It isn't true. Archie Roberts, Columbia's starting quarterback, is not a god. At least not yet.
This week, at practice, the truth came out. Bluntly, Boldly, Completely. According to a reliable source, Archie threw a bad pass. Not only that. He swore. The evidence after this incident was overwhelming: "He's human," admitted the Columbia official.
But that is about all Columbia is willing to concede about its most prominent son, the boy who, according to a cover article in the Harvard program this week, is already a legend in his own time.
Hoping to find out more about this amazing fellow, we spent some time last night with Phil Burke, Columbia's director of sports information. "I'm prejudiced," Burke volunteered, "but I'll tell you the truth about Archie. He's great."
Burke opened his case with a full page of statistics Columbia has compiled on Archie's 12-game varsity career. And these figures are, of course, impressive. But obviously they didn't tell the real Archie Roberts story.
Burke offered a "true story." "Princeton game," he began" "Freshman year. Terrific rush. Archie's hit, right here (he pointed to his right shoulder). He takes the ball in his left hand, throws. Fifteen yards. First down." Burke shrugged The moral was obvious.
"Another true story: Cornell game, last year." In this game Columbia was trailing 21-19 with 19 seconds to go in the clash. Archie dropped back to pass and was given a strong rush when the Columbia end missed his block. "While he's falling," Burke related, "he flips the ball to (Al) Butts. It's dark. Muddy field. Butts catches it, goes 24 yards to score. Great athlete, that Roberts."
One of the things that bothers Burke is the prevailing opinion that Roberts' can't run. "He's a great runner, great passer, great on defense--the only thing he can't do is block for himself."
Burke is trying to change the Ivy procedure of keeping running statistics, in which the yards lost by a runner are subtracted from his gains. A passing quarterback, therefore, particularly a drop back passer like Roberts, often ends up with a low net rushing average because of traps behind the line. And Roberts, who has received poor protection during his career, has been smeared more often than most Ivy passers.
After several more stories and a selective review of Columbia statistics--Roberts' leads the team in every conceivable department but net rushing and pass receiving--it was hard to argue with Burke's conclusion on Roberts the Athlete: "Great football player. Just great, that's all."
But anyone who has picked up a sports page during the past year knows that Archie is more than an Athlete. He is also a Great Guy. The Norman Rockwell schoolboy athletic hero come true. The All-American Boy.
The stories about Archie's off-the-field activities are even better than the tales of his football heroics. A serious pre-med major, he chose Columbia because he wanted to go to Columbia Med School. This summer his determination to become a doctor was reportedly fortified when he tried to help an indigent man he found in New York's streets who later died in a hospital.
According to the Legend, he runs a paper route, helps elderly ladies fight New York's vicious traffic, periodically has to take time out from assisting roommates with tough assignments to remove "We Love You Archie" signs from the hall-ways, does youth work in a local park, addresses adults as "sir," is an active leader in his fraternity, and runs a locker room radio show after every game.
Has the heavy publicity affected Archie? Nope, says Burke, who revealed that after a story in the Times last year dwelling on his personal virtues Archie came to him and asked if he "gave the impression of being a do-gooder." Perish the thought!
Despite these overwhelming recommendations, Harvard's undefeated football team (Columbia, with Roberts, is 1-2), is not yet ready to offer sacrifies to coach Buff Donelli's idol. After all, Harvard destroyed Roberts and his friends 36-14 last year in New York. Said one Crimson starter of this Saturday's test: "It's just another game. Just another quarterback.