The details are a bit hazy but, yes, Ram right guard Dennis Harrah can remember his first season in the National Football League a dozen years ago. If he's not mistaken, it was the same year President Gerald Ford was trying to Whip Inflation Now.
At the time, though, football was whipping the West Virginia twang out of Harrah, the Rams' rookie guard and first-round draft choice from the University of Miami, Fla.
"I remember calling my dad and telling him that I wasn't going to make it," Harrah remembered. "I told him I was going to have to find something else to do for a living. I didn't know what. I thought about maybe being a state trooper or something. I really didn't think I was going to hang with it."
If it wasn't one thing--veteran guard Tom Mack sneaking into his room and pulling his chest hairs--it was another, such as the unsettling prospect of failure.
But somehow, Dennis Wayne Harrah has outlasted them all. It's been 12 years packed full of Pro Bowls, bar fights, adhesive tape burns, sweat, pain, friendship, one liners, pranks, Duval Love's socks, more tape burns, rashes, last-minute wins and frozen playoff losses in Minnesota.
Harrah had the privilege of entering the game in the era of Mack and Jack Youngblood and will have the pleasure of leaving it in the company of Jim Everett and Eric Dickerson.
It seems funny that teammates should now refer to Harrah, who turned 34 last March, as "Pappy," for there was a time he could tip a beer and turn over a table with the rowdiest of fraternity brothers.
"I was a tad bit out of control," Harrah says, laughing.
But even right guards grow up eventually. Harrah married at the ripe old age of 33, and last March his wife Teresa gave birth to son Tanner Calvin. It also served as a new birth for another Harrah, by the name of Dennis, who will never see life and living in the same light again.
Harrah is the elder statesman of the Rams, the unquestioned leader, rock and funny bone of a team with its sights set on Super Bowl XXII in San Diego.
Recently, Harrah agreed to sit down and discuss his colorful 12-year career with the Rams.
Question: How did you ever last this long?
Answer: I enjoy being with the guys. I enjoy my job. I just realized I would never be happy if I wasn't doing what I was doing. We didn't practice the way we do now. It's hard to see anyone playing 10 years now because of the salaries, they don't have to. I was a first-round draft choice and I made $30,000. The whole thing's changed now. Most kids coming out now make tremendous money. It took 10 years to be finally secure in the era I played. It doesn't take that long now.
Q: You've just completed your 13th training camp. Any thoughts?
A: I hate it. I hate beating to death my own players, and my own players beating me to death. I hate two practices a day. I hate being locked in a room. I hate the food. I hate sleeping in a bed that's made for a 9-year-old kid. You know, in baseball they work slow in training camp and increase everything slowly. We do it in reverse. It's amazing we don't get more people killed. I've thought about quitting for 13 years. Then, you get through training camp and get on with your life.
Q: But you need training camp, don't you?
A: No, I don't. I can honestly say no. I need a week of hard work to get ready and then let's go. I don't see any reason for training camp, because they just beat you to death. It makes a lot of people retire, training camp does.
Q: How has the game changed since you arrived in 1975?
A: Well, the blocking technique of the offensive line has totally changed. I was in the middle of that transition and it was tough to learn. When I first started playing the game, our coaches made us grab our jerseys to block. \o7 Our jerseys. \f7 Now, we get to grab theirs.
Q: What about the game's personalities?
A: I don't care much for the prima donnas that the big money has brought on. I think it started with Joe Namath. The fans see one superstar like Joe Namath and they think girls are falling over everybody. Heck, I don't think I had a date until my fifth year in the league. Of course, I look more like Fred Sanford. Walk like him too.
Q: Today, NFL players' salaries have gone public. Has that helped the player?
A: It's really helped. Back then, there was a lot of sneaking around the backs of other players. Other guys used to get ticked off because other guys wouldn't tell them what they got, or they told them but lied to them about it. It's better now, because management can't put players between players, because salaries are shown.
Q: Do players making big money play as hard as the players who don't?