Secrets Of A Hitter: How Doug Plank Inspired The NFL's Meanest Defense
Joyce Park stashed this in The Sporting Life
Awesome profile of former Bear Doug Plank -- whose number 46 became the name of their storied defensive scheme -- and the mindset that makes a relatively ordinary man into a juggernaut able to hit so hard he would routinely knock other players out cold.
My favorite part of the article:
Plank was one of the only players to ever knock the great power running back Earl Campbell out of a game. "We watched film of the Broncos' safety Steve Foley trying to tackle Earl," Plank told me. "Generally, with film, you see everyone on the line, then the action, then it cuts to the next play. In this case, we saw Earl break through the line and Foley come to make the tackle. He put his helmet into one of Earl's thighs. But his thigh pads were 34 inches. Mammoth. Think about it. I had a 29-inch waist. Foley got knocked back, then knocked out. Instead of cutting to the next play, the film stayed on the scene as a crew of medics carried Foley away on a stretcher. Buddy [Ryan] turned off the camera and said, 'If any of you guys don't want to play this weekend, let me know.' So I sat there, thinking: 'You know what? I'm not going to hit Earl Campbell in the legs.' He wore metal thigh pads, not the foam rubber type like in Pop Warner. When Earl hit you, it sounded like an aluminum baseball bat: Doinggg, doinggg. So I thought, 'Where is Earl Campbell vulnerable?' Yes, yes, between the legs. So that whole game, I was waiting for the moment I could drive my helmet into the vulnerable area. When I finally got the chance, I put him down."
Plank numbers his own concussions, from dings to who-am-I-and-why-am-I-here blasts, in double digits. He carried smelling salts in his waistband to bring himself around. After an especially big hit, he would shake his head, then look at his uniform. "If it was the dark one, I'd tell myself, 'Go stand with the guys in the dark jerseys.'" He knew the protocol, how to keep himself in a game. "You'd run to the sideline and the doctor would hold up his fingers, how many, how many, but it was always two."
Judged by today's standards, Plank told me his entire career would be considered a penalty, an endless whistle blowing in the canyons of hell. "What's football?" he asked. "It's chess. Tackle chess. And what's the quarterback? He's the king. Take him out, you win the game. So that was our philosophy. We're going to hit that quarterback 10 times. We do that, he's gone. I hit him late? Fine. Penalize me. But it's like in those courtroom movies, when the lawyer says the wrong thing and the judge tells the jury to disregard it, but you can't un-hear and the quarterback can't be un-hit."
Such a vivid description:
"It was a spinal concussion," Plank told me. "About the only thing I can compare it to is sticking your finger in a socket. I stuck my finger in plenty of sockets when I was a kid so I know what I'm talking about. That was happening in the lower half of my body. Numb. Pins and needles. That feeling in my left leg, it never went away."