.
      "We plugged him in early," Catanese said. "He was a lot leaner, but he had a great sophomore year. He could move so well laterally, and stuff the run inside."
      He was the only sophomore to start for the Flyers in the regular season. But he was a fit for a dream team.
      That team, that magical season, that defense (nine shutouts and one field goal-only game), a 14-0 record and the state championship remains a sweet memory for Dossett and his teammates.  
       They will have a 40-year anniversary reunion Friday and Saturday in Shreveport, and they can identify with this season's Flyers. Loyola College Prep, as the school is known now, is 8-0 and aiming for the same district title (1-AAA) as the '76 team won.
       After that, who knows? If it works out like it did in 1976, the Flyers will be determined, disciplined ... and blessed.
       "Great team, great senior leadership," Dr. Dossett recalled this week. "Gene Mack (All-State tackle) was the heart and soul of the team, Paul Cordaro a tough running back, Vincent Glorioso a 140-pound offensive guard, Steve Scott a clutch kicker."
       And a young rangy linebacker making tackles everywhere, freed up by the old-timey wide tackle six defense (three-man secondary) designed to stop the run. And, most games, it did.
        "He was gangly, really skinny," the team's quarterback, future sportswriter/sports editor John James Marshall, said of Dossett. "But we knew he was talented, no one thought he shouldn't be out there. ... He had a nose for the ball, and he hit hard."
        "I remember seeing a sophomore who fit right in," said Tony Rinaudo, a former star halfback for the Flyers in the mid-1960s, later an assistant coach, head coach for eight years, athletic director and for the last decade an assistant principal at the school. "Never had seen a player who could fly laterally like he did. His speed laterally was just incredible. Sideline to sideline, he was just like a gazelle."
        After a season-opening shutout, the Flyers gave up 14 points in each of the next two games against Class AAAA opponents. In the next eight games, through the first round of the playoffs, Jesuit gave up three points total. 
        The Flyers escaped plenty, winning half their games by seven points or fewer. 
         The final shutout (7-0) came in the state championship game vs. North Louisiana rival Winnfield. Again, the Flyers shut down a high-powered offense, and one Jesuit offensive play settled it.
       The Flyers had two first downs in the game, but one was a screen pass from Marshall to Greg Page, who took it 62 yards for the score. Dream season completed.
       It was a bookend play for Page, who in the season opener intercepted a Hail Mary pass by Airline and, after the clock ran out, returned it 63 yards for a TD and a 6-0 victory. 
        Scott, Dossett's partner at linebacker, kicked nine field goals during the season, one providing a foggy 3-0 playoff-opening victory. The defense intercepted 35 passes, an average of 2 1/2 per game.
         Even Drew finally made an interception.
         "The one thing he didn't do was intercept a pass; he had so many chances, and he'd drop the ball," Marshall recalled. "We were all ribbing him about it."
        But in the state semifinals, at football-mad Lutcher, a Mississippi River border town upriver from New Orleans, the Flyers intercepted the All-State quarterback four times -- one by Dossett -- in a 17-7 victory.
        Years later Marshall got that game film, copied a clip of the Dossett interception, and sent it to him.
         As a junior in '77, Dossett was bigger and faster, and played some tight end, too. The team wasn't as talented, leadership wasn't as good, and the record was 5-5.
         But as a senior -- now grown to 6-4 and 225 -- Dossett excelled and the Flyers, after an opening one-point loss and a tie, rolled off 10 consecutive victories and into the state semifinals.
         "That team vastly overachieved without as much  talent," said Catanese, who left coaching after the 1981 season and has operated Shreveport Gymnastics ever since. "But we had [halfback] Scott Pendleton, Drew and [fullback] Mike Camden, and that was great leadership."
          Then Pendleton (concussion) had to miss the semifinal game against familiar rival Lutcher and Dossett left early with a knee injury (foreshadowing his future). The Flyers lost 20-0. The final record was 10-2-1.
           (The next week Lutcher edged defending state champion Haughton -- the school which, 35 years apart, gave us Joe Delaney and Dak Prescott -- 12-7 for the state title.)
           Asked if he could foresee how good a player Dossett would be, Catanese said, "I always thought he had that ability. He had the size, the smarts, mobility, toughness. He had everything.
           "And he had great leadership qualities. Sometimes kids with talent like that aren't leaders. But he had it."
           With the end of Drew's high school career came the all-star honors -- including All-American. The recruiting scene followed. It was a busy time for Drew; so many major schools were interested.
            Soon, however, came the day that really changed his football life.
            Next: An injured knee, USC ... and the medical field.           

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Still a star, not on the field but in his own field

April 22, 1995: Texas Rangers outfielder Juan Gonzalez, who will miss up to three weeks because of a herniated disc in his lower back, was re-examined by the team's spine consultant in Dallas. Dr. Drew Dossett reported that Gonzalez made improvement but still has soreness.
August 21, 2002: Cowboys receiver Raghib Ismail will have neck surgery today to repair damage from a collision with a teammate last week in practice. ... Dr. Dan Cooper described the injury as a huge herniated disk. ... Ismail will have the disk removed and the two vertebra around it fused together. The operation will be performed by Dr. Drew Dossett, who was responsible for the same procedure on many pro athletes, including former Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston.
August 10, 2016, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: An emotional Prince Fielder announced on Wednesday that his 12-year baseball career is over after doctors recommended that the slugger stop playing after a second cervical spinal fusion surgery. Dr. Drew Dossett of Dallas, the Rangers’ spine specialist, confirmed the recommendation and performed surgery July 29.
September 1, 2016, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: (headline) Tony Romo likely to be out first 8 weeks for Cowboys. (in story) The compression fracture to Romo's L1 vertebra must fully heal before Dr. Drew Dossett clears Romo's return.

Read more here:

Read more here:
      Dr. Andrew Dossett -- Drew to those of us dating to Shreveport in the late 1970s -- doesn't need or want the type publicity his profession brings.
      He'd just as soon athletes remain healthy.
A too-familiar scene: Dr. Drew Dossett (left) escorts Cowboys
quarterback Tony Romo to the dressing room after a 2015 season
 Week 2 injury (broken collarbone) in Philadelphia.
      But he is ready to serve as team physician -- and the neck-spine-back specialist -- for the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. And that's just a small part of the job.
      He is a big man, in every sense -- as a husband and father and friend, professionally, and physically. At 6-foot-5 1/2 and 230 pounds, he even stands tall on the Cowboys' sideline among the giants now playing in the NFL.  
      Dr. Dossett is trim enough to look as if he could still play football. Then again, he is 55 years young.
      "The [NFL] players are Tarzan," he says and then jokes,  "I might look like Tarzan, but I am more like Jane."
      He can empathize with the athletes and their injuries. He was quite a football player in his day, those late 1970s -- a star linebacker at a strong program in high school (Jesuit of Shreveport), an All-American, one of the nation's top recruits, and then for one season in college with one of the country's top teams (Southern Cal).
      When Dr. Dossett has to tend to the injured athlete -- say Tony Romo -- he knows the feeling. Devastating and repetitive injuries to his left knee took him out of football before his sophomore season at USC. Visions of perhaps playing in the NFL one day were gone.
      He's in the league, though, through medicine. And it is easy to say he's in a select league of knowledge and respect in his specialty nationally.
      If there are athletes -- high school, college, pro -- with back, spine or neck issues, anywhere in the South or anywhere period, good chance they will be treated by Dr. Dossett of Dallas. 
      Cowboys and Rangers fans might know this: He has operated on Romo twice, Prince Fielder twice, Bobby Witt, Rusty Greer, Jay Novacek ... and that's just a partial list. Roy Oswalt, then pitching for Philadelphia, came to Dallas to be checked by Dr. Dossett when he was having issues.
      Not long after beginning his residency, he joined the Rangers as assistant team doctor in 1994. He's been to spring training regularly.
      And his first prominent athlete he treated: "When I just started my practice, I cut my teeth on Juan Gonzalez." 
      Then the Home-Run Derby champion, owner of a new contract from the Rangers, $30.7 million -- huge for the time -- the young outfielder  "ruptured a disk in his back tying his shoes in spring training," Dr. Dossett recalled. Rehab worked, preventing an operation, and Gonzalez went on to further stardom in Texas (two-time American League Most Valuable Player).
      Another Rangers' star, a Hall of Famer, he treated: catcher Ivan Rodriguez. "Pudge had back issues," Dr. Dossett said. "I took care of Pudge for a long time."
      He was a consultant with the Cowboys for three years, then became one of the team doctors -- with W.B. Carrell Clinic partner Dr. Dan Cooper, the lead Cowboys' physician -- in 1999.
Dr. Drew Dossett
      He has been a consultant with the Dallas Stars since 1996, and with the Dallas Mavericks, and the New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, Texas A&M, Baylor, etc.
       He is one of Shreveport's great success stories, similar to Terry Bradshaw (from football to broadcasting and entertainment) but not as well known.
       And while he might not even be the best-known orthopedics doctor from North Louisiana treating athletes -- that is Birmingham-based Dr. James Andrews, who pole vaulted from Homer High to LSU to renown as a surgeon -- Dr. Dossett is nearing the level of Dr. Andrews' acclaim.
      Do a search on Facebook for "Dr. Andrew Dossett" and you will find a dozen thank-yous for his work -- surgery and rehab -- in treating people who were hurting, severely limited in movement, and maybe faced with the threat of paralysis. There are notes from a rodeo bronc rider, a barrel racer, and ordinary folks. 
       "Most of my time is spent treating people like you," he said earlier this week. "Athletes, the high-profile cases, might be 5 to 10 percent of my work, but 90 percent of the heartbreak is with everyday people."
       Dr. Cooper, a specialist in reconstructive knee and shoulder surgeries, said Dr. Dossett gives the Cowboys "a nationally recognized expert in athletic spine injuries, with lots of credentials. There are only two or three guys like him in the country. That's a value that we can really rely on."
        Plus, Dr. Cooper added, "Number one, he is a true friend, a loyalist as someone working under me [with the Cowboys], especially in the early days when I joined the team.
        "Drew taught me about football. He knows the game, how it is to train, the weight room. He totally gets the culture of what it takes, and he conveyed that to me in the early days. He understands the coaches, understands the players, what it takes to rehab after an injury. A lot of people don't realize what it takes. Drew gets it."
       "You don't play football for your health," Dr. Dossett said. "Nothing about it is healthy. The mass and velocity of the game creates such a force, and the players are just so much bigger, stronger and faster today."
       More potential work for the doctors.
       But his loyalty is to the profession, not entirely to the team or the athletes.
       One of the first Cowboys players to hear from Dr. Dossett that it would be in his best interests to end his career, after the 1999 season, because of a spinal injury was Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin. This past August, the same message was given to the large Rangers first baseman, Prince Fielder.
       "Drew understands the gravity of it," Dr. Cooper said, "and he has the fortitude to tell people what they need to hear. Some might try to talk him out of it, but he won't waver."
       About Irvin, Drew offers what he calls a "Dossett-ism": "Never make a decision that ends both of your careers." (Think about that.)
       On Fielder, "You have to do what's best for him, and in this case, it was that he not play anymore. You have to look after the best interests of the player, not the best interest of the team."
Drew Dossett, Jesuit High
School linebacker
       Dr. Dossett will be with the Cowboys for their Sunday night NFC East showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. But he will spend Friday and Saturday back in Shreveport to see his mother and to attend the 40th anniversary reunion of his high school's state championship football team.
       The school, founded in 1902, was all-male Jesuit High when Dossett attended (1975-79) and is now coed Loyola College Prep, still located on Jordan Street as it has been since 1938.
       In the 1976 season, linebacker Drew Dossett was a developing star, for most of the season the only sophomore starter on a senior-heavy team. With an almost unyielding defense -- eight games in a row without giving up a touchdown -- the Flyers went 14-0, joining the 1967 team as unbeaten state champs.
       His loyalty to the school and to his teammates is one reason the reunion is happening, just as it did in 2006 at the 30-year mark.
       John James Marshall was the senior quarterback of the 1976 team, later a talented sportswriter at the Shreveport Journal (full disclosure, we were co-workers there, 1982-87) and then the paper's final executive sports editor. He is back at the school dealing in media relations, publications and alumni functions.
       The '76 team had a 30-year reunion in 2006, and Dossett was an instigator of that, Marshall said. "In mid-September [this year], Drew called and said, 'Are we doing this again?'  
       "We think the world of him," Marshall added. "He always cares about the school, he calls, he stays connected."
       Going to Jesuit, Dr. Dossett explained, "was the most formative thing I've ever done. No question about it. The Jesuits (Catholic order) have been educating kids since 1515. It is the most egalitarian education you could ever receive.
       "It is about being fair, about doing the right thing, making the right decisions, even if it is, say, at 3 a.m.," he added. "If you're fair, if you do what's right, it works out."
       He is such a believer in the Jesuit teaching that four sons -- he and wife Natalie, married for 10 years, have a combined six children (four his, two hers) -- attended Dallas Jesuit High School.
       More education: One child is a sophomore at University of Georgia, one is a freshman at University of Alabama, there are graduates of Georgia, University of San Diego and University of Colorado, and the oldest son is a graduate of the Naval Academy and a Navy SEAL, with an MBA from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) who now works for Google.
       The Dossetts lived in the Bluffview area of North Dallas. But we know Dr. Drew is also at home with the Cowboys, Rangers, etc., and this weekend, back home in Shreveport, where his journey began.
        Next: A football star, a career cut short

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Holy Cow, Harry! Cubs are in the World Series!

No one has ever seen a sign like this before ...
       "Write about the Cubs," a friend suggested in a text message late Saturday night. "Wonderful young team."
     The Cubs? C'mon. They never win. Always the Lovable Losers.
     If you know anything about baseball, if you care, you know it ain't so no more. What a great story the 2016 Chicago Cubs are.
     As we begin this Sunday morning, they are headed for the World Series. If you love baseball -- and I love it as much as anything in athletics -- you know how great this is for the game.
     Two Sundays from now, the Cubs might be World Series champions. If not them, then the Cleveland Indians will be. Again, a great story.
     Let's hear it for Ernie Banks ("Mr. Cub) and Ron Santo. Wish they  were still here to see this. They showed Billy Williams watching Saturday night's National League pennant clincher at Wrigley Field; what a magnificent Cubs player he was.
      Somewhere Ferguson Jenkins must be happy. Ryne Sandberg, too (he was at the ballpark last week). And in heaven (or otherwise), Harry Caray is yelling "Holy Cow!" Jack Brickhouse is saying, "Hey, hey." The longtime Cubs' owners -- Mr. Wrigley, Phil or Bill -- would've liked chewing  on this. 

... Or one like this.
     I am happy today for Mark Finley, Roy Lang III, John Dittrich, Dave Olson and even Cubs fan-turned-Rangers fan Keeli Pointer Garza -- my friends, all those long-suffering Cubbies fans.
     Thinking of the media friends with Chicago ties -- Jeff Rude, Joel Bierig and Phil Rogers, who have written about the Cubs (and White Sox) and tried to remain impartial publicly (but privately probably suffered with them, too).
     You are in the World Series. Your dreams have come true.
     If you know baseball, you know this hasn't happened since 1945, so unless you're older than me, not in our lifetime.
     And the Cubs haven't won the World Series since 1908 -- 108 years. Likely not in anyone's lifetime now that they can remember.
     When you consider that the Cleveland Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948 -- when I was 1 -- there's the other half of the great story. 
     For Cleveland, at least there were three American League championships since then (1954, 1995, 1997), followed by heartbreak in the Series.
     But the Cubs have been Team Heartbreak. Most years since 1945, they were terrible. And when they did come close to winning a division or a National League title -- 1969, 1984, 1989 and 2003 -- fate always dealt them a cruel ending.
     (My favorite Cubs player was Lee Smith, the large relief pitcher from Castor, La. -- he lives in Jamestown, my wife's hometown -- who was the Cubs closer for the first eight years of his MLB career. But even Lee was part of the 1984 heartbreak, giving up a crucial playoff home run.)  
       Only the Boston Red Sox were in the Cubs' league for Heartbreak. But we know -- and some of us try to forget -- that the Red Sox ended their "curse" in 2004, then to rub it in, won the World Series again in 2007 and 2013.
       The Red Sox and Cubs, of course, have this in common -- the oldest, most quaint (and, in my opinion, outdated) ballparks in Major League Baseball. OK, I'll give in: There is such charm about Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. 
       Any real baseball fan has to have made a pilgrimage to those places. Mine came in August 1975. 
       Getting to Wrigley isn't all that easy; it's stuck in the middle of an old North Chicago neighborhood -- "Wrigleyville" where finding parking is as big a challenge as, say, the Cubs winning the World Series.
       Best way to go is to ride the "L" (or is it "el) -- the train that stops right behind the right-field bleachers at Wrigley. We did that one day.
       We saw a Cubs-Cardinals single game, then a doubleheader the next day. Doesn't get much better in baseball rivalries (except maybe Yankees-Red Sox, Dodgers-Giants). St. Louis always has lots of fans at Wrigley, and most years the much better team.
       But not now. These Cubs have been built through crafty scouting, drafting and player development, some big-money free-agent signings (well, it's all big money; this is bigger money), and successful trades.
       It's a team with spectacular young talent, and enough seasoned, accomplished veterans for balance, and a daring, upbeat, new-school type baseball manager in Joe Maddon, who keeps it fun for players, fans and the media.
       This is a Cubs team that could be extremely competitive -- champions, perhaps -- for the near future.
       Even Yankees fans like me are a bit jealous of this young talent and this success. We do know what it takes and how it feels to win the World Series ... often.
       This season's mediocre Yankees, at least, can be credited with aiding both the Cubs and Indians, giving up their top relief pitchers in trade-deadline moves (Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, Andrew Miller to the Indians). Good luck, guys.
       The Indians, too, have a good young team and deserved the AL championship. Most years they'd be the feel-good story.
       But this year, the Cubs are the sentimental favorites. They won 103 regular-season games -- eight more than any other MLB team -- and seven more in the playoffs ... with four to go.
       It was fun to see Roy Lang III -- The Shreveport Times' sports editor and traveling man in search of good stories and events, and the main Cubs' cheerleader on my Facebook news feed -- count down the number of outs they needed to clinch the pennant Saturday night. I have done a lot of those countdowns for my team.
       Part of Wrigley's charm in 1975, and from 1914 when it opened, was that it did not have lights. Only ballpark in the majors without them; the Cubs were the only team to play all its home games in the day. That changed -- for the better, I guess, in August 1988.
        Wrigley looked beautiful in the overhead TV shots Saturday night, and it was packed, and rocking.

         Roy Lang, of course, was there for this one. He's taken up residence there at Wrigley this October, between stops in Shreveport. Good for him.
        Good for the lovable Cubs and their fans. Wave that white flag with the blue "W" proudly. Soon you might have a World Series championship banner to go with it. The one from 1908 is a bit worn.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A tribute to Survivors: 62511, 70726

       First, a disclosure: This is self-promotion. The blog often falls into this category.
      Here it is: I have written a book, and it is now in published form. If you want to order it, I will provide the links below.
      It is available through the self-publishing company, CreateSpace, and -- as of this weekend -- it is listed on Amazon.
      The title is in the headline on this post. It is the story of my parents and their lives before and after they were Holocaust survivors.
      Survivors: 62511, 70726 -- the numbers the Nazis tattooed on their left forearms.
      It is Rose and Louis Van Thyn's stories, but also my sister Elsa and mine -- our journey from Amsterdam to the United States.
      If you have followed this blog for more than 4 1/2 years, you have seen much of the material in the book. But it has been a while since the early chapters, and you might not have seen many of the photos in the book.
      Doing this has been a labor of love -- and several people encouraged me to do it -- and it also has been a labor.
      Trying to do it on my own two years ago, I failed miserably because I am not that technical savvy. It was driving me more nuts than I already am -- you can laugh at that -- and it also was driving someone who lives with me a little battier than she already is.
      So I dropped the idea. But as I kept writing about my parents' stories on this blog, people kept telling me I should put it together in a book.
       There are a couple of heroes responsible for it finally happening. Tom Johanningmeier, deputy sports editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (my journalism home for a final decade of work), formatted the whole thing, really put it together. Janet Glaspie, who lived down the street from my parents in Shreveport for years and helped care for them, proofread the pages and made many good suggestions and necessary fixes.
       Without them, I am not a published author.
       I never had great desire to write a book, but -- as I state  in the introduction to the book -- I wanted my parents' stories in one place for their many friends and mostly for our family, for the generations.
       And here's what else; it can't be said enough: The Holocaust was real, and the threat of oppression and genocide remains ever-present. There are people out there who deny the Holocaust, who excuse what happened, who  say it is fictional history.
       They are so wrong, wrong, wrong. Often loud wrong.
       I knew two people who lived through it, and who told their stories. And I've retold those stories.
      To order the book (the list price is $15, plus shipping charges): (this is the preferable option, although you might have to create a free CreateSpace account to place an order)

Kindle: (price $2.99, no photos)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

He was All-Everything that Bradshaw wasn't

     He is the answer to a trivia question, and he laughed when I suggested that to him.
     In his senior season of high school football (1965), Terry Bradshaw was not All-City (in Shreveport-Bossier), All-District (1-AAA) or All-State (Class AAA in Louisiana). Who was the quarterback who earned those honors?
     The answer: John Miller, Fair Park (Shreveport).
     When I asked him if he tells people, some five decades later, that he beat out Bradshaw for All-Everything, Miller answered, with a laugh, "It depends who I'm talking to."
     What he remembers is that "a good time in my life" and that receiving the all-star honors was "kind of a shock" considering that he was a junior and Bradshaw, at Woodlawn, had a strong senior year.
     Their statistics were almost equal that season; their teams each advanced far in the state playoffs. But as Miller noted when we talked a week ago, "I got the (Shreveport Journal All-City) Cotton Bowl trip."
     But he was gracious about it. Bradshaw, he said, "was a fantastic athlete. His pro career was tremendous. Such a great arm, and he threw the hell out of the ball."
     He wasn't all that big for a quarterback (5-foot-9 1/2, 160 pounds) -- Bradshaw was five inches taller -- but Miller too had a strong right arm. He had a young offensive coach just starting his coaching career who liked the passing game; a smart, capable offensive line; two future LSU signees as teammates (guard Robert Davis and linebacker Bobby Joe King); and two  talented wide receivers named Smith (Jerry at split end, Vitamin T. -- V.T. -- at flanker).
     Jerry, also an All-State choice, went on to play at Baylor. The fleet V.T., son of a 1949-53 Los Angeles Rams star running back (same name), played at Abilene Christian.
     As several people described him, Miller was "very smart," able to run an offensive system which -- rare in those days in high school -- could audible plays at the line of scrimmage.
     He was junior class favorite that year, "Mr. Fair Park" the next year, and a smart enough student to earn a scholarship to Vanderbilt University -- known much more for producing real student-athletes than football success.
     His Vanderbilt football career was injury-curtailed, but he had his moments. One significant fact: He started only one season (1968, as a sophomore). But the 5-4-1 record that season was the only winning season Vandy had in a 14-year period.
     And the degree he earned as a geology major set up his future.
     Fair Park, in the fall of 1965 and again in 1966, was a perfect setting for John Miller to throw the football.
     "I enjoyed that so much, the way we played," he said. "We had great receivers -- I was lucky to have those two -- and an offensive line that could call out blocking assignments, and help me call audibles. It was great timing, great fun."         
     We know what happened to Bradshaw. Whatever happened to John Miller?
     He is 67 now, has lived for 15 years in Oak Ridge, Tenn. -- just west of Knoxville -- an upscale community started in 1942 as home of the "Manhattan Project" (development of the atomic bomb). It was home base for the oil and gas company he joined as an engineer a couple of decades ago.
     Two recent developments: (1) He retired from business and (2) now settled in one place after a life and career of constant travel, he re-married. After 34 years of being a couple while Carolynn lived in Franklin, Tenn., they're together in Oak Ridge.
John with daughter Kelly at her wedding.
     The son of an Air Force pilot, the third of four brothers,  they made -- oldest brother Don remembered -- 42 moves while in their growing-up years. John kept traveling in business.
     Now the traveling is for pleasure -- recent trips to Portland, Ore., where his daughter Kelly and granddaughter Arisa, 6, live, and to North Carolina for a weekend golf outing (that delayed our talk for a couple of days).
     "I've always loved golf," he said. "Now I've got the time to really play some."
     It's been a while since he played some football. 
     "He always was a tough kid growing up, real quiet," said Don Miller, five years older. And it was Don -- a longtime coach at Northwood High near Shreveport -- who was John's first coach. Retired, he now lives in Ormond Beach, Fla.
     "Don was my mentor," said John. "He was a coach from the day he was born." He recalled throwing footballs at tire swings in backyards from coast to coast, and beyond, working on quick releases and accuracy.
     The Millers' Air Force journey/stops included Riverside, Calif., Savannah, Ga., Albany, Ga. (where Don went to high school), Germany, Ankara (Turkey) and then Barksdale Air Force Base (Bossier-Shreveport).
     It was in Savannah where Don got John involved on a neighborhood football team, an 11-12s team (but John was younger). He started as a defensive back. A move later, in Albany as a fifth-grader, he came home one day and announced he was a quarterback.
     "A quarterback?" Don remembers saying. "That coach doesn't know anything. You can't be a quarterback. I'd always made him play defensive back because he was a hitter."
     In Germany, John got more QB work on the American Air Force base. And, as Don liked to recall, at age 8, "he was [water] skiing barefoot in Italy [on vacation]."
     Then from Turkey, it was on to Barksdale, where Ray Miller eventually retired as a major.
     Instead of living in Bossier City, the Millers found a place on Curtis Lane in Shreveport because, said Don, they "found a great deal on a rental property where they could have a horse and there was a swimming pool."
     And Midway Junior High had a new student. John wanted to play football, but coach Ab White was reluctant to give him a uniform because he was so small. Ricky McNabb was bigger and set at QB. But once John had the uniform, he also proved to be the best QB.
     As a sophomore at Fair Park, Miller again found skepticism because of his size. Head coach Roy Wilson -- the decades-long, old-school, rough-and-tough "Bull" -- wasn't sure, but James Farrar -- the Indians' varsity defensive line/linebackers coach -- was coach of the "B" and sophomore teams and knew John could throw the ball.
     Another plus: Jimmy Orton, after a pro baseball career, had just come back to coach and teach at Fair Park -- where he was a three-sport All-City, All-District star in the mid-1950s. He had quarterbacked the Indians to the state finals (1955), then played two years at Louisiana Tech.
     Farrar and Orton convinced Wilson. Orton liked what he saw.
     "He didn't have a lot of height, but he had a great arm," said Orton. "He had a knack of throwing the long pass, and the Smith boys could get down under it. John had a lot of ability."
     "It was a great opportunity for me," Miller said. "Coach Orton took me under his wing. He was my biggest fan. We rocked and rolled in that offense. He molded me as a quarterback."
     Miller dressed with the varsity as a sophomore, but he had an inauspicious debut. The only game he entered was as a PAT kick holder and, taking his eyes off the snap, "the ball hit me in the head."
     Before the '65 season, it looked as if senior Tom Shea would be the starting QB, with Miller playing defense. But they switched spots early in the fall.
     The Indians had an 8-4-1 record and scored 314 points (24.2 per game). What is significant: No Fair Park team the last 50 years has scored that much. Only two Fair Park teams scored more -- the 1952 state champions (334), the 1955 state runner-ups (348).
     "We were running the offense Coach (Joe) Aillet used at Tech," Orton said. "Basically it was Wing-T sets, run-oriented, but we had split receivers and we threw a lot. Lee Hedges was doing the same at Woodlawn."
     Miller passed for 1,727 yards and 20 touchdowns (Bradshaw, in one more game, threw for 1,372 yards and a state-record 21 TDs.)
     One of the rare off nights in that season for Miller, though, came in the season's second game -- a 28-7 loss to Woodlawn and Bradshaw, who was the star of the game. That was the difference between first and second place in the district.
     The Indians boosted their point total with three high-scoring victories -- North Caddo 60-0, Bossier 55-14 (the Smith points scored 42 of the points) and West Monroe 46-38. But they also proved they could win the low-scoring ones, beating city rivals Jesuit 6-0 and Byrd 13-0 (their first win over their old rivals since 1958). 
     It also clinched Fair Park's first state playoff entry since '58. When it rallied from a 12-6 halftime deficit to beat Jesuit (New Orleans) 19-12, it was the school's first playoff victory in 10 years.
     The season ended the next week in the state semifinals with a 29-7 loss to Sulphur, which returned to State Fair Stadium the following week to edge Woodlawn 12-9 in a hard rain for the state championship.
     Don Jones was president of the Fair Park Student Council in 1965-66 and is now an orthopedic surgeon in Eugene, Ore., and a team doctor with the University of Oregon football team.          
      Miller, he said, "was very smart. One example of how smart he was is that I started every game at tight end my senior year and he only threw to me once.  That includes practice. And on top of that, it was in the last two minutes of the state playoff game which we lost. 
      "Actually he was very smart. I respected him and really enjoyed playing with him."
      "He was a thinking man's quarterback," said Jerry Smith, who now lives in Wylie, Texas, and owns/operated a factory automation company based in Plano. "The coaches gave him credit for changing plays at the line of scrimmage more than 50 percent of the time the last part of the season.
       "Miller was one of those guys who had no fear. He had a strong arm -- not like Bradshaw, though -- but he could put the ball where it needed to be. He'd throw it into places you'd think he couldn't get it there.
      "Very intelligent guy," Smith added. "He'd get us up to the line of scrimmage quickly, and just call a play before the coaches would send one in. ... And he was cagey, too, and he wasn't afraid to run the ball."
      Before the season, Miller had told his mother he thought he could make All-City. She had her doubts and promised they'd buy a new ski boat if he did.
      "Sure enough, I was, and we did [get the boat]," John said. "She thought that was a long shot."
      No question: He was confident.
      Orton recalls one of Miller's early starts -- he thinks it was at LaGrange (Lake Charles) -- when the Indians began with a couple of yards on two running plays, then threw incomplete, and punted.
      "John came to the sideline and said, 'Coach, we can score on these guys any time we want,' " Orton said, laughing at the memory. "I said, 'OK, why don't we try that next time we get the ball.'"          
      Art Walker was a basketball guard at Fair Park and lived across and down the street from the Millers. He was good friends with John, and they were pals with two other neighbors who were athletes -- Ronnie Burns (baseball) and Dennis Dans (halfback in football).
      "John was very quiet, and very confident in his ability," said Walker, who lives in Benton and is the father of former LSU and major-league baseball star Todd Walker. "It was amazing for someone like me to watch him throw the football.
      "He was just a good guy. Being military, it was a close family [Marshall was the second-oldest brother, three years ahead of John, and David was considerably younger]. They stood up for each other and protected each other."               
      John had another good season in 1966, and Fair Park was 8-3, but missed out on the playoffs. Wayne Haney was a standout receiver, but said John, "We didn't have the same  weapons." 
      One of the nice elements of that season was that Don Miller, having graduated from Auburn University, was in Shreveport, starting his teaching/coaching career at Linwood Junior High. He joined the Fair Park staff the next year, Wilson's last year as head coach.
      "He [Wilson] was heading into his retirement phase," John Miller said of his senior year. "But I admired him, respected him. He pretty well left the [offensive] coaching to Coach Orton."
      Miller repeated as All-City and All-District. But the Class AAA All-State QB selection was Butch Duhe of Holy Cross (New Orleans). He was one of LSU's prime recruits ... and his death of a brain hemorrhage in late summer 1970 was a stunner.
      By then, Miller was about to be a senior at Vanderbilt.
      "He lived football," Don Miller said of his brother in the 1960s, and it was obvious in late 1966 that he was going to get a chance to play in college. His size didn't deter the recruiters.
      Tulane pushed hardest, and John signed a letter-of-intent (multiple "intent" signings were permissible then). LSU coach Charlie McClendon came to Shreveport twice to visit with him, but LSU's pass-hesitant offense wasn't appealing to John (sound familiar?). Baylor, with a passing offense, was interested.
      Vanderbilt -- a football weakling, an educational beacon -- became a late option.
      "It was a weird way that it happened," John said. When his grandfather passed away in Stevenson, Ala., near Chattanooga, then-Vandy linebacker star Chip Healy was at the funeral "and he started talking to me about Vanderbilt."
      When he visited the school in Nashville, he felt comfortable, and his parents had just moved to the family farm in Stevenson. "So Mom had some influence in my decision" to play closer to where they were living.
      He got an introduction to SEC football in 1967 on the freshman team (freshmen were not eligible for varsity in Division I then). It was only four games, but one was against Ole Miss and a quarterback named Archie Manning. Final score: Ole Miss 80, Vandy 8. Oops.
       Bill Pace had been an assistant to Frank Broyles at Arkansas before becoming Vandy's head coach in 1967. Miller gained his confidence before his sophomore year ('68).
       "It was like my junior year in high school; I progressed really fast," Miller said. He didn't start the first two games, but when Vandy struggled in game two at Army, he came off the bench and sparked a 17-13 comeback victory.
       "We weren't doing much when I came in," he said. "They were playing a loose-six defense, so they were loose in the flats. Coach Pace was a good offensive mind; he could find the weaknesses in defenses."
      Miller set a school record for completions in a game and was named SEC offensive back of the week.
      With one "above average receiver," Curt Chesley, Miller set a Vandy sophomore season record for passing yards (1,164), although some numbers weren't pretty (49.3 completion percentage -- 99 of 201 -- with 18 interceptions and five TDs).
      A three-game winning streak near season's end clinched a rare -- rare -- Vandy winning season. But a 10-7 loss to arch-rival Tennessee in the finale was a bummer, and a lesson for Miller.
      Tennessee had two future All-Americans and NFL stars at linebacker, Steve Kiner and Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds. "A long day," said Miller, who recalled running for 5 or 6 yards "and they knocked me plumb over the bench."
      Disaster struck in the off-season. Playing tennis with a teammate on a cold night in February 1969, Miller felt a sharp pain in his right shoulder.
      It was a badly injured, maybe even torn, rotator cuff. His throwing arm and motion was badly compromised.
      It was a few years before surgery for that injury and repair/rehab was common, and Vandy's team doctors "were reluctant to operate. They felt I would only be at 70 or 80 percent strength after that," Miller said.
      So the option was shots of novocaine and cortisone, "and it would get a little better. [But] it would make everything feel heavy, and tired. I could throw in practice one day, then it hurt badly the next day."
      Still, he gave it a try and started the season in The Big House at Michigan -- Bo Schembechler's first game as Michigan head coach. In the 42-14 Vandy loss, Miller said, "I played decently."
      But the difficulty continued and Pace soon put in a triple-option offense, "so I saw the handwriting on the wall."
      Watson Brown, older brother of Mack Brown and a future longtime college coach, took over at QB, and Vandy started 1-5. But that one victory was extremely memorable -- Vandy 14, Alabama 10, in Nashville.
      Since 1959, Vanderbilt is 2-44 vs. Alabama, 1-35 since Brown sparked that victory in 1969. 
      The Commodores finished 4-6 that season, and Miller played sparingly (24 of 56, 310 yards, four interceptions, one TD).   
      As a senior, he was still listed at QB on the depth chart, but at his suggestion, Denny Painter had been moved from center to QB the year before and emerged as the 1970 starter. The team went 4-7.
      "Coach Pace wanted to find me a position," so Miller played some at safety. But his lack of size made it tough and it was "unfamiliar."
      He did get some shots at quarterback, threw a couple of TD passes and nearly led a comeback against nationally ranked North Carolina.
      "I think he (Pace) let me play QB out of kindness," he said. "Even in the [season-ending] Tennessee game, he put me in at the end just to be nice."
      The Vandy experience, though, was a good one, especially with teammates such as tailback (and future coach) Doug Mathews (SEC's leading rusher in 1969) and defensive end Pat Toomay (of Dallas Cowboys fame).
      Plus, that victory against Alabama ... and the education.
      After his Vanderbilt graduation, he took a job with Dresser Industries and went to Alaska for a year to work on the Northern Slope, then was transferred to California, where he met his first wife in Bakersfield. Art Walker also was there at the time in his first job after graduation from Louisiana Tech.
      Then it was back to Louisiana, to off-shore jobs in the Gulf, where he was a mud engineer -- and a pilot (just like his father, who was a flight instructor on gliders). "I flew a float plane out to the rigs," he said.
      When people he knew from his Vanderbilt days got involved in the Dixie Oil Co., he joined them and that brought him to the Appalachian basin and stays in Corbin, Ky., and Oneida, Tenn.
      "The business goes up and down, like a yo-yo, especially in this area," he noted. He supervised the drilling and completion of wells, and "I never hit the big time, but I enjoyed it."
      Just as he enjoyed those long-ago days at Fair Park.
      "Fondest times I had was in Shreveport, with my friends," he said. "That was a close community. It was not the same in college."
      As for Bradshaw, coincidentally, "I never met him. Saw him at [Fair Park and/or Woodlawn] basketball games, but we never had any conversation.
       "I remember thinking he was so big, and he looked like Chuck Connors (The Rifleman")."
       That he did. And for a couple of seasons at Fair Park High in the mid-1960s, John Miller looked much like a passing quarterback named Bradshaw. It was not a trivial matter.
John, with Arisa and Carolynn a couple of years ago