Sixty Years Ago, Everyone Ran The Wildcat

J. Robert ByromCorrespondent IOctober 19, 2009

TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 29:  Receiver Percy Harvin #1 of the Florida Gators takes a direct snap and runs for a touchdown  against the Florida State Seminoles at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 29, 2008 in Tallahassee, Florida.  The Gators defeated the Seminoles 45-15.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

"Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore their names are Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine. But those are aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller, and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon, as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below."

That was from Grantland Rice's article in the New York Herald that made the All-American studded backfield of Notre Dame into legend and lore.

The passage sticks in my mind every time I hear how the Wildcat is changing the game and makes me think, "oh, how quickly we forget."

All the Wildcat is doing is reminding us that 11-on-11 is better than 10-on-11 and is much more an ode to the past than a peek into the future. 

I was not alive 60 years ago, but every time I hear about the Wildcat and how it is changing the game, I quickly remember the grainy films I have watched of the Maryland Power I, the T-Formation, The Veer, the Flex, and even to a lesser extent, the Wishbone.

I see how quickly Jimmy Harris would take the snap and run around the end to make the Sooners unbeatable for about half of the '50s or the Four Horseman of Notre Dame and the most dominate backfield ever.

Before you made your best passer your QB, you made your best athlete your QB. Whoever was the best overall player was always your QB. If he could happen to throw it as well, it was a bonus. Sometimes your fastest player was your RB, but the QB was always the best overall player.

Tim Tebows weren't so rare in the early days of football both on and off the field, but I will leave the morality debate for another day.

Don't believe me? Read the short bio of the quarterback component of the four horseman in 1924.

"Harry Stuhldreher, was a self-assured leader who not only could throw accurately but also returned punts and proved a solid blocker. He emerged as the starting signal caller four games into his sophomore season in 1922. He was often labeled cocky, feisty, and ambitious, but his field generalship was unmatched."

Take the punts and cocky out, and you have an almost interchangeable description of Tebow.

Misdirection and overload formations were the name of the game before the pass and power run offenses became popular in the '60s and '70s.

Just like the clothes in my father's closet that become fashionable again about every 30 years, the wildcat formation is nothing new; it's just in-style once again.