Gainous: ex-football star

Dec. 31, 1969, 7 p.m. | 51 years, 9 months ago

All-American guard and San Diego Charger

Late in the fourth quarter in the 1965 Orange Bowl, a future Hall of Famer and world class sprinter for Florida A and M fields a punt and goes straight ahead, full speed. Boom! He runs into a brick wall.

That punt returner turned out to be Bob Hayes of the Dallas Cowboys, one of the greatest receivers in NFL history. And the brick wall he ran into was Blair's principal Phillip Gainous, an All-American offensive from Morgan State.

Remembering the incident, Gainous leans back in his chair, pushing away from his formal desk, and bursts out laughing.

"It's funny, ‘cause when I made that tackle, the score was seven to six our way. The next thing you know, I looked at the scoreboard and there were three minutes, fifty-seven seconds left, and the score was thirty seven to seven. They scored over thirty points on us in three minutes!" recalls Gainous as he shakes his head in disbelief.

That same Morgan state team would produce five NFL draft picks, including Gainous, who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers. Gainous' teammate, Leroy Kelly turned out to be the tenth leading rusher in NFL history and Hall of Famer.

And he wasn't the only one, Willie Lanier, and Oliver Dobbins would both end u as All-Pros. "We also had a fullback who played for the Baltimor Colts and the Redskins," says Gainous who couldn't recall the name.

With a team like that, how could any one lose thirty seven to seven?

"That tells you how good Florida was," says Gainous.

"Hayes was their third string receiver. (Hayes ended up with four touchdowns in that game.) And he could have had two more TD's if he didn't fall down. They were tremendous. They would beat their opponents sixty to nothing."

He pauses and flashes his characteristic smile.

"They had a fresh man on every play. They played their first, second, and third string."

Morgan State didn't have any depth. Some players had to have iron man performances, playing the whole game. And to make matters worse, it was hot and humid. And by the fourth quarter, Gainous' team was going in slow motion.

"We lost eight to twelve pounds each," recalls Gainous.

Perhaps because of the memory of that day, Gainous later decided not to pursue pro ball.

"You know, I never wanted it (football), it was something I could do. I lasted two years (with the Chargers) ‘cause I could play and I was bigger than most (players)", said the six foot two, erstwhile 250 pound guard.

"I wasn't hungry enough. I played just hard enough to beat the other guy, not as hard as I could. If I worked at it, I think I could have played (pro football). He (the coach) knew too, that I didn't want it (football). (But) I have no regrets (about not playing pro football)," says Gainous.

He pauses momentarily his arms are bent at the elbows and his hands are close together, touching at the fingertips.

"The only disappointment is, I knew I could have been better. I was pretty good considering I played just good enough to get by."

Gainous knows that he'll never get a chance to know how good he could have been.

"That's the only regret," says Gainous.

How good was Gainous?

Besides making All-Interhigh as a fullback, besides making All-Met as a tackle, besides making All-Conference as a guard, and even besides making All-American, he beat out Lanier to start for Morgan State. Lanier turned out to be an All-Pro for the Kansas City Chiefs.

"I knew in my heart he was good, he was so strong," Gainous says of Lanier.

"Lanier could do something that I've never seen any one else do," says Gainous as he enthusiastically gets up to demonstrate.

"A lineman would rush at him and Lanier could stick his hand out like this (putting his hands straight out, palms out, fingers spread apart), and stop him dead on his tracks. And he would look away to watch the rest of the play!"

"(But) the guy I most idolized was Jerry Kramer." Kramer was an offensive guard for the green Bay Packers. (Kramer's teammate Tom Brown, a Blair grad, also started for the two time superbowl champion Packers.)

"Those Packers were something else, but I wanted to play for the Cowboys (who were interested in Gainous) but San Diego took me before them. I think I was drafted, somewhere in the middle rounds."

Perhaps his not remembering that detail is indicative of how much he cared about playing football.

"After a game, it was almost like a relief. It was like, oh, now I can do what I really want."

And what he really wanted, was to be a teacher. After being released, he didn't even bother to call any of a "dozen" teams that were interested in him before he was drafted.

"I came home and got a job at a day care center," he says matter-of-factly.

Later, Gainous would teach at Coolidge and be what he thought was an assistant coach to the football team.

"I came on the field and the coach gave me the keys and walked off. I came to the principal and he told me, I'm the new coach."

During the seven years he coached, Gainous never had a losing season, and even won the city championship game.

And perhaps this is a fulfillment for him.

Gainous recalls that when he played in high school, his team would always manage to lose that one game that kept them out of the championship.

"In tenth grade we (Springarn) were scored on once all year, and we lost that game and were knocked out of the championship," says Gainous, as he nods his head with chagrin, laughing in a self-deprecating manner.

He adds, "Just like the Florida game, huh?"

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