For three months Bobby Leo flirted with glamorous Californians, wealthy heiresses from Texas, even the international set from Canada--but in the end it was the girl next door, who sat by inconspicuously and barely said hello, who claimed the sports idol of Everett and Cambridge.
The three-month affair between the Crimson halfback and the pro football leagues began two days after the Yale game when a general scout representing the NFL Giants, Vikings, Eagles, Bears, and Cardinals informally chattered to a large group, including Leo. In the middle of the next week came a more serious relationship. Coach John Yovicsin telephoned Leo that a scout from the San Francisco 49'ers was in the IAB projection room, watching films of him, Steve Diamond, and Dave Davis.
"He was the chief Eastern scout for the 49'ers, and also represented the Dallas Cowboys," remembered Leo. "He was a very serious, business-like type. When he asked us our heights we instinctively rounded them upwards an inch or so--but I was six feet for only a couple of minutes. Then and there he asked us to take off our shoes and measured us--and I was back to 5'11".
"Speed is an essential factor in pro ball,' he told us and asked us to go down to Harvard Stadium at 9 a.m. the next morning so he could time us. Well, I was a little late and by the time I arrived Steve and Dave had already been clocked once for 40 yards. I wasn't quite awake yet and I wanted to make sure I was loose, so I started these exercises we use in track. Dave told me later that the scout, watching impatiently half-way down the field, quietly remarked. 'This kid's a real showboat, isn't he?'
"When I was ready, I crouched at the goal line in my track shoes and sweat pants. He stood at the 40 and started his watch at my first movement. When I trotted back I saw a surprised look on his face. 'Was I really that slow?' I asked. 'You better run it again,' he said as he started at his stop watch. 'I caught you in 4.5. That's the fastest I've ever timed anyone.' I tried to say that I'd just as soon not do it again, but he insisted. He caught me in 4.5 again and after that became a lot friendlier.
"He said the 49'ers were interested in drafting me and I got some letters from the head office in San Francisco. One asked for confirmation of my height and speed, so I had [trainer] Jack Fadden measure me and track coach Bill Mc Curdy time me. It was 5'11" and 4.5 still."
About two weeks later the scout sent me a psychological test--with a lot of word matching--which the Dallas Cowboys wanted. I sent it back and got a nice letter from them which said I was a 'top priority' choice. Three weeks before the draft they called me and asked if I had been contacted by a Canadian team. When I told them I'd gotten a letter from the Toronto Argonauts they advised me to wait for the American draft, which I was going to do anyway.
I asked them what position they would use me in and they said 'flanker,' even though I'd never played it before and of course they already had Bob Hayes there. When I asked what round they'd draft me in they answered, 'in the top five.'
"The other team that sent a scout to see me in person was Oakland [the AFL Oakland Raiders]. He stopped by in early February and asked me the standard questions: height, weight, speed, positions, military and marital status. A week before the draft the Rams called long-distance from Los Angeles with the same questions. And I also got letters from 12 or 15 teams, requesting the usual information.
"The surprising thing was that I only got one phone call from the Boston Patriots. [Coach Mike] Holovak talked to me in February and said they were interested in me, but their first concern was defense--especially defensive tackles and cornerbacks. He said I was their fifth choice, and if I was still available when the seventh round came--they'd traded away two picks--they'd take me. And that's exactly the way it worked out. It was sort of like my coming to Harvard. I was recruited by dozens of schools across the country, but I ended up staying in Boston. I honestly have no idea why the Cowboys reneged. I'm just as glad Boston drafted me, because I'll want to build a career here afterwards, and the Patriots' lineup will be easier to break into. I don't have much experience as a pass-catcher, but I'm sure I can do it. I've just never had the chance before."
Leo's prospects of making the team are actually pretty good. He should be able to learn the pass-catching art--his natural football ability is genuinely All-American. His size and proneness to injury are against him, but there are already a number of small fragile flankers in the pros. Further, Mike Holovak is second only to B.C. hockey coach Snooks Kelley in his reliance on local products (it was the Patriots who also drafted Davis). If Leo can do anything for the team--and Boston has a notoriously weak receiving corps--the bonus of attracting Harvard followers to Patriot games will tip the scales in his favor. Making the team won't be easy, but after three months of uncertainty and answering questions over and over, Bobby Leo looks forward to the challenge.