Speaking of the undergraduate, there are players who operate in the collegiate world like gods - men who are legends to a population at the height of their capacity for enthusiasm. Such is the college star. And the person who makes the best cult recruit is also the biggest and loudest fan in the stands - the college student. I remember having an irrational, deep, cosmic attachment to my college's basketball team while I was there, and I don't even like basketball all that much. I remember seeing our star point guard at a college party and being introduced to him by friends as simply "Money." Something tingled at the base of my neck when I clasped his hand. I remember screaming my lungs out when they won the tournament championship about three years after I graduated from college. Was it the truest happiness a person could feel? I nearly had a mental collapse when my alma mater went into triple overtime in the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament 12 years ago. Following college sports prepares you for one thing and one thing only - to be a Moonie.
But what eventually happens to these immortal college stars, these cult idols? Tim Tebow scored his first professional touchdown against the Jets, but will he ever be any more than just another star made humble by the unsentimental world of crass professionalism? If the Christian Coalition has anything to do with it, then he will absolutely run for Governor of Florida someday. But think of John Huarte, Pat Sullivan, Brian Dowling, Ed Marinaro (we'll get to him), John Rogan, Pete Beban, Billy Cannon or Gavin Grey. Sure, Tebow can run for President, but what has happened to the rest?
|Iacavazzi in a Princeton|
He must have been thought of as something special by the good people of Topps because here is a 1965 rookie football card as a Jet. He's clearly still wearing his #32 Princeton jersey with the tell-tale Tiger-striped sleeves which have been rendered by the artist into the Jets' green and white. Unlike Tim Tebow, Cosmo Iacavazzi was given a new number as a pro - in this case #45 - with the Jets, starring as nothing more than a backup. The card reveals him metaphorically and literally. He runs toward us out of that unpleasantly yellow background of 1965 Topps, colored a Jet, yet still frozen in his Princeton life.
As the link above shows, he has lived a life of restless pursuits since graduation, including being the mayor of Hillsborough, NJ. That's better than being an orthodontist/forger like Billy Cannon. But is any kind of life good enough for a man who has been the most recognized person on campus?
Speaking of a restless life, what about Otis Smith's, in #45? He is one of my all-time favorites. Otis Smith began his career as rookie free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles at the ripe old age of 26 in 1991. He wore #30 when he began with the Eagles and #23 for the Lions when he retired. Above is a display courtesy of pro-football reference.com, which takes the time to show the numbers that a player wears and also how his uniform evolves, whether playing for one team or for dozens over time. In between the beginning and the end of his career, Smith wore the #45's you see above. From left to right they represent the Jets, the Patriots, the Jets, and then the Patriots again, all between 1995-2002.
The green 45 with the black outline represents the years of Richie Kotite's reign of error, but then Smith was traded mid-season 1996 to Bill Parcells' Super Bowl-bound Patriots, who are represented by the light blue and red 45. The green-outlined 45 represents the point at which Parcells took Otis Smith with him back to the Jets.
The last 45 on the right is for the dark blue and red Patriots of Bill Belichick, who took himself, Otis Smith, and much of my desire to live with him back to Foxboro. It was during Smith's second Super Bowl in New Orleans with the Patriots that he made the most crucial play of the organization's history. Adam Vinatieri's field goal to beat the Rams in the Super Bowl was set up by Otis Smith's interception of a Kurt Warner pass.
|Otis in the right place during the |
1999 AFC Divisional Playoffs