Makio '68, Getty Images, Library of Congress
Woody expected players to maintain focus
QB Rex Kern ’71, ’73 MA, ’83 PhD led the famed Super Sophomores of the ’68 season.
In the spring of ’68, we were totally focused on what we could do to show the coaches more of our abilities. The varsity coaches hadn’t really seen much of us in action, so it was an opportunity for us. Springtime that year for us was going to class, going to football practice and then study table.
We felt the turmoil, but I don’t think we were caught up in it. We just had an extra level of accountability and responsibility. Woody’s thought always was, if you get involved, there may be consequences you would suffer.
I won’t use a name, but my freshman year we had a guy in our freshman class who went home at the end of fall quarter. He was a great big, hulking guy —a heavyweight wrestling champ. He went home and was in a bar in New York in the wrong place at the wrong time. There were a lot of demonstrations that night and several protesters started saying stuff about the Vietnam War and putting down those serving. And this guy had just had a high school friend who was killed in Vietnam, and he decided to take all of these guys on by himself. He got hit with a beer bottle in the head. He was badly hurt, enough that he could never play for us.
The message [from Woody] was that this has happened to one of your teammates and don’t let it happen to you. You can be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I was from Lancaster, and we had a lot of guys over [in Vietnam]. I had a high school basketball teammate, my running mate when we went to the state Final Four as a junior, Terry Webb, who was killed in action. I had several other high school friends lose their lives. It was just a sad time in that way.