"The essential quality for a modern football player is brains and not brawn as it used to be in my day," remarked David C. Campbell '02 in an interview with the CRIMSON. Mr. Campbell, one of the greatest ends that over played at Harvard, captained the powerful team which defeated Yale in 1901 by score of 22 to 0.
"That victorious team in 1901 averaged close to 200 pounds and every team we played was that heavy or heavier," continued Mr. Campbell. "Back in those days it was just a question of which was the strongest team. In other words, it was merely a battle of lines, back and forth with five yards to be gained in three rushes. A fellow didn't need brains to play.
"Nowadays with all the deception and trick plays, a player has to be smart to make a success. He must know how to run, how to block, how to protect against passes, and how to handle assignments on a varied list of plays. Teams now have more speed than they used to and why not, a player has an outfit that allows him to move agilely about. By actual weight a football uniform in my day in the last few minutes of play on a wet afternoon would weigh from 55 to as high as 65 pounds. How could a man play good football while carrying that much weight?
"The game is much cleaner than it used to be. There were fewer officials and fewer rules concerning roughness. Coaches were forced to teach their players 'dirty football' so that they would know how to combat it when an opponent resorted to slugging and kicking. It was a case of self-protection, and, if you failed to protect yourself, you would be incapacitated in a surprisingly short time. I had my nose broken in the first game of every season, and it wasn't because of an accident either. I played half one season with three broken ribs and finished up another year with a fractured shoulder. Cutts, our great halfback, got a broken neck a short time before the Yale game. It was placed in a plaster cast, and he was given permission to play. Blagden, our tackle, was packed in ice a week before this crucial game because of an attack of appendicitis, and yet he played. At 2 o'clock the following morning, he was operated on.
"Although the present day players are not subject to as much bodily punishment as we were, I think they would be able to 'take it' if they had to. They possess just as much so-called 'guts' as we did. The rule allowing substitutions is a great help to a team, for, in the old days, a player once off the field could not return to the game. This caused many players to hide their injuries, thus allowing themselves to be seriously hurt.
"The modern players, as a whole, are just as good as the old timers. I know that many a fine player of my days would not even make the varsity squad in this present age of forward passes, intricate offences, speed, and brains. I consider Bon Ticknor to be one of the greatest players I have ever seen. He could do everything: block, tackle, knock down passes.
"The most satisfactory thrill I ever got out of the game was the year Vic Kennard beat Yale with his drop kick. After Kennard booted the goal, we couldn't advance farther up the field than our own 20-yard line and Yale was constantly threatening to score. With one minute left to play and the Elis seemingly certain to score, Sprague of Harvard got off a punt that went over the Yale quarterback's head and carried 80 yards down the field. With so little time left, Yale couldn't possibly score, and the game was ours."