All the positives of football are exemplified in the presence of Don McCauley, a man of physical strength, quiet determination, dependability, impervious to pressure and a penchant for finding a way to power into the end zone. Respected by teammates and the opposition. Never one to complain, even if he took a cheap shot. The personification of a winner.
His personal characteristics set him apart. Most emphatically. That's why tonight the Atlantic Coast Conference will confer upon him its Distinguished Football Alumnus Award in banquet ceremonies at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The University of North Carolina, his alma mater, is justifiably proud of McCauley.
He could do more than fire off-tackle or run under a flat pass and go in for "six". McCauley left records at North Carolina that still haven't been approached, most significantly the 1,720 rushing yards he compiled in 1970 that -- 21 years later -- continue to endure the unrelenting assaults from an ongoing succession of quality ball carriers.
What McCauley took from the sport are lessons he has applied to business. Not that he sets himself up as a model worthy of emulation. Again, that's not his style. "When you are making a living away from football," he says, "it's different but then it isn't. You learn that each week, win or lose, you learn to recover. You never dwell on failure. If a deal doesn't work out, just like a game plan, you put it behind you and keep pounding away."
McCauley represents a triple-threat success story. He owns three Long Island restaurants, works as a printing broker with Applied Graphics Technology Corp., and scouts part-time for the Cleveland Browns. But he doesn't allow himself to sound too important. A mark of the man.
"I guess the most unforgettable aspect of going to North Carolina was playing for a coach, Bill Dooley, who took a losing program and turned it around. In my three varsity years, we were 3-7, 5-5 and 8-4. Then, when I left, things fell apart. They went 9-2 and 11-0. I saw how hard Dooley worked and know how we applied ourselves. You couldn't have been a part of that and not been impressed."
Actually, the night before McCauley decided to join Dooley at Carolina, he had his mind made up to enroll at Maryland and play for coach Bob Ward. But Dooley's interest in him changed all that and Atlantic Coast Conference history was altered in the process.
Against Duke, in the final game of 1970, McCauley's number was called 47 times and he responded with 279 yards. When he totaled 1,720 yards for one season, it became an NCAA mark, improving on what O.J. Simpson achieved at Southern California. Don also scored 21 touchdowns and averaged 156.4 yards per game in a spectacular senior season, plus he was on the dean's list as a political science major.
The Colts drafted McCauley on the first round with a choice they didn't deserve. Team owner Carroll Rosenbloom screamed the Miami Dolphins had signed coach Don Shula without his permission, even though it was generally believed he was "about to be fired." But Rosenbloom insisted on compensation and his ploy worked. It came with Miami's No. 1 pick, which was converted into selecting McCauley. So, in a way, McCauley was "traded" for Shula.
In his 11 years with the Colts, Don played for seven different coaches. He puts Ted Marchibroda at the top of his personal preference list. "We were never so well prepared as when Ted coached us. He was the most organized. He had us ready for every situation. Nothing the opposition set up surprised us. His going back with the Colts gives them stability."
McCauley came to the Colts' camp in 1982 but soon retired. He found some assistant coaches were younger than he was and, when they tried to change his style, after he had 11 effective seasons in the NFL, he decided it was an appropriate time to leave. But that didn't hurt him.
What was a bother was spectators wearing paper bags over their heads in Memorial Stadium as a sign of protest. "Nothing ever pained me like that," he said. "You can even ask my wife, Tracy. She'll tell you how upset I was. I thought of the great Colts' tradition and then for that to happen. I can only tell you it upset me far more than anything else in football."
Don McCauley. Skilled. Competitive. An individual who produced maximum performance without being urged. And, the record shows, he's the same in business, even if it is a different game.