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Sonny Jurgensen And Steve Spurrier At The Touchdown Club [UPDATED]

Posted by Matt Terl on June 7, 2011 – 10:16 am

Every so often here at Redskins Park, someone opens a box from storage or a drawer that’s somehow been ignored for years, and finds something completely awesome. This picture — which you can click to enlarge — is one of those somethings.

The date-stamp — which is literally that, a hand-stamped date — on the back of the photo indicates that it was captured by Nate Fine Photo on January 14, 1967. That — combined with the sign hanging behind the three pictured gentleman — confirms that it’s from the 32nd Annual Touchdown Club Awards Banquet, at the Sheraton-Park Hotel in D.C. (Which, in case you’re curious, was known as the Sheraton Washington by the time I was growing up, and is now the Marriott Wardman Park.)

The fellow on the left was being recognized for winning something called the Walter Camp Memorial Award — not the more famous Walter Camp Player Of The Year award, which started that same year and is voted on by coaches, but the Touchdown Club’s own award — which was presented annually to “the outstanding college back in America” (according to this old SI article about 1969 winner Archie Manning).

He came into this banquet having just won an even MORE famous award, the Heisman Trophy, and he would return to D.C. as head ballcoach of the pro team — bizarrely — thirty-five years later TO THE DAY (at least if you go by the date on this AP story). His name, obviously, is Steve Spurrier.

On the far right of the picture is Sonny Jurgensen, who was being honored as the Outstanding Pro Player following a 1966 season in which he led the Redskins to a 7-7 record while compiling 3,209 passing yards with 28 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

(The guy in the middle is a little bit of a mystery to me, and I’ll get back to him at the end.)

Thirty-five years later, Jurgensen would be one of the color commentators on the broadcasts for the Spurrier-coached Redskins, and would be candidly critical of the coach. (“It hasn’t been good,” Jurgensen would tell the Washington Post’s Leonard Shapiro, fourteen weeks into Spurrier’s first season with the Redskins. “It’s sloppy at times, and it’s been undisciplined, which is very discouraging. That’s been our focus — wasting timeouts, not protecting the football. You look at this team, and there are five games they could have won. But they beat themselves. Gosh, enough. Enough.” To be fair, he would go on to blame a lack of athleticism on the team; that’s a tough case to argue against, but … those criticisms don’t really seem to be pointed at the players.)

But this night, both were being honored for their undeniable on-field accomplishments — which might raise a couple of questions about their appearance in this picture.

For example, Why does Sonny Jurgensen look so very angry?


It could be anything, of course — maybe the camera just caught him at the wrong moment — but I suspect that William Gildea‘s account in the next day’s Washington Post explains it. The headline is “Image as Playboy Haunts Jurgensen,” and here’s the relevant excerpt:

Following the awards banquet Saturday night at the Sheraton-Park Hotel, Jurgensen was visibly upset over remarks made by the master of ceremonies, Bill Malone, who depicted the Redskins’ quarterback as a high-liver.

Jurgensen wasn’t only upset over the content of Malone’s humorous references concerning him but also their frequency between presentations. Jurgensen also felt the remarks “didn’t fit in with the award” which, he said, he was “flattered” to receive.

A sample of Malone’s lines was, “Jurgensen’s been thrown out of more bars than (Joe) Namath`s been in.”

Said Jurgensen afterward, “I hope I don’t portray that image. if I do, I should live like it. I don’t. If I lived like that, I couldn’t play like that this season.”

And, later in the piece, Jurgensen adds:

“I want to win-more than anything else, l want to be a championship quarterback. l have a burning desire to win football games. I get carried away with it. It’s the only thing I want to do. Winning is important to me as a professional athlete.”

Living down the reputation of high-liver he acquired in Philadelphia is important to Jurgensen and as outward testimony that he is earnest is his new trim figure-though he emphasized he cared no less about winning previously.

Jurgensen considered Malone’s remarks as giving a contrary impression and reviving the Philadelphia image, the one he had hoped to be rid of. “That’s what hurt tonight,” Jurgensen said. “l don’t want anything to endanger the (new) image.”

Which points to another question: Why does Jurgensen look so skinny? Gildea has your answer there as well.

Jurgensen said he lost weight on [Redskins coach Otto] Graham’s instruction. “You don’t throw the football with your stomach,” Jurgensen said. “I’ve never felt my losing weight had anything to do with football. But Otto said that in camp my belly was going to be smaller than his. That’s Otto’s quote.

“He asked me to come in at 205. I came in at 193. I enjoyed losing weight.”

So that explains Jurgensen’s slightly sour expression and trim physique. But, you might ask, Why does Steve Spurrier look so smug?

The short answer seems to be “That’s just the way he is” — in 1995, Spurrier’s arrogance would be the subject of a 3,000+ word piece in Sports Illustrated — but for the longer answer, let’s go back to Gildea’s notes from the night, which include a selection of comments from the even-then-quotable Spurrier:

Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier, recipient of the Walter Camp Memorial Trophy as the outstanding college back, said he has talked “a couple of times” with Allie Sherman, New York Giants’ coach, and added, “They say they’re supposed to get the first quarterback. Of course, that’s not certain” . . .

Asked if he had any qualms about facing big pro defensive linemen, the slender Spurrier said, “No, you can’t worry about something you don’t have control over. Like talking to newspaper-men, you might not like it but you make the best of it” . . .

Spurrier joked with [Redskins head coach Otto Graham, who presented an award at the event], “Say, coach, should I ask for $400,000 or $500,000? Wasn’t it Coach Lombardi who said, ‘We have so much money we have to keep giving big bonuses?”‘ “I don’t think he did,” Graham replied.

So that answers that. Which leaves only the mystery of the middle guy in the picture. The other folks Gildea mentions as having received awards that night include

  • Jimmy Heneghan (a 75-pound nine-year-old);
  • Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (older than Middle Guy);
  • Orioles triple-crown winner Frank Robinson (both older and less white than Middle Guy);
  • Notre Dame linebacker Jim Lynch (a remote possibility);
  • Notre Dame athletic director Moose Krause (definitely too old);
  • coaches Tom Cahill, Tom Landry, and Hank Stram (all too old);
  • Jim Nance of the Boston Patriots (eliminated from contention for the same reasons as Frank Robinson);
  • Patriots center Jon Morris, formerly of Gonzaga High, who looks nothing like Middle Guy;
  • UVA quarterback Bob Davis.

Davis actually seemed like a good possibility — that would mean that picture was of three quarterbacks, which makes some kind of sense — but an image of him from UVA looked almost nothing at all like Middle Guy.

I tried the movie trick of yelling “Enhance” at the plaque on his trophy on my computer screen to see if I could make out a name, but that just yielded a greyish blur.

I even asked Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, usually a lock to know these sort of things. He looked at the picture, said, “1966, right?” Then said, “Johnny? Johnny something? Johnny Musso, maybe?” before shrugging and going back to much more important things.

Johnny Musso was an Alabama running back who bounced around the CFL, the WFL, and finished his career with the Chicago Bears, and this picture … could be a young Musso, I suppose. He would’ve been 16 years old at the time, and starring at Banks High School in Birmingham, Alabama, so I’m not sure why the Touchdown Club of Washington would’ve been honoring him, but it’s at least possible.

Other than that, I’m at a loss; if anyone recognizes Middle Guy, please let me know.

UPDATE: Commenter John appears to have ID’ed Middle Guy as then-Einstein H.S. student Richard “Eyes” Eisenacher. More details to come.


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One Response to “Sonny Jurgensen And Steve Spurrier At The Touchdown Club [UPDATED]”

  1. By Jerry Brown on Dec 2, 2013 | Reply

    According to Bonavia, Patterson is the first (Einstein) Titans player to sign a Division I football scholarship directly out of high school since 1967, when Richard “Eyes” Eisenacher committed to play quarterback at Auburn.

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