Write Again . . . We became one heartbeat

Published 8:13 pm Monday, March 23, 2015

We all called him “Lip.” His last name was Lipscomb. More properly, and in a different setting, he would have been called Sergeant Lipscomb. Or Sarge.

We who called him Lip were a part of the 1961 VII Corps Jayhawks football team.

Lip was our head trainer. He had similar responsibilities with the boxing team, whose season overlapped just a little with football.

He knew his stuff, as they say, and kept us patched up and, in most instances, still playing, where such need existed. He was an integral part of the team. We relied on Lip.

In one of our early season games we found ourselves down 20-0 at the half. Now, in those days of more conservative offensive football that was a big deficit.

At halftime our coach — Lt. Bill McLarty — did something he had not done heretofore. In fact, since he was my coach the previous year, with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Black Horses, I had never known Coach Mac to call on a staff member to address the team.

He called on Lip.

Now remember, this was 1961. At that time, the most famous half-time talk was the “Win one for the Gipper” delivered by Knute Rockne of Notre Dame. And that one came way back in the ’20s.

Well, in a rather succinct manner Lip reminded us that though we were many, we were one. That though we came from all parts of the country, and from many different kinds of backgrounds, we were joined together in one common purpose.

He told us that we must have the mindset that “they can’t make it too tough for us.” That we could, and would, overcome the 20-points deficit. That we could and would win this game.

It was about as close to the later day “we are one heartbeat” motivational exhortation as could be. Yet Lip talked to us in controlled and measured words.

Then we went out and played the second half.

Okay. Since I’ve brought this absolutely true tale this far, I’ll finish.

Our opponent did not score again. We did. Once, then once again. This found us, in the waning minutes, trailing by one touchdown.

Late, very late, in the fourth quarter, we began a drive, almost the length of the field away from the goal.

We had to be aware of the clock. We had to make first downs. We had to hold onto the ball. We had to avoid drive-killing penalties.

With only a couple of minutes left, we were at their goal. I was thinking about the play I would call when I saw one of our players, a quarterback, running toward our assembling huddle.

My reaction was “I can’t believe he’s taking me out now.” I started to head for the sideline, but the new arrival said, “No, not you.” He then called another player’s name, a halfback.

“You take his place,” he told me. “We’re going to run a sweep.”

Yes! And we did. I was hit on-over-or-near the goal line, I couldn’t be sure which. Then I looked down and saw that I was holding the ball across the line.

We won the game. Let me quickly tell you that in no way was I the star of that team, or that game. I was more of a non-spectacular journeyman quarterback surrounded by some very talented athletes.

But. I was the fastest man on the team. And this was a team made up of players selected from a very wide Army Command, and diverse demographic.

The star of this game, however, was Lip. Sergeant First Class Jim Lipscomb.

True story.