The upstanding country boy quarterback of the Baltimore Colts never, never put a frog down a little girl's back.
"No," said Bert Jones, horrified. "I valued frogs too much. I ate them."
Is there no question that will uncover an ugly speck on his soul? A rock on his road from Ruston, La., to the penthouse neighborhood of the National Football League's elite quarterbacks?
Jones, who'll direct the Colts against the Washington Redskins here Friday night, admits to having buck teeth, bow legs and bunions. He admits to impatience, expecting too much, at times, of himself and his teammates.
He even admits that he has not come close to winning the heart of Baltimore away from the quarterback, John Unitas.
Having made these admissions, Jones hops into a near-stranger's car, helps himself to a pack of gum on the dashboard and laments, "Why didn't you remind me to bring my laundry?"
Whatever problems Jones has had, he has apparently chopped them to toothpick size with simple tools. He is an optimist, an earnest laborer and studen, and he possesses considerable physical talent and conscience.
The most horrible moment in his memory concerned an incident that occurred when he was 9 years old and his father found out he had poured cement into the gas tank of a bulldozer. Jones remembers his father kicking a chair across the room. He remembers himself feeling "close to death." The Joneses were strict and had only one rule: be good people.
He never poured cement into a gas tank again.
Colt Coach Ted Marchibroda says, "Bert is as fine a young man as he is a player. And that helps him, difinitely."
Marchibroda does not think Jones has far to go to reach his peak.
"He's already there," said Marchibroda. "The thing that's most amazing about him is how quickly he picked up the knowledge."
Marchibroda refers here to the turnaround in Jones' career after his first two years, during which he piloted the Colts to a 6-22 record. Jones identifies himself in this period as "a pumpkin." Then Marchibroda was hired, bringing with him needed coaching stability and, as Jones put it, "made me a jack-o'-lantern."
Jones and Marchibroda met daily in April and May of 1975 for tutoring.
"It's truly a science," Jones said. "I am a consciencious student of the game. My throwing and running skills haven't changed at all since I've come in the league. I would imagine I can probably throw the ball 80 yards. Who knows? But this is an art, and strength of the arm is not the vital thing.
"To have the ability to finesse the ball is the most vital aspect, to throw it with touch instead of strength, and to know how to segregate the two.
"Ninety per cent of my game is played with the movie projector. Boy, I can sure throw - but to do it at the right time to the right person in the right situation is the key to my success, and the success of the club."
After Marchibroda's offseason tutoring, Jones' first two years of 6-22 were left behind for three seasons of 31-11 and three straight division titles. Jones' statistics fell off only slightly last year, but this season marks the return of his favorite receiver, Roger Carr, who sat out most of last year with a knee injury.
So where does Jones think he is in his career? He wants to win a Super Bowl, as nothing differentiates a quarterback quite so effectively as the ability to apply the latest Super Bowl ring. But Jones is not obsessed with it, as Ken Stabler was in recent years.
"I want to be the best I can be," said Jones.
And the look on his face reveals the peculiar satisfaction of a man who is both already there and also still on the way. His goal is a moving target, potential being an ever-changing commodity.
"Every year is different in that I am always learning more and more," said Jones. "My career is like a building that will never be finished. You just keep adding on."
Self-assessement is not one of Jones' favorite subjects, so he gladly greets teammate John Dutton, who had driven up to take Jones to the movies. Jones takes another pice of gum, and, to spare himself the complication of opening Dutton's door, he climbs in the passenger window.
Jones is simple. He loves football, his family and hunting. "I like the outdoors," he said, "because it is the opposite of confinement."
Jones has a three-story condominium in one of those sprawling complexes in Baltimore ("Isn't this awful?" he asks driving up), but his permanent residence has always been in rural Ruston, a few blocks from his father's house.
"I've never moved here because I have too much going for me back home," said Jones. "It's not that I don't like it here. It's just not home."
There is a book out on Jones that he has never read in which Unitas writes in the introduction, "I don't know what Bert's priorities are as far as his future life back home goes, but I think he may be missing something by not spending more time here (Baltimore) in the off season."
Jones says, "I don't spend much time in Baltimore. I'm not big on the John Doe public hassle! I can't just walk into a bar, unless I put on a big nose and a moustache.
"Bert Jones the public figure takes away from being somebody with your own personality."
Jones even finds that he has to defend his favorite pastime, hunting.
"People say, 'You like to shoot things dead? You like to blow things away?' I'm not a killer. That hurts," said Jones.
"I doubt that I will ever have the bond with Baltimore that Johnny Unitas had. Heroism was easier in that era. It's hard to create a big hero after the biggest hero of all time."
This is not to imply that Baltimore and Bert Jones are not getting along. They're just not in love.
"They like him," says an old Baltimorian. "They just don't identify with him. He's not a symbolic figure. He's just a very goo quarterback, like Unitas was. Unitas was like Baltimore. He grew up in a working man's city (Pittsburgh).
"He had been rejected (by the Steelers), like Baltimore had felt rejected in the shadow of Washington. We didn't have any good teams, people said we talked funny and they thought Baltimore was jsut some place you passed on the train between Washington and New York. Unitas changed all that.
"Everyone realizes that players now are entertainers. They can play out their option any time and leave. You don't want to give your heart to Bert Jones, because he may break it."
Jones has accepted this situation much the way he dealt with a case of rickets, a disease that cause him to wear braces on his legs in his pre-school days.
"It's like anything else," said Jones. "If you don't know any other way, it doesn't bother you."
Jones realizes he has more treasures than most people will ever imagine, so he worries only about the really pressing problems. Like the laundry.