As Dave Devoto spoke, as his speech quickened, as the frown went to a smile, time and place didn't matter. It was a football story, a really good one. It needed no context, no set-up. It stood on its own.
“Every time I came off the line of scrimmage,” Devoto said, “Bob Strong would hit me in the face. Sometimes it would be with his forearm. Sometimes it would be with his fist. Yes, that's right, his fist. He'd punch me and keep punching me on almost every play.
“Late in the game we ran a play to the other side of the field. I went after Strong: I'll teach that SOB something. He never saw me coming. Knocked him flat. Really hit him. Man, it felt good. I felt ecstatic. He got up. He was hot. I got three punches in before the officials kicked me out of the game.”
Dave Devoto is 81 years old. Does his story feel 81 years old? Does it feel as if it should be dismissed because it happened back-in-the-day when there were leather helmets? Does it feel somehow irrelevant because a player at that time was thought huge if he weighed 240 pounds?
Not if you believe that the elemental nature of the game is perpetually young and vibrant.
Not if you believe that what attracted Devoto to play football in 1950 was the very same thing that makes football America's most popular sport 63 years later.
In fact, a description of taking a fist repeatedly in the puss without a facemask or mouth guard spikes more curiosity than a player trying to poke his finger into the roll cage that passes for a helmet these days.
“When you told that story,” I asked Devoto, “does it appear so vivid that you feel young again?”
“Absolutely,” Devoto said.
Don't think those with gray hair or no hair or those with a halting gait lack significance. Lenny Wagner, SRJC's head football coach and the school's acting athletic director, doesn't think so. Wagner asked members of the 1950 SRJC football team to speak to his players before the Bear Cubs played Butte College on Oct. 18.