Recently, I had the opportunity to interview a player from the glory days of the NFL. Before there were stifling rules imposed upon defensive players and before quarterbacks were so protected. He's also someone that graduated from the same high school as myself and has since established himself as a businesman in my city. His name is Bob Belden and he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1969 NFL Draft.
How much has the game of football changed since you played in the NFL? Is it a good change?
"The players are bigger, stronger and faster. The rules have opened up the opportunities for the offense, particularly in the passing game. The equipment is much better but I sometimes wonder if it actually leads to more severe injuries. The game is probably more enjoyable to the average fan."
You backed up two great quarterbacks in your career, what was it like watching them play on a first hand basis?
"I was able to learn a lot watching Roger and Craig. I don’t know that I was ever shocked or wowed by anything I saw on the field but as a backup quarterback you tend to be watching things that are going on with the defenses. I also played behind Terry Hanratty and Joe Theismann at Notre Dame. I think the main thing you realize is that you can always improve and that each of us has certain strengths and weaknesses."
Are you still in contact with any of the players/coaches from your playing days?
"I am really only in contact with Roger Staubach and only when he comes to Canton for Hall of Fame events. I do see Bob Lilly, Mel Renfro, and Rayfield Wright during Hall of Fame week as well."
What was your draft experience like? Were you surrounded by family and friends? Shocked? Relieved?
"You have to realize that the draft was much different in 1969 than it is today. I was in school and read about being drafted in the newspaper. I was in class when I was actually drafted. I was surprised that the Cowboys were even interested in me given my minimal playing time at Notre Dame. No one sat around and watched or listened to the draft like they do today."
Who should the Cowboys take in the first round?
"Since the first round is over, I won’t comment."
What about fellow Notre Dame Alumni Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate? Are they going to have immediate impacts their rookie years?
"Golden Tate may make an impact his rookie year. He can be a factor on special teams as a returner. I would think that Jimmy Clausen will take a little more time to develop and make an impact."
What advice can you give for young men trying to live the dream?
"My main advice would be to make sure that you get an education. The average length of service of an NFL player is less than five years and you won’t qualify for a pension unless you put in five years. Don’t give up on the dream but have a contingency plan. Too many things can happen (injuries, etc.) and the competition is fierce."
Any rookie hazing?
"There was some. We all had to sing our school’s fight song when called upon and we had to put on a skit near the end of training camp. Once we made the team most of the hazing was over."
What was it like playing for a college coach of Parseghian's caliber?
"Coach Parseghian is an exceptional human being and was a great football coach. It was somewhat intimidating at the time but he motivated each player to give his best effort for the team. He had a great ability to put the right players in the right situations and to help each player reach his potential."
When are the Cowboys going to win that sixth Super Bowl?
"Only time will tell. The NFC East is a very competitive conference and so many factors go into winning it all. Injuries are certainly part of it so they should have a decent chance in the next few seasons if they stay healthy."
Any charitable events, etc. that you want to get some hype to?
"I hope everyone that visits your site will give back to their own communities in some way."
Again, thanks a ton! Feel free to add/remove anything you want/don't want to say.
"Thanks for asking and thanks for keeping a little bit of celebrity in my life."
Remember, all of TJ Jenkins' work can also be found at www.sportsjabber.net.