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Theron Sapp, Steelers Fullback, 1963-1965

June 26, 2012

Theron Sapp:

First, can you let readers know what you  have been doing with yourself since yor time in the NFL?

I retired from the Steelers in 1965 and got into the fried chicken business. I opened up a Maryland Fried Chicken franchise and ran that for thirty-five years. Along the way I opened a seafood restaurant and country western club in the early 70’s when country music was strong. Then I retired after thirty-five years is work.

You were known as the “Drought Breaker” in college. How did that name come about?

Georgia hadn’t beaten Georgia Tech in eight years and didn’t score a touchdown against them in three years. We played them in ’57 at Tech. I played both ways as most players did then and had a good game on offense and defense. I recovered a fumble and had the game winning touchdown. A Georgia politician wrote a poem about it – it was a big thing then in Georgia (laughing).

You started in the NFL being drafted by Philadelphia in 1959 – how did your career begin?

Philly was last in their conference the year I was drafted, My roommate told me he thought Philadelphia would go to the championship in a couple of years and he was right. In 1960 we went to the championship game versus Green Bay and beat them. That was the only time Vince Lombardi ever lost a championship game.

What was your biggest adjustment to the NFL and who helped you make that adjustment?

I had two other Georgia guys on the Philadelphia team when I got there. Also, Billy Barnes was there too – he was my best friend from Wake Forrest. He helped me to adjust to the NFL – to learn how to pace myself and understand the schemes.

In Philadelphia, we’d do 15-20 minute drills then stop for an hour or so. It was different from Georgia. Coach Butts in Georgia was a hard coach – he worked us really hard. I used to joke in Philadelphia that if we kept up practicing this way I could play for forty years!

How did you end up in Pittsburgh in 1963?

In ’63 we were playing a home game versus Pittsburgh. Their linebacker – John Reger – he tackled me and me and my knee hit him. He swallowed his tongue and they had to perform emergency surgery on him on the field. The whole stadium was quiet….

Well, a couple of days later I was watching tv at the hotel and I saw on the news that I was traded to Pittsburgh. I called Vince McNally and he told me I had to be in Pittsburgh by 6:00 Tuesday. So, I loaded up my car and drove to Pittsburgh.

Were you happy to be traded?

I met with {Steelers coach} Buddy Parker – he told me I’d be playing a lot on Sunday. And I did – I played a lot in the ballgame on Sunday. I was happier because I had gotten to play a lot more in Pittsburgh. The only thing that bothered me was that Green Bay never called me to tell me I was traded.

How was Buddy Parker to play for?

Parker was tough. He didn’t say a whole lot. He did like to take a short drink now and then (laughing).

We had a good year in 1963, Ed Brown was the quarterback that season and that was after Big Daddy Lipscomb overdosed. We would have had a chance to win it all if that didn’t happen.

We lost to the Giants in a terrible weather game that last game or we would have won the division. We beat them earlier in the year before I got there. Ed Brown went the whole week without a beer – he said he wanted to concentrate on the game, Well, I think that threw his timing off because he had a bad game (laughing).

You also played for Coach Austin when Parker was fired…

His first year I broke my leg in training camp. That was really the end of my career. It didn’t heal very good – it wasn’t a good operation. I needed surgery again and that was when I had to retire.

Who were some of the biggest characters on those Steelers teams?

John Henry Johnson and Myron Pottios always cut it up. Buzz Nutter had jokes to tell too. We didn’t make much money then but we had a good time.

Myron was a good friend – he’d come down to Georgia and hang out a bit. We still talk. We actually had the Eagles 1960 team reunion for the 1960 championship team a couple years ago. They bought us watches and jackets – it was a fun time.

What was your best memory of your time in Pittsburgh?

My best game in Pittsburgh was in ’63 versus Dallas in Dallas. We needed to beat them to play the Giants in the championship game. I had over a hundred yards rushing and scored on a 25-30 yard run to win the game.

What do you think of the game today and the lack of the use of s fullback now for most teams?

The game has changed so much now. We had the sprint backfield then and there was really no difference then between the fullback and running back. Now the fullback may get one carry per game if the team even has one. Of course, now they are more like small offensive linemen. I liked the game a lot better when we had the split backfield.

Any last thoughts for readers?

I’m just thankful – we didn’t earn a lot, but football gave me a chance to get a good start in life.

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