Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Voltron Force- 30 years Ago- Part 2- Walk-offs Rock the Campus

Lee Clements and Charlie Eddy in front of Bryant Hall A.K.A. as the U.S.S. Perkins
We registered our team with the University Intramural System in Aug of 1985 under the name 'Walk-offs" which caused a fun buzz at Bryant Hall.

One of our first challenges was TIME.

On top of our required studies, Lee, Chris Lombardo, Charlie Eddy, and I were student dorm assistants at Bryant Hall. Coach Perkins decided to pick up the responsibilities there and, for the most part,we were good at getting it all done.

Recruiting Weekends were all day affairs

Things we did well: put out the mail, checked off meals as players and guests came through, did curfew check with the dorm director (a novel of stories there), put out 10 PM snacks, and we worked long hours during football camps.

Lee and Lombardo on Gameday
We were especially good on recruiting weekends on Gamedays. We put out tables and chairs in the courtyard. We set up the annex for the Bama Bells and guests. We cut up the barbecue. We transported the recruits and families to the game. We served cokes and hotdogs DURING the game. We took some of the recruits back and, occasionally, to the airport and we cleaned up that evening.

There is one thing, however, that we were MAJOR failures at. And I admit this to my shame.

We were awful at putting out and taking up the U.S. and Alabama state flags. Coach Perkins installed the HUGE flagpoles off the front of the dorm. They were so big that we renamed Bryant Hall..... to the U.S.S. Perkins.

We HATED flag duty... mainly because the flags we so large and the ropes weren't installed most of the time the flags were wrapped around the poles so bad that the building looked bad.

Getting the flags unwrapped...especially if they were soaked from rain.. was a major pain. And was just a give up until better winds came and unwound the mess.

At the beginning of the flag raising and lowering process, we were SO CAREFUL to honor the Stars and Stripes. We looked up the regulations and even tried to fold it in the triangle.... but that didn't last... sorry to say we missed some days, left the flags up (but they weren't spotlighted at the time), had no clue if there were half mast requests....a lot of the time we lowered them and literally flung them in the closet on the way to study hall.... it was a fail....


So, what I did next had profound implications for my later years as a coach.

I developed an offensive system that looks like the spread schemes that are used today. I wrote the system on notecards and had it where just about anyone could show up for a game and play without any practice.

And that is one unique factor of the Walk-off's and Voltron Force.... never had a practice. We just showed up at game time.... figured out who was there that day and proceeded to dominate.


The rules allowed for 3 offensive linemen and everyone was eligible to receive a pass except the center. The only blocking that could be done was a shield block (basically just getting in the way of a rusher).

My playcard system helped us stay organized
The system was about 5 plays that had a pass option regardless of the coverage. It had a built in blitz beater as both up-backs would fast release to the flats if the team used their 1 blitz per series option.

I always had a single cut route on the backside for any man to man defense and then a twins combination to the field to work against a zone.

In two years, the only times we were stopped was a receiver not being able to beat man to man (rare) or a GREAT  disciplined zone where they broke hard on the ball.

Years later (too late for me), I learned the need to use eyes and pump fakes (shoulder hunches) to give space against the zone.

The last advantage of the Voltron system was my ability to take a deep drop and run around until the receivers broke open- I called this 'doing the Flutie' based on what Doug Flutie did at Boston College.

One interesting note about the system.... we had a game that we could not attend and two former starting Alabama football players (and we think it was Joey Jones) took my play cards and totally rocked that game.

The defense was totally run by Clements, Colbert, and Lombardo and they killed it.

Final note about my playcards- Throughout my coaching years, I always carried with me a 'playbook' to team camps for help in 7 on 7's when I was coaching players I had never been with before. I used these at University of Tennessee camp with Tim Couch and Chris Leak. I used them at Ole Miss and a lot of other camps. We were always very successful with my simple notecard plays with throws to make against any defense. Coach Cutcliffe was good about complimenting my readiness to organize an offense quickly.

EARLY CONTROVERSY - The Machine is Real

Anyone familiar with Alabama knows the power of the greek influence, referred to for generations as 'the machine'. As an athlete, I was never in opposition to any machine endeavor and enjoyed watching the independent vs. machine bickering... especially in the realm of politics.

What I didn't realize, is that the machine had control over intramural athletics!

After a few weeks of competition, I began to note when and where games were being scheduled.

The greek teams were on the newest and nicest fields, were most convenient for spectators, and had the most efficient officials.

I soon understood that we were in an 'independent' league playing in a cowfield and using officials who knew little or nothing about football.

So we went undefeated through the regular season without a close game.

"Independent' Official
One funny story involved a team called the "Dawg Pound" who had a middle linebacker who ran his mouth at me the entire game.

"You guys think you're something. I  ain't impressed."

I was always pretty good about keeping my mouth shut. We would score about every 3 or 4 plays.

"I'm bringing some stuff at you QB, how you going to handle it?"

I hit Thom Whitley off of his blitz for a gain of about 30.

Finally, one of his own players went over and blocked him to the ground!

"Shut the #*#&* up man- you're an idiot!"

The official threw a penalty flag and ejected the guy who hit the loud mouth.

Then he marched the penalty off against us!

'Wait a minute I said... he was on their team!"

"Oh sorry."

He put the ball back and walked over to me.

"So how do I penalize that?" He was asking me!

I said, "If I were you, I'd eject the loud mouth, let the other guy back in because he was doing us a favor."

And he did !


So- we won the independent league easily that season and that set-up the campus championship game against the greek league champion.

The game was moved to a Sunday and we showed up to a crazy crowd. These frat guys had brought a good crowd.  This was going to be fun!

One thing I haven't mentioned is that the championship team got to represent the University of Alabama in Mobile in the regional championship. It eventually went to a national championship.

And we played a great game and beat the Greek champion. We were excited about moving on to the region.

That was...... until we got the phone call for the next game.... a championship game against the Law School team... scheduled at the last minute,


That is right... we played the next Tuesday against the Legal Eagles- with former Mt Brook Qb Lee Gresham as the signal caller. They looked sharp and were very athletic... a much cleaner looking group of young men!

They beat us by two Td's and the university was spared from having the "rag tag" Walk-offs move on to other games.

I recently e-mailed Lee Gresham to confirm this TRUE story and here was his reply:

See how he stuck that knife even deeper!

In part 3- we will see how the excitement of that remarkable season in 1985 paved the way for the birth of the Voltron Force and the cult attraction it became.......

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