Jo Bob Priddy, 65
Guard, Texas, 9th year Ht: 6-7 Wt: 270, Born 1950, (D-2 for 1970)
Pro: Although Jo Bob is no longer the player he once was, opponents still fear his wild and reckless style of play. Defensive linemen run the other way when Jo Bob's pupils begin to dilate. "He really understands the game," said one coach, but not much else.
College: Texas, briefly.
Personal: Married, divorced, bizarre. Jo Bob's favorite foods include B-12 shots and programs, but only before games.
Who is Jo Bob Priddy?
"I was in there," said Ralph Neely, a former Cowboy tackle, talking about the movie "North Dallas Forty," based on Pete Gent's 1973 novel about life in the NF of L.
"I didn't bang my head on lockers. But the part about the guy in the three-piece suit and the business deal, that was me. I always worked during the off season."
And about the fight between Jo Bob and Monroe White?
"That was me and Jethro Pugh," said Neely. "They even gave the guy Jethro's number 75. Jethro and I were always fighting our rookie year. They were trying to make Jethro more aggressive."
Pugh, a defensive tackle who retired after the 1978 season, has not seen the movie. He read only part of the book because, he said, "it was boring and I couldn't finish it."
Told about Neely's observation, Pugh replied, "If I'm a character, it's not true, that's for sure."
Some people think they can see former Cowboys Don Talbert (brother of the Redskins' Diron) and George Andrie in Jo Bob.
"A lot of things in there actually happened," said Don Talbert, who has not seen the film. "One day, we taped up all of Pete's hair because he was a rookie. When he took it off, all his hair and eyelashes fell out."
Andrie, a retired defensive end living in Waco, Tex., has not read the book or seen the movie. "People keep asking me which one was I?" Andrie said. "I'm nobody, I don't believe."
Andrie swiftly switched the subject to something he felt he knew more about. "Can I ask you a personal question?" he said."Do you like sex?"
"North Dallas Forty," the movie, has done for professional football what "Valley of the Dolls" did for Hollywood. Everyone wants to know who's who.
Even the Cowboys -- past and present -- are not sure. And Gent, who wrote the book and collaborated on the screenplay, is not saying.
"It would not be fair," Gent said. "It is fiction."
Tex Schramm, the Cowboys' president and general manager, does not think he is in it.
"I don't think they had someone in the role," he said. But Schramm went to see the movie anyway because he knew that in his executive role with the Cowboys, he would be asked about it.
"Here's the difficult situation that we're put in with this type of book," he said. "It's supposed to be fiction so we can't complain because fiction is fiction. It's not a documentary. However, because of the locale and because of the author, people automatically assume it is an honest portrayal of what football is about."
What people do not "take into consideration," Schramm said, "is that the person who wrote it might be a sick man."
The picture's protagonist, Phil Elliott, is supposed to be Gent, who played for the Cowboys from 1964 to 1968. Elliott is an aging wide receiver who has the audacity and the good sense to ask the simple question "Why?"
"North Dallas Forty" is not a story in which the Cowboys ride off into the sunset. That explains why the Dallas Cowboys' management does not like it very much.
Asked to comment on the film, Clint W. Murchison, the team's chairman of the board, said. "I'll pass."
Two current Cowboys, Harvey Martin and Thomas Henderson, passed up parts in the film because they knew how the front office felt.
"I wanted to do it bad," Martin said. "But it just wouldn't have looked good. I couldn't do it for the simple reason that it was about the Dallas Cowboys, and it definitely was taking a shot at the Dallas Cowboys."
Martin said there was "no pressure" not to do it but, "I did get some phone calls from people at the Cowboys' office. They didn't talk that much but I knew what they were talking about."
The people in the Cowboy front office see themselves as the good guys here. God-fearin', church-goin', law-abidin' folk. But in "North Dallas Forty," the North Dallas Bulls become the guys in the black hats.
Most of the players are depicted as drug-crazy, girl-crazy, and crazy-crazy. Management manipulates them into taking potentially dangerous injections of painkillers, like xylocaine, coerces them to play with permanently disabling injuries and then discards them when they are no longer of any use to The Team.
The Cowboys do not like or accept the portrait, thank you. Pete Gent, they say, is the real bad guy here, a veritable outlaw in the National Football League, the kind of fellow you would tell to be out of town by sundown.
In fact, the Cowboys did their best to shoot down the project when the movie company tried to film scenes in Dallas.
Tom Fears, the former head coach of the New Orleans Saints, who was the film's technical adviser, said, "We weren't welcome in Dallas. We couldn't rent the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys have nothing to do with it. But they're influential in town."
Not influential enough. They could not permanently banish the show from Dallas. There it is, bigger than life, playing at the UA Cine I, a first-run theater so close to the Cowboys' building that Tex Schramm can read the marquee from his office window.
Wayne Hoopes, manager of the theater, said business had been good, but not as good as that for "Rocky II" next door. On the August weekends when the Cowboys played exhibition games at home, the theater, which seats 500, had fewer than 50 people at each showing.
Hoopes said several of the Cowboys had been in to see the picture. "There was one guy, no longer in football, John Niland. His comment was, "Well, I saw a few of my ex-teammates on the screen portrayed just like they were."
Schramm saw the moving during training camp. "We feel the same way not as when the book came out," he said. "Even in those days, it was not an accurate portrayal of life on a professional football team."
Schramm managed to refrain from getting up and walking out during the picture, but he admits that several things "bugged" him about it a lot: "the portrayal of athletes as animals, the supposed insensitivity of management and coaches."
He shook his head. "It just isn't that way."
There are no computers in Tom Landry's office. Landry is supposed to be the model for the cold-hearted coach, B. A. Strothers, who quotes the apostle Paul and computer printouts.
"I oppose anything that exploits vulgarity," said Landry, looking his questioner square in the eye, something B. A. does not do. "I won't support it with my time or my money."
Landry has not seen the film, nor does he so intend. He has not read the book, either. It is possible to "isolate situations in anything and blow it out of proportion," said Landry, "and it is a discredit to the players and the coaches of the caliber we have.
"I saw 'Rocky' and I thought it was an excellent film. There was no vulgarity, no drugs, none of the things that are taking this country apart."
In the 1960s when Gent was a wide receiver with the Cowboys, "the whole country was a drug culture, a hippie culture," Landry said. "Pete came out of that era. I'm afraid he might have been part of it."
Landry says his friends have told him plenty about the movie. "Why see it? he asked. "Why confirm something you're already aware of? I'm not that curious to find out that's the way it really is."
Like most Cowboys, past and present, who have seen the film, Larry Cole liked it. "Landry should see it," said Cole, a defensive end. "But he won't."
"Was the movie fair? he was asked.
"It wasn't intended to be," he replied.
"Like anything in movies and television. It's got to be overdone."
"Sure there was some exaggeration," said Neely. "It's show biz. But I think they held it to a minimum."
Especially in the scenes about the veteran who is cut. The team is watching game films. An offensive lineman named Stallings has blown his blocking assignment. His failure is forever frozen on film. There is nervous laughter. After the meeting, he is cut.
That really happened. To Jim Boeke, a former offensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys, who just happened to play the part in the film.
When the producers told him they needed "a guy to get cut, an old vet," Boeke said, "I'm your man. I've been there."
Gent says that Boeke was the inspiration for the character but he did not know that Boeke had been cast for the role until he saw him on the set. Gent recalled what really happened:
"We were playing in the championship game in 1967, and Jim jumped offside, something anyone could do. The NFL Films showed it from six or seven angles. They had it in slo-mo, and in overheads. It literally ended his career."
Boeke, now a high school English teacher in Westminster, Calif., studies acting in his spare time (his appearance in "The Six Million Dollar Man" made him a hero with his students).
"People say, 'Wow, your reactions were really good,'" Boeke said. "They were real to me because I'd been there. I hope some of the studying paid off too."
There were some differences between the film version and Boeke's fate. He played another season for the Cowboys and was let go during the exhibition season in 1969. "I was removed from the kickoff wedge," he said. "When you get taken off the wedge, there isn't much further to go.
"I asked Jim Myers (a coach) if they were going to trade me. He assured me he didn't know. Two days later, I was called into a meeting right after practice and they told me I had been traded to New Orleans. Cut, traded, it's the same thing.
"That's the way it goes," he continued. "It was a powerful, truthful thing. One minute you're there. The next they're pulling the sign off the locker."
Boeke says the beginning of the movie, where the aging wide receiver, Phil Elliott, painfully struggles to get out of bed, is also truthful and powerful.
"I'm sitting here 10 years after . . . and my hip's killing me, and I've got a pinched nerve in my neck that goes all the way down the right side . . . These scenes, I can't say it happens to every player every morning after every game, but the older you get, the more it happens to you."
Cole and Neely say that lots of other things depicted happened in reality. They remember that hunting trip. They were there.
"Football players have only one day off a week and if they go hunting, they're sure as hell going to shoot something," Cole said. "We shot butterflies, field larks . . ."
And "a mail box," Neely added.
Cole and Neely also testified to the veracity of the locker room scenes.
Neely said, "That part where (John) Matuszak blew his cool at the coach, that's true. That's part of the psychology. On the one hand they want you to be loyal to the team. But when you're talking about money, they're saying, 'We're a business. We've got to make money to survive.'"
Cole declared that some of the pre-game rituals "which on the outside seem ridiculous, are necessary if you're going to play disciplined football. I remember John Wilbur, who used to play for the Redskins (and the Cowboys), used to run into walls. Then there were the sleepers and the coffee drinkers. I'm a coffee drinker."
The most controversial, some might say, tasteless, pregame ritual in the film was the sermon delivered in praise of God, the team and its owner.
"Not to be sacrilegious," Neely said, "but it is hard to sit down and say a prayer, then . . . It was the truth, there was nothing false about it. I never heard anyone get up and say, 'Let's go kill the -- ; but I know a lot of guys who wanted to."
Part of Fears' job as technical adviser was to advise when Hollywood was running an end-around against reality. "I objected strenuously to that scene," he said. "They said they knew it wasn't correct. But that was the artistic privilege they took."
Gent swears there is "no exaggeration" in it at all. In fact, he says, after the remark was made, the chastened player turned to the priest and apologized. And, Gent says, the priest replied, "It's okay, son, I know how you feel."
The scene is as irreligious as Hartman, the backup quarterback in the picture, is religious. Most people assume that the humorless, Bible-toting, Osmond-ogling quarterback is intended to be Roger Staubach.
"That's the thing you resent," Schramm said. "That just isn't the way Roger is. He has a great sense of humor. He's made out to be a religious buffoon."
Staubach saw a few minutes of the movie while waiting for another film to begin. He does not think he is going to bother to see th rest. He knows he has been "stereotyped as the Christian type."
When a visitor mentioned she would not blame him for being upset about the movie given the unflattering portrayal, Staubach replied, almost sharply, "Was I in it?"
Neely does not think so.
"Staubach wasn't even here before Peter left," he said."Craig (Morton) had not seen the light. I think they just stuck Roger in to bring it up to date."
"It's not Staubach," Gent said. "But don't tell him, it'll break his heart. That character was based on any number of players who got into all that religious bull. I needed a character like that to play off Maxwell."
Ah, Maxwell, the irrepressible Greek chorus of a quarterback, who calls the shots and the plays in the film. He is supposed to be Don Meredith.
Meredith has not seen the film, but he read the novel. When it was published, Meredith said, "If I had known Gent was that good, I would have thrown to him more."
Dan Reeves, the Cowboys' offensive coordinator, who caught a lot of Meredith's passes in his playing days, saw the film but wishes he hadn't. "The only one that came out good," he said, "was Gent."
Reeves objected to the language in the movie (as did Boeke and Landry), almost as much as the scenes about drug abuse. Reeves, and many of the other players, past and present, agreed that the story greatly exaggerated the drug problems in football. "Pete's threshold of pain was such that if he had a headache, he would have needed something to kill the pain," Reeves said.
'Bennies . . . nobody thought there was anything wrong with them," Reeves related. "A lot of guys took those things 15 years ago, just like women took birth control pills before they knew they were bad. It's not as true a picture as it was 10-15 years ago, when it was closer to the truth."
Neely agreed. "I've taken pills when I played" he said. "I've gone in and got a codeine for a practice or a game, but it's not like taking sugar pills."
In the movie, Elliott -- the Gent character -- is constantly popping pills.
"That just happened to be Pete's way of thinking," Neely said. "It was the exception rather than the rule and it is even more of an exception today."
A noted orthopedist, who declined to be identified because of his ties with the National Football League, agreed that certain kinds of drug abuse, particularly improper use of Benzedrene, "was more prevalent when the book was written" than it is now because of stricter drug reporting codes in the NFL.
But the physician, who saw the film recently, also said, "Medically, it was beautifully documented. Even to the point of how the player reacted when he pulled his hamstring. It was as accurate as the movies could possibly do anything."
In the movie, a character named Delma agrees to take an injection in his hamstring in order not to lose his starting position to Elliott. Neely says, "When they injected Pete's knee to motivate Bob Hayes, who was the black guy, that was blown out of proportion. They might have injected a knee. But the other guy didn't get racked up because of it."
Reeves said he had eight knee operations and never took any shots. Andrie said "As far as getting shots for pain, we all did that."
Schramm said, "You never inject a hamstring."
The NFL orthopedist disagreed: "I was at the Super Bowl five years ago and watched through my binoculars as they brought a guy off the field, pulled down his pants and injected his hamstring right on the sideline."
Neely said, "I cannot remember an instance where a player was made to feel he had to do this where he was put in the position of feeling he might lose his job. It's an individual thing."
Boeke said "Nobody pressures you. Everybody pressures themselves."
He recalled a game against Cleveland when he tore cartilage in both knees, told the trainer he was fine and jogged up and down the sideline to prove it. He went back into the game and lasted one set of downs. "Nobody forced me to play on it," he said.
Nobody stopped him, either.
Stopping is what "North Dallas Forty" is all about.
Just ask Charlie Waters, the Cowboy safety who tore ligaments in his knee just a few days after seeing the film.
"It (the movie) was heavy." Waters said. "It makes a player think. I don't want to leave the game when it is dictated to me. I want to leave when I say it's time.And here I am, being dictated to."
Which is precisely Gent's point.
"He's in a unique and possibly passing position," Gent said of Waters. "Possibly he'll pass from view in 18 months. Most guys have it dictated to them. Most don't get to choose. Most think they'll get to dictate it to them. But, like Phil Elliott, they don't."