Army 150 pound Football – 1957
Through the season, our Classmate, Quarterback Ralph Wensinger was a rock. He was a super athlete, very competitive, never gave up, and loved football. We became close. I loved the guy.
In one game at Shea Stadium, I began to chew on our backs for poor running. “Come on guys, we’re opening huge holes and you’re just trying to get tackled.” I kept chewing on them in the huddles, until they told me to shut up: “why don’t you run the ball yourself?”
Soon, it was halftime, and Ralph pulled me aside as we went into the locker room. “John, you’re right, let’s show them how to run the ball “you’re going to run it, and I’m going to block for you.”
He took me into the showers and practiced a pitch-out to the fullback – me! I was a good tackle, but had never run the football. I knew we could do it; I only worried about catching the pitch-out. As the team left the locker room for the second half, Ralph said, “When you’re ready to run it, just tell me, but tell nobody else, not even the fullback – who’ll be playing left tackle.
The second half started and we were running a lot to the right, which meant my job was to go through the line and cut off the defensive halfback. I was beating this guy up pretty good, play after play, and he got tired of it. As a play ended and the whistle blew before I hit him, I pulled up short of him and he punched me right in the kisser. Hard. Faceguards were optional back then and I didn’t wear one. I thought they prevented me from getting my nose into a block or a tackle. (Had nose surgery at Walter Reed Army Hospital after the season.) The punch split my lip on the inside and an ugly strip of skin hung down from inside my upper lip. Lots of blood. The referees missed it, of course. I ran back to the huddle and Ralph saw me coming.
“Now?” he asked. “Now,” I replied.
Ralph called the play, a pitchout to the right, grabbed the shocked fullback and told him, “Go play left tackle.” Not a question – he did. Brad Johnson our great Center snapped the ball to Ralph, and he turned to his right and pitched the ball to me already running to the right. I caught the ball and tucked it tightly under my right arm (like a loaf of bread, Coach Tipton later said) and took off toward the right sideline. On my left ran Ralph, he said, “Slow down, John, give our blockers a chance.” And block they did, cutting down almost everybody between me and the goal, 44 yards away. Ralph then calmly said, “My turn now”, and he took out the last tackler. I ran as fast as I could toward the goal line, but my fast wasn’t as fast as a couple of the defensive backs, and they caught me and dragged me down at the 7-yard line.
Coach Eric Tipton called time out and yanked me out of the game, laughing so hard he cried. I spent the rest of the game on the bench.
But, I had bragging rights for the rest of the season. “Hey guys – just remember who averages 37 yards per carry!” Ralph got the credit though. As I write this 50 years later, I still remember his cool, “My turn now!”
John Brinson USMA 1958