From the time he began playing football at age 12 until his final training camp as a professional 22 years later. Ray Schoenke had never disobeyed a football coach.
He had never reported to camp overweight, never been late to meal, a meeting or a practice, never missed a bed check, never been fined a dime.
And then, in his final camp with the Redskins two years ago, Ray Schoenke went and did it. One sultry summer night in Carlisle, Pa. "After 12 years of playing," he said, "I just thought it was time to break curfew once in my life. So I did."
And with style.
"It was late in camp," Schoenke said, "I had an idea I probably wouldn't be playing after that year, so I just walked out of the door and down the steps. Actually, I slammed the door in the dorm. Then I slammed my car door and drove off.
"Where did I go?I just went to a bar, had a few drinks and shot the breeze with some friends. I stayed out very late as a matter of fact. I never did go back to the room. I just walked into breakfast.
"I guess you could say it was my one great act, of defiance, toward the regimentation of the whole system," Schoenke, now, a successful insurance executive, said the other day.
"I did it just to do it, to find out how it really felt, that's all. But you know something. They never found out. Nobody ever knew. I actually wanted to get caught, and I never did."
It could only happen in training camp.
And so, another Redskin summer is upon us. Some 60 young football players are sweating and straining in the stifling steam heat of a Pennsylvania July.
Most of the young ones will never make the team, and most of them know it. And yet, they grasp the opportunity to try, to strut their stuff for a coaching staff that probably already knows who will make it and who will not.
For the marginal veterans, training camp is a time of terror and turmoil. You never know when the dreaded knock on the door before breakfast and that gawdawful, chilling voice, saying. "Coach wants to see you," will come.
For the established players, it is a time to renew old aquaintances, refresh their memories and limber up muscles for the grueling ordeal of six preseason and 14 regular season games, and, they hope, three more after that in the playoffs.
"But I don't care how old you are, whether you're a rookie or a 15-year veteran," says Ron McDole, a survivor of 16 previous pre camps on four different teams. "You're always looking over your shoulder. No matter how good you are, or how good you think you are, there's always someone behind you to take your place."
"I guess it's one of the reasons you don't really try and get too close with the younger guys," says former all-pro linebacker Sam Huff. "You never know who will be there at breakfast. It can be a very sad time when they have to cut down. It hurts when a friend gets it and sooner or later, it can happen to you."
For the Redskins, training camp has been happening in Carlisle, Pa., a pleasant little town of 23,000 people and about a dozen bars two hours from downtown Washington, since 1963. The Routine
For the players, the days are always the same. The alarm goes off at 6:45 a.m. Attendance at breakfast from 7 to 8 is mandatory. Practice begins at 9:30 followed by lunch (optional) at noon, a blessed two-hour break in the afternoon, a 3:30 practice, at 6 p.m. dinner (mandatory) a 7 p.m. meeting lasting as late as 10, and an hour more of free time until curfew at 11 p.m.
The players usually live two to a room in a Dickinson College dormitory. They can rent air conditioners, television sets and small refrigerators, the better to chill the beer.
Coping with the heat, aching legs, constant pressure, excruciatingly long meetings, the absence of wives, girlfriends and children is difficult.
Jean Fugett says he gets all his personal correspondence for the year taken care of in camp, as many as 30 letters to friends and family. He also takes long drives in the country, goes through a dozen books and becomes a fanatical baseball fan, poring over the box scores in the local papers and the Sporting News and trying to pick up radio broadcasts in the dead of night from all over the country.
Ken Houston and Charley Taylor go fishing.
McDole tries to tend to his furniture business in Buffalo, tying up the pay phone in the dormitory whenever he can. He and roommate Diron Talbert go for what McDole calls "nature trips." They go to a lake, a nearby fish hatchery "and just look at the sky."
Len Hauss spends a lot of time lying in his room, staring at the ceiling. "It hurst, let's face it," he said the other day. "Your body continues to hurt until you get in shape. It hurts your arms, your shoulders, your legs.
"Nobody's hit me since last December. It takes time to adjust to that. And this year, we've only got two weeks to get in shape for our first game. It's probably going to be worse than ever." The Town
"The late, late show starts here at 7:30 p.m." Sonny Jurgensen said the first time he laid eyes upon Carlisle, and some local folks have never forgiven him.
"Nah. Sonny was about the only guy I never did get along with," said Bob Otto, who owned the popular Fireside Tavern three blocks away from the practice field.
"The first time he came in here he wanted me to discount his beer. We wouldn't do it. Then he kept complaining that it wasn't cold enough. Finally he stopped showing up. Who needed him?"
Other than their nightly forays into such hot spots as the Fireside. Harry's Bar, the Walnut Bottom Tavern and the Gingerbread Man, most Redskins have little contact with the townspeople, who are not allowed to watch practice.
Otto estimated his business picked up about 15 per cent when the Redskins came to town. But Connie Ray, the owner of the Walnut Bottom, three blocks from the team dormitory, insists she couldn't care less if the Redskins patronize her place.
"It's changed," she said. "The guys aren't as nice as they used to be. The old guys are fine, people like Lenny Hauss, Kilmer, McDole. But most of the players are terrible tippers and they give the help a real hard time. They want everything right now. They're always looking for a cheap drink.
"I guess they help business. More people come around just to get a look at them. But I don't need the Redskins. To tell you the truth, they're a pain."
Detective William Lamason of the Carlisle Police says the Redskins have never been a problem for his department.
"We arrested a rookie a few years back when he tried to hit one of the officers in a bar, but that's about it. We do have a problem with people stealing stuff from them. One player a few years ago had a gun stolen from his room. They've had record players and TV's carted out of there, but that's about it." The Legend of No. 9
Sam Huff describes Sonny Jurgensen as "one of the most overrated dissipaters in the history of the game. Hell, he was boring. Yeah, sure he ducked out after curfew, but you know what he did? He'd go to a bar, have a few drinks and play the juke box. Big deal."
Huff insists that Jurgensen's only problem was that he could not sleep at night. "He needed one or two hours while other people need seven or eight," Huff said. "So he wasn't hurting himself."
Jurgensen's roommate when he first came to Carlisle was Pat Richter, now an attorney in Madison, Wis."Yeah, I spent 15 per cent of my life sleeping in the same room with that guy." Richter deadpanned over the phone. "We had a good time, oh yes.
"He's a very intelligent man and we got along very well. I remember the first year, he always had a pad and pencil next to his bed. He said that whenever he had a dream, he wrote it down. I don't know why. He just did it.
"When he first came to Washington, his reputation had preceded him. But I tell you, he wasn't the only guy who took off.
"I know this, he never left the room when Lombardi was there. They put a coach in the room on either side of him. No way Sonny was leaving that room."
One of the more outrageous Jurgensen escapades occurred in the Otto Graham regime. Jurgensen bolted the team dormitory after curfew and took Graham's son Duey, a ball boy, with him.
"They went to a bowling alley," Ritcher said. "They actually went bowling. Otto found out, but that could he do? How do you fine your own kid." Fines
It can cost a man money for showing up late to a meeting or a practice, for missing breakfast, blowing curfew or reporting over his playing weight.
Verlon Biggs reportedly paid the largest overweight fine in Redskin history, some $2,500 for showing up 25 pounds overweight in 1971. The fine is $100 per pound.
Players will do strange things to avoid the excess baggage charges.Bill Curry, a former all-pro center and now a line coach in Green Bay, says some players put magnetic tap on the scale to make the indicator move in the desired direction. Other players simply used magnets.
Sherman Plunkett, the massive Jet lineman of a few years back, used to fluctuate between 325 and 350 pounds. The club never could find a scale big enough to weigh him. Plunkett added to the mystery by always buying his shirts two and three sizes too large so it would appear his clothes were baggy and he was losing weight.
Missing breakfast in Carlisle will cost a man $2 the first time, S4 the second time, $8 the third and so on. Ed (Double O) Boynton, the team's security man, checks off every player who walks through the line. He once figured that anyone who skipped the cornflakes and eggs for an entire preseason would owe the club about $150 million. Pass the grits, if you please. Rookies Shall Be Seen . . .
A year ago, Tommy Marvaso was the Redskins' sixth-round draft choice, a Washington boy made good fulfilling the ultimate fantasy of playing for the team he had pulled for all his life.
The reality of training camp quickly destroyed his Great American Dream.
"It was awful," said Marvaso, who was released by the Redskins in the final cut, then joined the Jets and played semi-regularly last season.
"I don't mean the physical part. I could handle all that. But not knowing what your future was, that was the bad part. I was always nervous. And after a while you start to think it didn't matter at all what you did on the field.
"I never associated with the older players. They rarely even talked to you. You can't blame them. Heck, I was trying to get one of their jobs. It's funny, though, when I came to the Jets. Namath came right up and introduced himself. What a guy.
"The Redskin camp got bad when they started cutting people. It was really sad. No. I never saw anybody cry. But there were a lot of broken dreams.
"I had no real complaints. I felt like they gave me a shot. It was between me and Eddie Brown, and look what he did for them last year. I gave it everything I had. What else can you do?
"The thing that hurt the most was that it was the first time I'd ever been cut from a team. I'd never been told you're not good enough until the Redskins did it. But I survived. I'm still playing. And I'm not a rookie any more." Women Left Behind
For 16 years, Paula McDole has watched her husband prepare to go off to training camp, and she knows all the tell-tale signs of The Football Itch.
"As camp gets closer. Ron gets very testy (the Dancing Bear a grizzly, oh my), kind of grouchy," Mrs. McDole said the other day. "He starts working out more, of course. You just see them start to gear up for it. And when they do go, everybody just says, Wheew, thank goodness he's gone."
"I'd say that lasts about a week. Then start missing him again. But that first week, I'm usually packing up the house and preparing to move from Buffalo to Virginia, so I keep occupied. I do look forward to it. It's a time for me to be alone.
"When he first started, there was always the pressure of making the team. It's always the same, that never really changes. Injury doesn't bother me. I just don't worry about it. A couple of years ago. Ron got knocked out in camp and he never even told me. I heard it $99Word Illegible$99) the grapevine."
And what about all the stories of Carlisle nightlife?
"Look, they're all big boys, they do what they want to do. I learned to live with the groupie thing a long time ago. Those things will happen if a person wants it to. I just think it's up to the individual and what kind of marriage they have.
"I know what kind of guy Ron is. I know what kind of marriage we have. Like I said, he's a big boy." The Turk
Tim Temerario has been cutting football players for faint-hearted coaches for 25 years, and his routine rarely varies.
"I like to get them first thing in the morning, wake them up," said Temerario, the Italian Turk. "It gives them a chance to collect their thoughts. Some of them don't even like to go to breakfast because they don't want to see their friends.
"I try to be a friend to them. You want to be as gentle as you can. I always point out to them it's just another phase of their lives. Just the fact that they were in a Redskin training camp is a mark of distinction. Yes, I believe that."
According to Temerario. Vince Lombardi never wanted to see a player after he cut him. Otto Graham would shake a man's hand and say goodbye. Allen, he says, "spends a lot of time with them. He asks them what they think of his camp, what improvements they'd make. He tries to learn from them."
Occasionally, Temerario's victims will curse him. Once in awhile, they will cry. One young man went over his head and talked Graham into keeping him around, as a linebacker instead of a guard.
"He lasted two weeks," Temerario said. "and then I cut him again.
"I look at it this way. Somebody has to do it, and it might as well be me. There's nothing amusing about it, but like I tell them, "This too, shall pass." The Good Old Days
Charley Taylor vividly remembers his first training camp. "I was scared," he says.
"I didn't know if I was going to be a running back or a defensive back. One day, I was standing on the sideline and Tom Tracy (a running back) went down. I heard Coach Bill McPeak say, "Gimme a running back' so I ran in. In my mind, that's how I ended up being a running back.
"The first time I got into a scrimmage, Sam Huff gave me a forearm upside the head. I had no helmet and he popped me real good. The first full scrimmage we had with pads, I did the same thing to him. Knocked him cold.
"But it's all different now. When I was a rookie. Bobby Mitchell and Johnny Sample used to send me out for hot dogs five minutes before curfew. Sure I went. I was quick back then.
"I'd get back at 'em the next day. I'd just run all over the field and make them catch me. If they didn't, the coaches would get 'em.
"They got us right back at dinner, though. They made us sing for our supper, the school song. We even put on a skit for the whole team at the end of camp. It was fun back then, but you don't do that any more.
"You ask a kid to sing for you now and he looks at you like you're crazy. They'll fight you Hey, training camp is tough enough. So nobody sings any more." Conclusion
"I think everybody dreads training camp to a degree," says Len Hauss. "It would be great if you could just play the games on Sunday. But you can't. So this is a necessary evil."
"I try to make sure I have something to keep me occupied whenever I have time off." says Jean Fugett. "If you go back to that room with nothing to do, hey, you'll go crazy soon enough."
"I don't mess around much," says Ron McDole. "Oh, we have our fun. We once penriled Manny Sistrunk in his room, wedged a pencil in so he couldn't open the door. Put very few of the old guys break the rules.
"George (Allen) is kind of funny about that stuff. If you break curfew or come in high, well. George kind of takes it personally. It's like you hurt him by doing it. It's not the fine that makes you feel bad, it's the way George looks at you."
And what about Allen.
"Training camp is a health spa." he says.