The etchings contained on coach Sullivan’s note cards were either the product of a stroke of visionary genius, but they represented half the consideration of a backroad bargain with the devil. In either instance, the offensive attack diagram by Sullivan could not be found in any other existing playbook in the 1950s. The only way to experience this brand of football wizardry was to pledge your loyalty to coach Sullivan. And to pack your bags for scuba Mississippi.
Coach Sullivan had an offense that, I mean, it was just mind boggling.
I said, What kind of offense have we run in here because I’ve never seen you know, split ins,
double slots, motion with slots
and motion from the wing back
and motion from tailbacks
you had two or three options the quarterback did on almost every play for handing it off for passing
an isolatebacks on linebackers from different sets.
receivers took so many steps and they made the turn we call audibles at the line of scrimmage. The quarterback took so many steps and he threw the ball.
My freshman year we threw the ball 330 times which in that day and time was a lot.
I didn’t know, what’s going on here. I wanted the ball and all that kind of stuff. It was a out and for me because I didn’t understand it.
If you were lad receiver and you didn’t want to play for coach, so when something was wrong, I mean, you were gonna get the football
and he was gonna be throwing it around all night long.
He was way ahead of the the so called West Coast offense that came later with Bill Walsh and those kind of guys.
You know, a lot of people talk about the West Coast offense, I mean, our way, it’s East Mississippi,
years lighter, when I watched Tom Landry and the Cowboys, I saw stuff at Coach Sullivan done years before that. And everybody’s was talking about how Tom lander was a genius.
And with those done six times a game, I mean, we did stuff then that they do now,
there were times when we were made to do things that we said, Oh, this will never work, you know, nobody’s doing this.
He was a passing genius. He designed the routes based on of course, some defensive secondary, whether it be man, man, or if I’d run his own coverages, he knew who the ball needs to go to,
he could see a defense open up and see a play become available and just hit it right away.
My mother could play quarterback with our fancy hand and get him thrown for that much money. It was just, it was like, you know, single tangible (2:34) maybe
I learned more, you know, just in the offensive huddle during practice, just listen to him. You know, talk to our quarterbacks and our receivers.
We did what you call today 7 on 7. And he was doing that before people ever talked about it. In fact, in practice, we would work over and go over the basics, maybe have a short scrimmage and then we would do seven on seven up and down the field. Scoring you know we would keep on just move it from one end to the other.
He was perfectionist specially with the quarterbacks.
His big thing was when we threw the football here they’re both hands on and had to keep the nose up. And you see a lot of pros now it throw it in when they show it up close to the nose is down. Didn’t work up for Coach Sullivan, it always had to be up and I threw a pass one night to Walker just a little spot pass, he didn;t like that, he asked me to drop it, which he very seldom do. When I came to the sideline, Coach Sullivan said “Hey, nose was down” I mean he liked the hands, but the nose was down, and little things like that just drove him crazy.
We didn’t realize how intelligent he was. We knew the precision of his of his past routes and procedures of the past and everything had to be absolutely perfect. But he just studied it constantly. He never stopped. It was just he was obsessed with you know running that offense.
He would sit around and draw a place all the time and even when he was sitting around doing you think nothing in his house are oriented in the dress room. He had little five by seven cards drawn at plays and trying to figure out a just a better way a better you know, past attack.
I’d be out now you know, coming out and coming in. He has a projector when I go see him. He’s always studying football, always did, that’s all he lived for
I’ll tell you how much innovated the man was. We had said that we would go last scrimmage in the in the guards and tackles on the side would be facing me and then butts would be facing the defense. And I could imagine how what the defense thought you were looking for but and we ran plays off of that, like we’re gonna run suites off that would down here would go. If we weren’t, we’d sit down and they would spin around and place in or normal situation.
We played one bowl game yesterday as Lester Smith, could he throw the ball better with shoulder pads or without? And he said, Well, without coach,
I want you to play the Marian game without shoulder pads. Are you okay with that? And I said yes, sir. Whatever, you won’t coach, so that’s fine.
And so he didn’t work shoulder pads in the bowl game. And he told off his line. He said, no better, better not touch him. And they didn’t.
I completed like 17 out of 29 passes for 200 something yards. We won the game 13 to six. Of course today you couldn’t do that. But at that time, you know, 51 years ago, I actually play the game without shoulder pads.
You know, I had a chance to, when I left scuba to a number of opportunities to play ball and I had Frank Jones, it was a guy’s offense coordinator at Mississippi State. I took the job University of Richmond. And he was trying to get me to sign with him and I told him, I said, I’ll go with you to Richmond. On one condition you hire Coach Sullivan to be offensive coordinator, and he was quiet for a minute and he looked at he said he scares the H out of me. He said no way I can do that. And that he ended my decision about going there.
Norm Van brocklin who was at one time the coach of the Falcons wanted Coach Sullivan to come over and coach with him, Coaches offense with the Falcons and he said, he told Norm, he said why do I want him, coach offense for you, you know, when I know more football than you do. And that’s kind of the way it was and he was a brilliant offensive strategist.
And he didn’t want to go anywhere else. He wanted to be right there at scuba. He didn’t want to go to any major colleges. I’m sure he could have gone some places. He probably could have gone to the pros and coach. He didn’t want to be anywhere but at scuba. I mean, that was his dedication. He dedicated his whole life to that.
Was he tough? You bet. Was he brilliant? Was he knowledgeable again? without a doubt.