Football without fear
I played my first game as a guard on the Savannah High B Team; we played Jesup, and in, 1948, they had one of the best teams in Georgia. When the going got tough on the field, the coach told me to go, and I went. I saw linemen and I trembled; they were giants.
I was knocked and slammed back and forth for several plays, but I learned not to let fear rule me.
Later, as a spectator, I saw this in Fran Tarkenton, son of a Methodist minister from Oxford who played at the University of Georgia before becoming a quarterback legend with the Minnesota Vikings.
Tarkenton was thirdstring when they faced the University of Texas. Georgia was being mauled; they could not get a single down, and it was the third quarter, third down, when Georgia was pinned near their 20-yard line.
Tarkenton stood it as long as he could, and jumping from the bench with burning impatience, he ran fearlessly onto the field toward the huddle. The first-string quarterback thought the coach had sent a replacement and ran to the sidelines.
Before the coach knew what had happened, Tarkenton had moved the team down field for a touchdown.
This was the beginning of one of the most dazzling careers in football history.
Tarkenton’s National Football League career record for pass completions came when Minnesota won over the San Diego Chargers. Tarkenton passed for his 2,831st in the 28-13 victory, Sunday, November 23, 1975.
This was Tarkenton’s 15th year in professional football. When the game was over, he had completed 24 passes for a total of 201 yards.
In 1976, while the Vikings were playing the New York Giants, Tarkenton passed his 92nd yard of the game, set a record of 40,241, and at that moment, became the leading passer of all time in pro football.
This startling event pushed John Unitas to the number two position as a passer. Looking back to when Tarkenton first began to play football, coaches thought his arm was not strong enough for him to be a quarterback. But he didn’t let their opinions stand in his way.
Tarkenton was often criticized because he played his own way, and did so with reckless abandon.
Nothing could stop Tarkenton from being the player he wanted to be, and history proved he was right. When his career ended he had thrown more touchdown passes, completed more passes, and ran for more yardage, than any quarterback in the history of professional football.
His all-time world records include most passes attempted in a season — 572, with 345 completions; most passes attempted in a lifetime — 6,467, with 3,686 completed.
After a serious injury in 1977, Tarkenton retired and turned his relentless energy to higher aspirations.
He knew the “never-never land” of football heroes didn’t last always, so he decided to become an entrepreneur.
The ex-football star said that money is not his driving ambition, although he is said to have built a personal fortune of over $70 million.
Gary Burley, of the Cincinnati Bengals, the player who tackled Tarkenton in the play that injured him and took him out, said, “To me, Tarkenton is the greatest quarterback in the history of football.”
Who says football heroes don’t last? I know he’s mine — the man who has a strong hold on reality and is not afraid to face a challenge.