Not in­tim­i­dat­ing on the field, but he can quiet his class­room

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS WEEKEND - CATCH­ING UP WITH... By Mike Klinga­man mike.klinga­man@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/MikeKlinga­man

His fifth-grade class at Lan­don Prep in Bethesda is among the school’s best­be­haved. How does teacher Doug Net­tles keep the peace?

“A loud voice and mean looks,” said Net­tles, a for­mer Bal­ti­more Colts corner­back. “When I walk into the room, ev­ery­body gets quiet. Kids say, ‘He’s mean and scary.’ Course, that didn’t al­ways work on the foot­ball field. Be­ing 6 feet and 175 pounds didn’t in­tim­i­date any­one.”

Teach­ing Amer­i­can his­tory to 10-year-olds is a joy for Net­tles, 65, the Colts’ fifth-round draft pick in 1974 who played five years in Bal­ti­more.

“I like kids and help­ing to de­velop their minds,” he said. “My sis­ters used to say that I have an im­ma­ture mind, so I fig­ured I might as well work with peo­ple I can re­late to.”

Forty years ago, Net­tles played for the Colts team that won three straight AFCEast cham­pi­onships, from 1975 to 1977. They’d gone 2-12 his rookie year and started 1975 with four losses in five games.

En route to New York, to play the Jets, he kib­itzed with Ge­orge Kunz, the All-Pro tackle. “What do you think?” Kunz asked. “I think we can win this one — and the rest of them,” Net­tles said.

That the Colts did, reel­ing off nine straight vic­to­ries to fin­ish 10-4. Af­ter­ward, Kunz ap­proached him.

“Doug,” he said, “if you ever quit foot­ball, you can be a for­tune teller.”

Net­tles, from Van­der­bilt, started 36 games, had five in­ter­cep­tions and proved to be a boon on Bal­ti­more’s spe­cial Net­tles teams, where he blocked four punts. Net­tles never re­turned an in­ter­cep­tion for a score, a fact not lost on a stu­dent at Lan­don.

“One day, a kid brought in my Colts stats, held them up and said, ‘You never got a “pick six?” That is re­ally un­ac­cept­able,’ ” Net­tles said.

Di­vorced, he lives in Sil­ver Spring and re­mains close with his daugh­ter, Asia, who was a col­lege track star at St. John’s. He’s in good shape de­spite hav­ing suf­fered four con­cus­sions in the pros.

“The first one was in Chicago, in 1975, where I tack­led [Bears Hall of Fame run­ning back] Wal­ter Pay­ton,” Net­tles said. “The next thing I re­mem­ber is sit­ting on the plane be­side [de­fen­sive end] Fred Cook and say­ing, ‘When we get to Chicago, let’s get some pizza.’ And Fred said, ‘Doug, we’re on our way home — the game is over.’ ”

That same year, while in Den­ver for a pre­sea­son game, Net­tles got to meet his bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther.

“My par­ents di­vorced when I was 1 and I hadn’t seen him since,” he said. “When I got there and he knocked on my ho­tel room door and I opened it, it was like look­ing in a mir­ror.”

Af­ter the game, Net­tles and his dad had din­ner and talked half the night.

“That was spe­cial, to be able to see him. Ev­ery­one wants to know a lit­tle about where they came from,” Net­tles said.

Af­ter foot­ball, Net­tles worked in phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sales for nearly 20 years, then turned to teach­ing.

“My salary dropped from six fig­ures to $30,000, but I en­joy help­ing kids learn to be re­spect­ful and re­spon­si­ble,” he said. For a cou­ple more years, any­way. Then, he said, “I’ll move to Florida, play golf in the morn­ings and be a beach bum in the af­ter­noons. I think I’ll be pretty good at it, too.”

BAL­TI­MORE SUN 1975

Corner­back Doug Net­tles tack­les Pa­tri­ots full­back Sam Cun­ning­ham (39) in the Colts’ 34-21 win at Memo­rial Sta­dium. Net­tles played in Bal­ti­more for five years.

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