Sixties index



by Joseph Rieland

From the day that Gene Lipcomb reported to the Pittsburgh Stecler training camp in Slippery Rock there was a notable increase in the number of sideline observers who turned out to watch the practices. In eight years of pro ball, the "Big Daddy" had earned a reputation as one of the most colorful and competent performers in the game.

If the sideline observers were beginning to question the latter claim, after the first few days, their concern was understandable. While rookie linemen banged into blocking devices with a reckless abandon, and raced out front in wind sprints, the ex-Colt behemoth barely brushed the blocking dummies and jogged leisurely in the rear of the sprints.

But "Big Daddy" answered any and all doubts on the day of the Steelers first all-out scrimmage. From the moment game conditions existed, Lipscomb's casual shuffle became a fierce, powerful thrust. Showing excellent mobility for a man of his size, lie Frequently stopped plays at the line of scrimmage that were run at the opposite end. Pass plays consistently found quarterbacks Bukich and Layne trying to avoid his quick, strong rush. When finally replaced to give Coach Buddy Parker a look at some of the younger linemen, Lipscomb ambled to the sidelines in a ponderous, lazy motion that defied the speed and agility that he demonstrated earlier.

"Big Daddy" is a man of little wasted effort. From the time lie assumes the defensive lineman's crouch until the ball is blown dead, Lipscomb represents 290 of the most aggressive pounds in football, as his three-time selection on the all-pro team will attest. But after the whistle and off the field, the Detroit native is a shuffling, showboat whose clown antics have made him a favorite of millions of National Football League fans.

In the Pittsburgh-St. Louis exhibition game this summer, Lipscomb barged over the offensive tackle, slipped around the blocking backs and threw Cardinals quarterback Ralph Guglielmi to the ground for a substantial loss. Guglielmi bounced to his feet but "Big Daddy" got up slowly. The Cardinals huddle for the following play momentarily included the big, oval-shaped smiling face of No. 76 of the Steelers. A favorite Lipscomb gimmick, particularly after roughly slamming a runner to the ground, is to courteously extend his hand to assist the ball carrier to his feet.

Against the Rams "Big Daddy" aroused Los Angeles fans with a new twist on this - after throwing Frank Ryan for a 13-yard loss, Lipscomb offered the Los Angeles quarterback his hand, then withdrew it just as Ryan reached for the big mitt.

One of the very few present day pros without college experience, Lipscomb was discovered by the Rams while playing for the Camp Pendleton Marines. Although joining Los Angeles in 1953, he never attained stardom until picked up on waivers by the Colts in 1956. As a defensive Baltimore stalwart in the 1958 sudden-death 23-17 victory over the New York Giants, "Big Daddy" was a central figure in most exciting game in professional football history.

Not by size alone does Lipscomb justify his "Big Daddy" title. In contrast to the average athlete today, the big guy is completely happy and relaxed in the midst of the groups of hero-worshipping kids who wait outside NFL dressing rooms for a glimpse of their heroes. While others walk briskly by, the Pied Piper of Pro ball, exchanges small talk, pats a few heads and signs endless autographs.

As a master clown and an unpredictable ham, Lipscomb is one of the most popular figures in professional football. To his personal coterie of young admirers, he lives up to everything that heroes should. But first and foremost, 'Big Daddy' is just about the best defensive tackle in the game.

Article and photos from the programme for October 22nd, 1961.