Ex-colt Put Team First

From The Toy Department

April 22, 2009

Each Tuesday online in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his or her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..."

He was a first-round draft pick in 1971, a rugged tailback from North Carolina who looked a little like Robert Redford and ran a lot like Tom Matte.

For the next 11 years, Don McCauley would serve the Baltimore Colts as an unassuming role player with a strong work ethic and a me-last mind-set. During a funky time in Baltimore football history - he played for seven different head coaches - McCauley was the quintessential Colt, a throwback who seldom griped or put himself above the team.

"I loved football so much that I would have played for nothing," said McCauley, who signed for a $47,500 bonus. "Nowadays, that's less than what the guy holding the chains on the sidelines makes."

He retired in 1982, having gained more than 5,600 yards and scored 58 touchdowns, gaudy numbers for a guy who spent his life shuffling from tailback to fullback and often not starting at all. Today, McCauley works for his alma mater, raising funds for the athletic department at the University of North Carolina. Married 33 years and the father of three, he turns 60 next month in pretty good shape - the upshot of having ridden the bench.

"Knees and hips? They're fine," he said. "Playing part-time kept me healthy."

As a rookie, he recalls lining up in the Colts' huddle in awe of the Super Bowl champions and quarterback John Unitas.

"I looked over and saw those high-tops and those little skinny legs of his and thought, 'He's a god,' " McCauley said.

A couple of years later, Unitas and most other Colts veterans were gone.

"From my first year to the fourth, the team was completely dismantled," McCauley said. He retired in the summer of 1982, after a 2-14 season in which attendance slowed to a trickle.

"People in the stands wore paper bags over their heads, and it upset me so much that my teammates thought that was funny," McCauley said. He still misses Baltimore.

"It was never snobbish," he said. "The people were down-to-earth. And let's not forget the steamed crabs. That's still my favorite food."

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