want that. You're set here in Chicago, you have a good job with a trucking
company in the off season, you have a nice home here. George, you don't want us
to trade you." The heck I didn't, but I knew it was impossible. So we
settled on $6,000 to buy up my contract, and I went home to face the prospect
of retirement. I didn't like it one bit. I was 31 years old and I felt strong
as a bull. I brooded around the house. I drove my wife and kids crazy. I went
to the YMCA in La Grange Park, Ill., where I lived, and worked out every day.
While the Bears were in training camp, I was working three times as hard at the
Y. I went to a La Grange high school field and practiced my kicking till it was
too dark to see the ball. Kids stood around watching the crazy old man with the
heavy foot. I would kick the ball, chase it 70 or 80 yards, then kick it back
and chase it again. The kids used to ask each other: "Who's the oldie
kicking a football?" Nobody asked for my autograph. I was just the graying
old crock that used to kick for the Bears and now was all washed up.
The Bears opened
their exhibition season, and I went to the games. I was there solely to watch
their new kicker, John Aveni, not to hope that he broke his leg, but only that
he sprained an ankle or something. To tell you the truth, he played terribly.
Aveni was a very nervous and talented kid from the University of Indiana, but
the pressure on him was something awful; anybody would have folded under it.
Some of the Bears told me that Halas had Aveni out there every day kicking and
kicking for hours at a time, and all the coaches took a whack at helping
continued to miss extra points and short field goals, I began to feel better.
They'd have to call me back. No team could play in the NFL without a 50%
field-goal kicker and a 98% extra-point kicker. A few days before the season
opened I telephoned a friend of mine on the Bears' coaching staff. "What's
going on?" I said. "When is Halas gonna call me back?"
my friend said, "take my word for it. You're not ever gonna be called
"George, let's not go into it. I attend the meetings; I've heard what they
have had to say, and you're not gonna be called back."
was like taking a Rocky Marciano punch to the jaw. I knew this coaching friend
of mine was a straight shooter, and I knew he had to be telling me the truth.
But I also knew that I couldn't quit playing football. I began contacting other
teams, trying to get a job, but the long arm of George Halas kept reaching out
and keeping me in retirement. I thought I had a job with the Colts, but Halas
queered that. A couple of league games went by, and Baltimore Owner Carroll
Rosenbloom called me and said, "George, why don't we just forget it for
So that was it. I
was out. I went to all the Bears' games for the rest of the year, and I rooted
for them to lose. Not that I didn't have a lot of good friends on the team, but
I was so hurt and so angered at being prematurely retired that my hatred
spilled over to the whole organization. I still think, it was a reasonable,
justified anger. I still steam at the name of George Halas, because he took
away my best years. For him and the Chicago Bears, I had passed for 5,936
yards, kicked 88 field goals, 247 out of 250 extra points, played 115 games,
passed for 48 touchdowns, run for five more and kicked 511 points in
conversions and field goals, the Bears' record.
And now, at 31, I
was out on the streets, washed up, a has-been. I sat out the year, but I never
for a second thought that I had played my last game of football. It turned out
that I was right—by about 150 games.