If you are 50 years or older, and played football, you will understand this article better than the younger group.
The modern football team has lost the excitement and entertainment of the football huddle. I never played for or coached a team that did not use the oval shaped huddle. Linemen would make up the front line of the huddle with their rear ends aimed at the opponents. Ends or receivers made up the far end of the huddle and the backs completed the oval more or less facing the opponents. The quarterback was opposite the ends, usually on one knee calling the play. That is the best description I can come up with.
As far as I can remember, Notre Dame in the late 1950s came up with the first big change with all the players standing upright facing the opponents with the quarterback, his back to the opponents, facing his team calling the plays.
From there, all hell broke loose with today’s huddles looking like a bunch of guys telling jokes to the no huddle approach so popular today. Some of you may even recall the “lonesome end” that West Point used where the end never went to the huddle. I never understood that one.
In the oval huddle, you could see who was getting the hell beat out of him. Our young quarterback asked our right guard if he could handle his man. The guard’s face was bruised and battered. And he had a piece of mud standing straight up on top of his helmet, looked like one of those old German helmets of World War I. The guard said, “The guy across from me is a gorilla. He is beating the hell out of me. Don’t you dare run the ball my way you dumb a___!”
It was not unusual for someone to throw up in the huddle. Many times the entire huddle would move a few feet right or left. Passing gas was very common. If we were winning all laughed, if we were losing we hurried back to the scrimmage line. I even remember a freshman coming into a game late and filled his pants, a very good reason to call a time out.
We had a senior who was injured over several games. We were getting beat bad and for some reason, our coach sent him in late in the game. When he entered the huddle his first comment was, “OK guys, I’m here!” We were laughing so hard we had to call a time out.
I used the “no huddle offense” once against Jack O’Rourke’s 1973 Blanchester team. Worked like a charm. We won and we could hear them the whole game trying to figure out our calls and where we were going.
I will not try to figure out today what is going on with how coaches are sending in plays. Large placards being held up, coaches and players going through all kinds of gyrations on the sidelines, but it seems to work.
Regardless, give me the old oval huddle any time.
Tony Lamke is a former coach. He writes a periodic column for the News Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.