he TV lights raised glitters off the blood on Dan Audick's nose. Here is a nose that has been places and run into things. Here is an offensive tackle's nose, with the distinctive indentation between the eyes caused by the helmet crumpling down on the bone everytime you hit a guy. Here is the nose of a man once disqualified in a wrestling match with a bear. He bit the bear's ear. And under this bony, bumpy, bloody nose was as grand a smile as ever warmed a mother's heart.
"Mom was here today," Dan Audick said.
This is a big thing.
They had Stella Audick's boy in front of the TV lights today after the 49ers beat the Bengals, 26-21. They asked Dan Audick how it felt to be a world champion. They asked him how cool Joe Montana was. They asked him how a fourth-round dogfighter from nowhere could handle a first-round wonderman (Ross Browner) out of Notre Dame. They asked him to go on CBS-TV with Brent. Three years ago, there wasn't anybody asking Dan Audick anything except if he had plane fare to get out of town.
"Spooky, very spooky," Audick said of the second half, when the Bengals tried to win. "They were blitzing on every play, putting pressure on us every play. Listen, they had a six-gun and they filled it up with bullets and they let all the bullets fly."
Stella Audick's boy dodged them all today. Stella and Al Audick, an Air Force man now retired to Alexandria, Va., have 10 children scattered all over America. They were all here, from New York and New Jersey, Los Angeles and San Diego, Boston and Colorado Springs, Alexandria and Memphis. They sat up behind the San Francisco 49ers' bench, and the first thing Dan Audick did when they introduced him in the Silverdome today was raise his left fist toward his family.
"I didn't see them, but I knew they were there," Audick said, "and I wanted them to know this was as big deal for them as it was for me. My mom doesn't get to see many games. I'm really happy she was here."
Give the MVP stuff to Joe Montana. The kid was at the front of the line when they passed out the good arms. But save back a piece of your admiration for Dan Audick, who only three years ago was a tackle without a team, a 24-year-old vagabond keeping a hand in the game he loves as an unpaid coach for the junior varsity at Fort Hunt High in Fairfax County.
He's played for five NFL teams in four seasons. He's been on the phone to most of the rest, asking if anybody needed a lineman. Out of work in '77, he sold cars--but when he only could sell one '72 Lark in six weeks, he quit. He wrestled the bear about then, too, and you can see the whole thing on film at his mom's house.
Coaches love dogfighters. You don't measure a dogfighter by computer. They're mean enough to bite a bear's ear. You find that out by seeing them work. It is no accident that Dan Audick, rejected by many, has been sought out by old bosses who needed the right stuff a dogfighter carries with him.
The 49ers' press guide says of Dan Audick: " . . . has done an excellent job despite lack of great size or athletic ability."
Come 9 o'clock this morning, a lot of very large tackles with wonderful athletic ability were not eating breakfast in the Southfields Hilton and trying to think of anything except the Super Bowl.
Audick sat down a few minutes to play video games.
No thoughts of Ross Browner? Browner is the Bengals' left end, a No. 1 draft choice from Notre Dame the same year the Steelers made Audick, out of the University of Hawaii, a fourth-rounder. Audick played the rocketship games, he said, so he wouldn't think of what was going to happen five hours after the 49ers climbed on the bus for the hour's ride to the Silverdome.
At 1 o'clock, Audick sat at his locker, taping up. The trainer does his ankles. Then Audick tapes his shoulder pads, turning tape inside out to hold his jersey against the pads so linemen can't get a hold. He tapes his fingers and wraps them with a bandage, then taping over plastic shields on his wrists.
"Two hours to tape," he said. "Two hours to wait."
Cut by the Steelers and Cleveland and St. Louis, Audick went to his parents' house in '78. There, coaching at Fort Hunt, he realized he'd forgotten something. He'd forgotten he played football for fun. He'd thought of "fame and riches," as he put it, "instead of the joy in the game." The time at Fort Hunt "was a catharsis."
He caught on the last game of '79 with San Diego, then coached by his old St. Louis boss, Don Coryell. A starter all of '80 when the first-stringer was injured early, Audick yet was traded away for a third-round draft choice--traded to the woebegone San Francisco 49ers, whose line coach Bobb McKittrick had been at San Diego with Audick.
Two hours to wait.
"I was thinking how much my back hurt, how much my neck hurt, hoping the pain would go away."
Did it? "You know that scene in 'All That Jazz' when the dancer wakes up in the morning and throws water in his face and he looks like he's had his face kicked all night long? But when it comes times, he does it. I hurt everywhere. But when the game starts, it's show time."
What a smile this dogfighter had under that bloody nose.