NEW YORK -- When the Baltimore Colts went into business the first time, 1947-1950, and wore green and silver uniforms, they had a long, lean, lethal end with a leathery cowboy-look by the name of Hubert Bechtol. He stayed around for only three years, and left prematurely, so his ability to knock down ball carriers and pressure quarterbacks wasn't put to any test of longevity.
Bechtol was a charter member of the Colts' franchise and represented the first pro team Baltimore ever had. He was only 21, which made him the youngest player in all of pro football at the time.
An immediate starter, he distinguished himself when, on the opening kickoff against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Memorial Stadium, he was a key figure in the new team's first touchdown. Bechtol hit Elmore Harris so hard the ball popped in the air and was retrieved by a Brooklyn teammate, who became confused and ran the wrong way toward the opposite goal line.
As he, one Harry Buffington, approached the end zone, he got the sudden inspiration to rid himself of the football. It resulted in a Colts' recovery, a quick touchdown and Baltimore's love affair with pro football from that moment was not to be denied.
Bechtol was a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder who usually played both ways. It's presumed that had he remained with the Colts, his credentials may have approached those of the greatest defensive end of them all, the incomparable Gino Marchetti. But Bechtol's three years with the Colts can't be minimized.
His accomplishments at the University of Texas, where he was the first player in the history of the Southwest Conference to be an All-America three straight seasons, were glittering enough to qualify him for the College Football Hall of Fame, class of 1991.
Bechtol, along with 14 other players and coaches from the past, tonight will be introduced as new members of this elite fraternity of football heroes. President George Bush will be in attendance for the festivities at the Waldorf-Astoria as Bechtol and the rest of the honorees receive an auspicious welcome.
It's a proud moment for Bechtol, who played one year of varsity football at Texas Tech before transferring to Texas in the V-5 officers training program. And, yes, in the one season at Tech, he was on the Little All-America team.
"Back then in Texas we only had 11 years of school so I was 17 as a college freshman," he recalled. "Going to Baltimore was TC different experience. I signed for three years, getting a $2,500 bonus and a no-cut contract for $5,000."
Meanwhile, he had an insurance agency in Austin, Texas, and decided to make it his future. So, at 24, and with three years playing for the Colts, he walked away for a career in business. At present, he serves on the Texas Parole Board.
"It's there where we find out what drugs and alcohol do to young men and women," he said. "And some others just have a propensity for being mean and vicious. I'm just honored to be a part of football and on this occasion it's so exhilarating to see so many scholar-athletes excelling in academics and in a game that is so important."
While a Colt, Bechtol had such teammates and friends as Y.A. Tittle, Bob Nowaskey, Ernie Blandin, Lamar "Race Horse" Davis, Windell Williams and Len "Tuffy" McCormick. The strongest runners he had to stop were both fullbacks, Marion Motley of the Cleveland Browns and Norm Standlee of the San Francisco 49ers.
He remembers the early Colts' training camps at Sun Valley, Idaho, Hershey, Pa., and finally Westminster, Md. His first apartment was arranged for him by John Bass, the Clifton Park golf professional, and his wife, Faye. Living accommodations weren't easy to find because it was only two years after World War II and the pressure for housing was intense.
"My wife and I met some wonderful folks in Baltimore back then," Bechtol recounted. "The town was on fire for football. We still feel close to Mrs. Bruce Eberwein, who lives there. We stay in touch. Her late husband was in charge of the association that assists crippled children."
So Hub Bechtol remembers the good times and is elated Baltimore gave him the chance to play professional football. It's a memory he covets.