You've probably noticed all the negative publicity surrounding college football lately. It's like the college game went out and hired the same P.R. staff as John Tower. They've got a real image problem on their hands when headlines such as "Oklahoma Is Not OK" and "An American Disgrace" are bombarding the newsstands.
Half of the players from the Colorado team that BYU played in the unaptly named Freedom Bowl are either now behind bars or appearing before grand juries; at Oklahoma, saying the Sooners are "armed and dangerous" doesn't refer to their wishbone offense; and at any number of other campuses the offseason is more like open season, with players in brawls or altercations or drug deals or rampages smacking of steroid power, otherwise known as 'Roid Rages.Even here in the tranquil shade of the Rockies, Utah has sent a running back to the Big House and had its players involved in some lively animated discussions at a local rock 'n' roll establishmant.
But enough of all that. Enough of accentuating the negative.
Who wants to read about the fights and the crimes and the cheating and the sex and the violence?
Leave that for the best-selling books and the major motion pictures.
In tribute to the silent, unheralded majority, to all those college football players who ARE NOT either budding felons or drug dealers, to those guys who don't get in the paper because, after all, what's all that interesting about an Eagle Scout?, herewith a review of some of the good characters in the college game.
They're out there too.
Even at Oklahoma.
"We've got a guy here who doesn't do anything else but talk to youth groups and other organizations about being a good person, about the good things in life," says Oklahoma sports information director Larry McAlister, who, as you might suspect, was taken slightly aback when he fielded the phone call asking for the name of an OU player with a good reputation.
"Don Smitherman's his name," said McAlister. "He's very active in the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). Here's his phone number."
Smitherman wasn't home. But his answering machine was on. The tape said, "I'm very sorry I wasn't here to take your call . . . please leave your name and number, and please have a nice day."
This, from a teammate of Charles Thompson.
At Colorado, where no fewer than 18 players have been charged with criminal offenses the past two seasons, including a former linebacker suspected of being Boulder's "Duct-Tape Rapist," they're awfully proud of starting wide reciever Jeff Campbell, who, like Smitherman, gives a lot of public service and is a solid, upstanding young man. Colorado SID Dave Platty said he was sure that Campbell doesn't own an Uzi.
Closer to home, it is significant to quote some of the local unsung talent.
Like, for instance, Utah quarterback Scott Mitchell, who has been taking advantage of his newfound stardom, after beating BYU, by addressing all sorts of youth groups. The other night, instead of going to Studebaker's and hanging around, he was in Coalville, talking to a hall-full of Boy Scouts. When Mitchell told the boys he was an Eagle Scout long before he became a record-setting quarterback, you could sense a lot of minds audibilizing to set goals to become Eagle Scouts, too.
At BYU, retired equipment manager Floyd Johnson still serves as the director of the Athlete's Speaker Bureau. Johnson founded the service 25 years ago when, as he recalls, "I was really ashamed of our football program. Boy, were we a bunch of lousy guys. We weren't giving anything back."
So Floyd organized a system that hasn't quit. This school year alone, he estimates BYU's football players have already given between 400 and 500 talks _ to elementary schools, high schools, church groups, civic clubs, you name it.
Just the other day he had some of his more prolific speakers, wide receiver Chuck Cutler, defensive tackle Tim Clark and linebacker Duane Johnson among them, come in and pick up some BYU T-shirts to distribute to the Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake.
"And they hadn't been invited. They were just doing it on their own," says Floyd.
There are thousands of similar stories in the grimy jungle of college football.
At Weber State, Coach Mike Price likes to single out Dave Critchlow, a backup quarterback and roverback who graduated this year without ever playing as a starter. But he was a national runner-up for a Rhodes Scholarship, with a grade-point average close to 3.8.
"He was getting his name on all the honor rolls around the country," says Price. "But he wasn't getting it in the newspaper."
Or on any police blotters, for that matter. Like a lot of guys, Critchlow managed to make it through an entire college career without having his rights read to him and without standing in a lineup - and with a decidedly better accounting of himself when he was finished.
It's these kind of players who make up the vast majority in college football, as a matter of fact. Their only drawback is they make for lousy headlines.