What Determines a “Big Moment” in Football?
by Dave Rowe
People will often ask a football player, what was your most exciting moment in football or what was the biggest game you ever played in? Looking back, the obvious game’s are easy, your first game; your last game in high school or college; championship games and perhaps great upsets! For me it’s perhaps the same but with some interesting twists.
In high school it was the last game. All of a sudden you realize you will not go back out onto that field ever again as a player. My high school coach, Roy Pickens, had a nice tradition where he called your name while you were sitting on the bench during the last practice and you ran the length of the field while the other players clapped and cheered. Goal post to goal post – it was my first SPECIAL moment!
At Penn State the pressure was continuing a winning tradition. Penn State had not had a losing season in 35+ years. We were playing a big rival at that time – Pittsburgh. We had to win to have just a 5 - 5 season. We won, big and the season was over. No great Penn State tradition. I looked over at a teammate, Bob Vukmer, and he was crying. Naturally, I said, “what’s the matter?” He said, “I just played my last football game… my LAST! I guess it never hit me that college football was over. It was not a great season. It was just over.
Now many of people probably thought “it wasn’t that big a deal because you knew you were going on to play in the NFL.” WRONG! I thought back, one time, to when I realized that I would go on to the NFL. I’d like to think that it was during my senior year and it was just a matter of who would draft me, but it wasn’t!
I actually finished the season and was called into Coach Paterno’s office. GOOD LORD, what have I done now? Coach Paterno says, “There are a couple of bowl games that want you to play in them, do you want to? I literally had NO IDEA what he was saying. Bowl games - don’t entire teams go play in them? No, theses are games where they pay for you to play by paying for all your expenses. Sounded great to me, so the East West Shrine, Hula Bowl and College All Star games extended my season for a few additional weeks.
My first hint of professional football would come after I returned to college. All of a sudden I was receiving letters about professional teams that might “draft."
Now you have to understand that professional football was not a major TV production as it is today. Television was a three network thing - ABC, CBS and NBC. If memory serves me right, we might have played two or three games on major network TV during my last two years in college. Interestingly, I don’t believe I ever watched a professional football game on TV before I played in one! Even as I started playing professional football, all the NFL games were not on TV! It was REALLY something to play on Monday night!
Obviously, I have had many GREAT moments and games as professional player but until we get into that, a few high school and college memories will just have to do!
… as I have often heard it said, “The best is yet to come!”
Former Oakland Raider, NBC Analyst, and College Football Analyst Dave Rowe recently retired to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina after more than a 50 year association with the game of football. Eye on Sports Media approached Dave and asked him if he would like to write a series of guest articles recounting his history with the game. The man, who proudly states that his rear-end is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, thought it would be fun.