It was during pre-season football practice, and line Coach Butch Jordan, imitating a circus barker, was introducing the Varsity to the new flying-tackle dummies on Soldiers Field. "All right, step up and ring the bell," Jordan invited. "It's easy--watch how Elmer does it." End Coach Elmer Madar grinned sheepishly, hitched up his pants, and charged the dummy. There was a sincere smack and the weight on the end of the pulley jerked upward and slammed into the iron bar with the impact of a pistol shot.
This was no new experience for the soft-spoken 27-year-old "baby" of the current Harvard coaching staff. He has been moving objects out of the way on the football field since the tender age of seven, when he played sandlot football in Sykesville, Pennsylvania. "You might say I got my football start in those days," Madar recalls. "It was all rough and tumble stuff, and we just pulled and hauled until we got the ball away from each other, but it was a start in the right direction, anyway."
Whatever it was, this early training must have provided Madar with a solid background, because when he entered Northeastern High School in Detroit, where his family had moved, he made first-string halfback, and then played two more years as regular fullback.
Although Northeastern High had a strong team, twice reaching the championship city playoff, Madar was not singled out by the experts for any special honors. That was to come later at Michigan, which he entered in 1939. As a freshman, he played halfback. In fact it wasn't until 1942 that he switched to end, playing 50 minutes or more of every game with the famous "Seven Oak Posts", who helped wallop Don Forte's Harvard team 35-7 at Ann Arbor. "I can remember Cleo O'Donnell and Wally Flynn in that game," Madar recalls. And they undoubtedly remember the fivefoot eleven, 170-pound Wolverine end who intercepted a Crimson pass and ran 45 yards for a touchdown.
Scouts For Crimson
When he returned to Michigan in 1946 after his tour with the Eighth Airforce, Madar wasn't able to report for spring practice because a torn cartilage had to be removed from his knee. The operation was successful and in the fall, Elmer caught enough passes and blasted enough ball carriers to make almost every all-American first team listing.
Now he's on our side, but although he's been coaching here all fall, Madar saw his first Harvard game last Saturday in the Stadium. As a member of backfield Coach Davy Nelson's scouting corps, he had previously been out on the road every Saturday.
In the Brown game, he did just what he ordinarily does on a scouting mission, except that the observations he made from the pressbox, instead of being jotted down in a notebook for future reference, were telephoned direct to the Harvard bench. He studied the offenses of both teams to see which plays were gaining through which slots, and kept feeding the information to Nelson, who relayed it via telephone to the bench along with his own observations. "I was very pleased to finally see the team in action," Elmer reports. "They adjusted well to various defenses, and they took advantage of the breaks."
Madar will see the Yale game this Saturday, but the chances are that next year, he'll be out on the road again every Saturday taking notes. And the chances are that the pattern will be the same.
For instance, here's how Madar scouted Dartmouth against Penn last October 2. Around 10 o'clock on the Friday before the game, he drove from his Brookline home to the Indoor Athletic Building (where the Columbia game rally had taken place a few hours earlier) and then took the subway to South Station. Before boarding the midnight sleeper, he bought several newspapers, "to get a preliminary idea of the game and pick up some of the atmosphere." Previously he had studied all available movies of the Dartmouth team in action, and had gone over scouting reports on the Big Green for the past couple of years.
The "Owl" reached Philly at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and Madar went directly to his hotel, where he bought two local papers to read while eating breakfast. After picking up more "atmosphere" from the pre-game football stories, and checking over what he was supposed to pay particular attention to that afternoon, he enjoyed a nap ("I can never get much sleep on a Pullman.")
After lunch, he ambled out to Franklin Field, taking his seat in the press box (a location already arranged for by H.A.A. Business Manager Carroll Getchell) along with scouts from every other college Penn or Dartmouth was to play in 1948.
While the announcer was reading off the starting lineups, Madar checked his scouting equipment, which would put the most meticulous undergraduate notetaker to shame: three red pencils, three blue pencils, a program listing personnel, statistics sheets to be filled out as the game progressed, and a pair of binnaculars.
Down on the field, the bands were finishing their pre-game numbers, but Madar wasn't listening. He was jotting down the things he wanted to look for: Who does the passing? Do they trap or double-team? Which side do they hit most? Do their ends rush or drop back? "When you're scouting," Madar explains, "you look at a game from the cold, business-like angle, not from the spectator's viewpoint."
"Weak Punt Defense"