From "Out of Bounds"

Frank Leahy (center) is reunited with two of his “lads,” Creighton Miller (left) and John Lujack (right) in 1963. (Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame Sports Information Department)

Frank Leahy (center) is reunited with two of his “lads,” Creighton Miller (left) and John Lujack (right) in 1963. (Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame Sports Information Department)

 

This month's edition of Out of Bounds features a humorous story about “Creighty.” 

 

"Rabbity. A trifle too rabbity," complained Coach Frank Leahy. He was talking about Creighton Miller, his magnificently talented left halfback.

Leahy's problem with Miller was simple. Miller's family was well off. Creighton Miller did not need and would not accept a football scholarship, no matter how many times Leahy tried to push one on him.

 

Like any coach, Leahy did not shirk from using scholarships to control a player. A scholarship strengthened a man's ties to his school; it gave him a sense of responsibility to his team. Also, a coach could always threaten to discontinue the scholarship. This way, the player's father would start getting bills he thought only existed in defense contracting.

 

Creighton Miller, happily, was unburdened by any of this. One fine April day, Frank Leahy sought out Creighton on campus.

 

"Will you be out for practice this afternoon?" inquired Leahy.

Creighton Miller filled his lungs with the breath of Spring. "Think I'd rather play golf today," he said.

"Ooooh, Creighton Miller!" Leahy was pained. "Football demands constant practice."

"So does golf," smiled Miller. "You'd be surprised."

 

Miller's presence at practice was as likely to upset Leahy as his absence. He had an annoying habit of cheering for his brother, Tom, who was also on the team. Tom cheered just as hard for Creighton.

"Atta boy, Creighty," Tom would yell during a tackling drill. "Way to bring 'em down. Great tackle!"

"Yay, Tom, what a block!" Creighton would cheer. "That's how to play football."

 

This was not Frank Leahy's idea of a truly disciplined football practice.

One particular drill was especially hard on the ends, who had to streak down the field, grab a punt, run back to the kicker, and repeat the whole process ad nauseam. The ends were lucky one day to have Creighton Miller as their punter. When they signaled that they were getting tired, Creighton was only too happy to give them a rest. He promptly kicked the ball off the side of his foot and over the fence. Everyone had to wait while a team manager retrieved the pigskin. When the ball came back, Miller hooked it over the fence again.

 

"Ooooh, Creighton Miller!" It was Leahy from the tower overlooking the practice field. "Surely you can kick better than that."

"Sure, Coach." Miller got another ball and winked at the ends. "Like this?" He kicked it over the fence again.

"Oh, my," gasped Leahy. "You're doing it wrong. All wrong."

Miller looped another ball out of bounds.

Leahy climbed out of the tower and rushed to Miller's side. The coach began a long technical lecture on proper punting technique.

"I got it," Miller nodded. Another ball went over the fence.

"Ooooh, Creighton Miller!" Leahy kept teaching; Miller kept squirting his kicks to the side; and the ends kept their laughter to themselves.