Tuesday, October 11, 2016

1977 Profile: O.J. Simpson

Running Back
No. 32
"Now 30 years old, he says he will retire after two more seasons. 'I'll never forget seeing a boyhood idol, Willie Mays, falling down while running the bases for the Mets because he stayed around one year too long. I don't want anybody seeing me fall down. I don't want to be remembered that way."

-John Devaney, Schenley Pro Football Guide 1977

"Watergate ... and a Vice-President and a President resign ... James Taylor sings sweetly and Mick Jagger and rocks and roars ... denim becomes the trademark of a generation ... the energy crisis and cars lineup up for gas ... Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ... and a blur called 'The Juice' rockets out of the slums of San Francisco to carry a football not only 1,000 yards in one season, the goal of every running back, but an astonishing 2,000 yards. He is bigger and faster than Thorpe, shiftier than Grange, fleeter than McAfee, stronger than Brown and more punishing than Taylor. Put it all together and what you have is the 6-foot-2, 220-pound O.J. Simpson.
The Buffalo Bills are playing the New York Jets on a freezing 1973 day in New York, the stadium lights piercing the December dusk. The ball sits on the Jet 20. The Bill quarterback takes the snap, spins, hands the ball to O.J., who slithers, squirms and struggles through a crack in the Jet line for seven yards. The crowd of more than 60,000 stands and roars.
O.J. has just broken a statistical barrier. He had gained the 2,003 yards of this season, breaking the record of 1,863 set by Jim Brown in 1963. The Bills hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him off the field.
Minutes later the game ended, the Bills 32-14 victors, and O.J. walked into a room crowded with reporters. Television lights glared. O.J. raised a hand to silence the din. He had brought him all the members of the offensive line. 'These,' he said waving at his blockers, 'are the cats who did the job all year.' The press applauded.
The always unpredictable O.J. grew up in a San Francisco neighborhood where kids stole cars and had to keep glancing over their shoulders to see if the cops were coming. One day O.J. and his pals drove a stolen car into a ditch and were chased a cop who came within inches of collaring O.J., who began to look down the road that he and his friends were traveling. He heard the sound of the slammer in his future and he changed his course in life. Always the best athlete on the block- 'in everything' he says with that proud toss of his large head- he began to run footballs for his high school team, then for a junior college. That got him a scholarship to USC, where he led the nation in rushing in 1967, and in 1968 he won the Heisman Trophy.
For $600,000- about 600 times what all the teams in the NFL were worth in 1920- he agreed to play for the Bills. After a slow start behind clumsy blocking, he led the NFL in rushing in three of the four years from 1972 to 1975. One day he could flash by Jim Brown's 12,312 [career] yards- the Juice now has more than 9,000- to become the greatest ground-gainer of all time.
Or he may quit football to give all of his time to his flourishing career as a TV announcer and movie actor."

-John Devaney, Schenley Pro Football Guide 1977

"For the 'ordinary' ball carrier, a 100-yard game in the National Football League is a helluva day. For O.J. Simpson it is routine.
The standards the Juice has set for himself since he turned pro in 1969 are so high now that it takes a sensational game for O.J. to rise above his norm. But he has enough of those sensational days to remain consistently in the headlines.
When he lines up to start the 1977 season, he will trail only the great Jim Brown in career ground gaining. Brown ran for 12,312 yards. O.J. has 9,626 yards.
With two more years left in his career, Simpson will undoubtedly have more great games. But up to now, these are nine of his best:
October 29, 1972 ... War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo:
What to do? The Bills are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers with Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood and other defensive stars. Buffalo's only lineman of quality is rookie guard Reggie McKenzie.
Coach Lou Saban's answer is to use an unbalanced line, a rarity in pro football. It works. O.J. gets 189 yards, including the longest run from scrimmage in the NFL in the last 26 years, a 94-yard touchdown.
But a Steeler rookie named Franco Harris is almost as good and Pittsburgh wins, 38-21. [O.J. goes on to win] his first NFL rushing title with 1,251 yards.
September 16, 1973 ... Schaefer Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.:
Buffalo, which hasn't had a winning season since 1966, finished the preseason with a winless record, 0-6. But Coach Lou Saban kept telling his players, 'Don't worry, we're building a running attack that will get us victories.'
This is the test, the season opener.
Early in the first quarter, guard Reggie McKenzie leads a sweep. He blocks a linebacker and Simpson cuts outside the block and runs 80 yards for a touchdown. It sets the tone of the afternoon.
Simpson carries 29 times for 250 yards, breaking Willie Ellison's NFL single-game record by three yards. The Bills win, 31-13, and also break their team record for rushing with 360 yards as the Pats are so concerned with stopping O.J. that fullback Larry Watkins gains 105 yards, mostly on counter plays.
December 9, 1973 ... Rich Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.:
Five minutes before kickoff the snow starts and doesn't stop for a half hour. Few can see. Few can hold their footing.
O.J. Simpson can still run.
He averages 10 yards on 22 carries for his second 200-yard game of the season, 219 to be exact, against New England as the Bills win, 37-13. The only thing that stops him from gaining more are a couple of slippery spots in which he falls after long runs.
December 16, 1973 ... Shea Stadium, Queens, N.Y.:
It's just a week after his 219-yard day against the Pats. He's just 61 yards away from Jim Brown's single-season NFL record, 1,863 yards, set in 1963.
The record falls on Simpson's eighth carry of the day, a six-yard cut through the muddy, soggy turf of Shea. It doesn't stop there. He carries 34 times for 200 yards to become the first 2,000-yard runner in history and the Bills end the season on a winning note.
September 28, 1975 ... Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh:
These are the World Champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers. No one runs on them, right? The week before, they opened the season by allowing San Diego to come no closer than the Steelers' 42-yard line.
O.J. Simpson destroys them. He slips through their middle, he turns their end. He bounces off a pileup, fakes All-Pro linebacker Jack Ham off his feet and races 88 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
When the final gun sounds, he has 227 yards and Buffalo has a 30-21 upset victory.
October 12, 1975 ... Memorial Stadium, Baltimore:
The Juice has had games in which he gained more ground. This day he finishes with 159. But some of that was the toughest of the day when he carries seven times in the winning touchdown drive as Buffalo wins a wild game, 38-31.
November 17, 1975 ... Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati:
It's Ken Anderson, the brilliant Cincinnati quarterback, vs. O.J. on Monday night football. The Bills' pass defense can't stop Anderson. The Bengals' rush defense can't stop Simpson.
O.J. carries only 17 times for 197 yards. Late in the game, when Cincinnati leads, 30-24, the Bills abandon Simpson for almost a full quarter in effort to catch up via the pass. The abandonment costs the Juice Jim Brown's record for most 200-yard games in a season- and possibly costs the Bills the game as they lose, 30-24.
November 25, 1976 ... The Silverdome, Pontiac, Mich.:
It's Thanksgiving Day, a traditional football feast in the Detroit area. The Lions lead the NFL in defense. Only one runner pierced them for 100 yards all season.
The Bills, who are battered and injured, have only one offensive cannon- Simpson. They fire it.
The Lions are stacked in what amounts a seven-man front against a team it knows can't throw the football. Still, Simpson rips them. He almost breaks free on a 36-yard run. Then he does break free for a 48-yard touchdown gallop. Suddenly he has his fifth 200-yard game, an all-time NFL record.
Even the Lions' fans cheer for him as he takes aim at his own record. He gets it, and more, finishing with 273 yards in 29 carries, even through his team is never close to winning the contest.
December 5, 1976 ... Orange Bowl, Miami
The Dolphins have defeated the Bills 13 consecutive times, and they will make it 14 today. For a brief moment, though, O.J. gives Buffalo hope, racing 75 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. At halftime, Miami is back on top, but the Juice, who has 121 yards at intermission, roars for 19, 9, 16. He's almost ignored by his own play-callers in the last quarter, but he still finishes with his sixth 200-yard game.
And remember, he's got two more seasons to play. Don't tune out yet."

-Larry Felser, Pro Football 1977

"Just fair as a pass receiver and doesn't block much, but is the best runner in the league today and probably the greatest of all time. But even when he runs for 273 yards, the Bills can't win. The team's best move would be to trade him for three or four young players who could help rebuild.
Simpson was born in San Francisco on July 9, 1947, but last year the Buffalo P.R. Department listed his birth date as 1948 in an attempt to keep him eternally under 30. Held under 40 yards four times last year, he still had 1,503 for the third best total of his career. He had plastic surgery on his movie star face after getting cut by Burgess Owens' helmet.
Hertz business went up 36 percent in two years after Simpson started running through airports. He plans to play two of three more years before becoming a full-time actor. The NFL's nicest superstar is also the highest-paid, at $2.5 million for a three-year contract."

-Rich Kucner, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1977 Edition

"O.J., in case you didn't know, stands for Oh, Jeez, as in 'Oh, Jeez, there he goes again.'
O.J. Simpson has done a lot of going again in his eight years with the Buffalo Bills- 9,626 yards worth. He needs another 2,686 yards to surpass Jim Brown as pro football's No. 1 ground gainer, and barring injury he should make it within the next two years.
This kind of greatness was predicted for Simpson after the Bills made him the No. 1 pick in the 1969 draft. After a spectacular two-year career at Southern Cal that got him voted 'College Athlete of the Decade,' Simpson has led Buffalo in rushing every year, and has been the No. 1 foot soldier in the world four of the past five years. His best game came last Thanksgiving Day, when he rolled up an incredible 273 yards against Detroit. His career has been free of serious injuries, and he has been remarkably able to avoid the minor hurts that usually sideline runners.
He's a second cousin of baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and seems destined to share an unwelcome reputation with his relative: a great player, in fact one of the greatest, but one who never played on a championship team."

-Rich Kucner, The Complete Handbook of Pro Football, 1977 Edition

"O.J. is the NFL's second leading rusher of all-time- he now trails career rushing leader Jim Brown by just 2,686 yards. Brown's nine-year total was 12,312 yards compared to Simpson's 9,626 in eight seasons. Simpson has said he will play two more seasons in an effort to overtake Brown.
He passed Jim Taylor (8,597) and Joe Perry (8,378) on the rushing list last fall. O.J. is within range of three milestones in 1977: 2,000 career carries (needs three); 10,000 career rushing yards (needs 374); 60 career touchdowns rushing (needs three); 75 career touchdowns (needs five); 175 career receptions (needs 16); and 2,000 career carries (needs three).
Simpson accumulated the third best rushing total (1,503 yards) of his career in 1976, marking only the sixth time a pro back has exceeded 1,500 yards on the ground. Brown did it three times and Simpson has now matched him. O.J. is the first, however, to put 1,500-yard seasons back-to-back.
He missed all of last year's training camp while an effort was made to accommodate his request for a West Coast trade. He rejoined the team on the eve of the opening game against Miami. O.J. carried only five times (for 28 yards) against the Dolphins, the lowest single game total of his career, but caught a 43-yard pass in that same game.
He added seven more 100-yard rushing afternoons in 1976 pushing his lifetime total to 39, second only to Brown's 58. Simpson established all-time superiority in 200-yard games with two last fall, including a record 273 against Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, breaking his own record of 250 against New England in 1973. He now has six 200-yard afternoons lifetime.
O.J. collected only 105 yards in the first three games of 1976 but roared back to amass 647 in the final three. He overtook Walter Payton, who had a nine-yard lead, with 171 yards in the season finale at Baltimore to win his fourth NFL rushing title in the past five years. Simpson was a consensus All-Pro and All-Conference choice in 1976 for the fifth year in a row.
His rushing and receiving yardage a year ago totaled 1,762. His career combined net yardage (rushing receiving, returns) now stands at 12,403.
O.J. owns ten different National Football League records and 23 different single game, season and career Buffalo Bills standards. He hasn't returned a kick since 1972 but still ranks as the NFL's active leader. The Buffalo all-time scoring leader with 420 points, Simpson ranks fifth, just four catches away from third, on the Bills career receiving list. He has gained more yards (1,514) and scored more touchdowns (14) against New England than any other team. His statistics in 53 home games are 4,589 yards and a 4.42 average, and 5,067 yards and a 5.45 average in 52 away games.
In 1975 O.J. broke the league record for touchdowns in a single season with 23 and had a combined yardage total of 2,243- the best of his career. He had the only four touchdown day of his career against New England on November 23. His effectiveness in 1974 was limited due to an ankle sprain suffered in the Oakland opener.
Simpson was the first player picked in 1969 college draft. His career scoring total includes a 95-yard touchdown on a kickoff return against the Jets on October 4, 1970. O.J. missed one game in his rookie season and sat out the final six games of 1970 with an injury. His poorest day as a pro came against Baltimore on October 10, 1971 when he wound up with minus 10 yards rushing on seven tries. O.J. must also be feared as a pass receiver and option passer; he threw a touchdown pass (two yards) to J.D. Hill against the Jets on September 17, 1972.
His honors in 1973, when he broke Jim Brown's record, included the AP and UPI awards as the league's Most Valuable Player, AP Male Athlete of the Year, the Hickock Belt as professional athlete of the year by the largest landslide in the history of the balloting, Maxwell Club Bert Bell Award, Sporting News Man of the Year, the Dunlop Pro-Am prize as pro athlete of the year
O.J. averaged 161 attempts and 642 yards in his first three pro seasons. In five seasons since, his average figures are 303 carries and 1,540 yards. He has been offensive captain of the Bills four times in the last five years.
He has appeared in five consecutive Pro Bowl games, gaining 356 yards in 68 tries. He holds Pro Bowl records for most attempts (19) and most rushing yards (112) in a single game. Simpson was the game's top rusher last January with 56 yards (12 attempts) and was MVP of the 1973 Pro Bowl.
Simpson was voted College Athlete of the Decade. A brilliant halfback for John McKay's USC Trojans, he destroyed 13 Southern California records in an abbreviated two-year varsity career. He gained 3,423 rushing yards for USC on 674 carries and established an NCAA rushing record in his senior season with 1,709 yards. O.J. averaged 164.4 yards per appearance in 19 regular season games as a collegian.
He carried a record 47 times (for 220 yards and three touchdowns) in USC's 1968 win over Stanford. He gained 299 yards in two Rose Bowl appearances. Simpson more than doubled the vote of runner-up Leroy Keyes in the 1968 Heisman Trophy balloting and was a unanimous two-time All-America choice. He ran sprints for the USC track team and was a member of SC's world record 440-yard relay team (38.6 seconds) in 1967. He majored in public administration as an undergraduate.
Simpson attended the City College of San Francisco for two seasons before enrolling at Southern California. He rolled up 54 touchdowns and 2,445 rushing yards (on 259 carries) in junior college and was a two-time junior college All-American. He went to Galileo High School in his native San Francisco.
He worked during the off-season as a weekend commentator on ABC-TV's Wide World of Sports and an analyst on several Superstars segments, the Coaches All-America Game and the Hula Bowl. O.J. won $54,000 and the title of 'Superstar, 1975' in the popular ABC Television sports competition but has been forced, by movie obligations, to pass up subsequent competitions.
O.J.'s next theatrical release will be 'Capricorn One' in which he plays an astronaut and co-stars with James Brolin, Elliot Gould, Hal Holbrook, Karen Black and Brenda Vaccaro. His previous films include 'The Cassandra Crossing' with Sophia Loren, Burt Lancaster and Richard Harris; 'Killer Force' with Telly Savalas and Peter Fonda; 'The Klansman' starring Richard Burton and Lee Marvin; and 'The Towering Inferno.'
O.J. is an advertising spokesman for Hertz Corporation, Spotbilt shoes, Dingo Boots and Treesweet Products. He runs his own corporate offices, O.J. Simpson Enterprises, Inc.
He is a past chairman of the New York State Cancer Crusade and is an active participant in the national and local effort to conquer cancer. O.J. has appeared on lists of America's 'Best Dressed' and 'Most Watchable' men. A Ladies Home Journal 1976 Poll of fifth graders throughout the country listed O.J. number one among the students' top 50 heroes.
O.J.'s name is Orenthal James and he has a brother and two sisters. He and his wife, Marquirite, have two children- a daughter, Arnelle, and a son, Jason- and are expecting a third this fall. O.J. moved into a new home in Los Angeles during the off-season, but lives in the Williamsville section of Buffalo during the season. His hobbies include collecting antique cars, listening to music, reading, playing cards and tennis."

-Buffalo Bills 1977 Press-Radio-TV Yearbook

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