(MEMPHIS, TN) I’ve always felt that if one was truly a fan of music, regardless of genre preferred, they should go visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and Graceland in Memphis at least once in their lifespan. Enriching a musical pallet makes one appreciate the diversity of sound.
So what does this column have to do with sports, you might ask?
Well, when one visits these iconic landmarks, they might find tidbits of sports-related knowledge that wasn’t expected. In this specific case, my unearthed nugget was found in Elvis Presley’s backyard this past weekend.
I had been to the Graceland complex a couple of times before, and this trip was on-par with prior visits, until I curiously peeked into a display tucked away in a room on the journey’s last stop of buildings. A set of metal shelves with rolling drawers was marked, “rare memorable artifacts.”
There wasn’t anything engaging at first. Technical specs for posters advertising future appearances, a couple of cashed checks and a few other knick knacks dotted the sliding shelves.
Then seen was the one item that became the fixture of my mindset for the weekend…and the impetus of this article.
An undated, hand-written football play, composed by the King himself.
With a stealth-like move set, much like an Elvis karate-kick, I snapped a shot digitally and proceeded about my business. But as the weekend went on, I found myself pondering why the King would compose a pigskin blueprint.
It seems that Coach Presley was a fan of football. Actually, he was a mega-mark. In a 1962 interview, pulled from the official Graceland website, Elvis stated:
“The thing I keep up with most is professional football. I know all the players. I know all their numbers, who they play for. I’ve had people quiz me on it, just in games when we’ve got nothing to do. And that’s a big thing with me right now. I watch all the games that I can. I get the films from the teams themselves, if I can.”
Lounging in the Jungle Room to watch Sunday’s fare is one thing. Possessing and viewing game footage directly from the NFL squads themselves is a whole new level of extreme.
According to lore, Presley’s favorite teams were the Browns and the Steelers. He sponsored local football squads, where jerseys were affixed with “E.P. Enterprises” on the front.
Elvis also liked to engage with others in pick-up games during downtime, either while in the recording studio or on a movie set, which takes us back to his self-constructed play. Once again, the date is unknown for this and trying to figure out what he was attempting to accomplish in this diagram is also somewhat of a mystery.
Out of curiosity, I attempted to dissect it, for I had four years of high-school varsity football starts under my belt to help guide me along. I figured that that on-field portfolio kind of kept me out of the online backlash of “Oh, you never played the game, so you wouldn’t know…” that sometimes trail web hacks that write about sports online.
Let’s first look at the primitive basics of the play. One can assume that the scrimmage taking place was a simple game of “7-man,” where the lone lineman is the center snapping the ball. My four prep years at McLeansboro (IL) High at the center position still makes me eligible to de-construct, right?
One quarterback, three running backs, one of which is eligible to receive, and two clearly-defined tight ends complete the roster. With no additional lineman present, the assumption is also that this is a game of touch football with no tackling.
In this play, a “power-T” formation of three running backs is converted and the lone full back goes to the outside end of the line of scrimmage. The left end converts to the right side of center and the right end is positioned between the left end and the transitioned full back, who is now an eligible receiver.
Elvis’ play now has three eligible receivers stacked heavily to the right side of the line and two remaining running backs in the backfield.
Upon the snap, and after a delayed two-count, everyone on the right side of center, as well as the right running back in the back field, pushes hard to the right…which sets up the trickery.
The quarterback (presumably Elvis) hands the ball off to the left running back and the center, alongside Elvis, leads the blocking charge to the left side for a potential gain. In short, four players shoot hard to the right while two blockers (Elvis and the center) lead the remaining running back to the left after the delay.
Was it successful that day? Well, there was no documentation of what the end result was. And who was to argue, anyway? Even as a blocker, there’s no way that anyone on defense was going to go one-on-one with the King, physically. Col. Tom Parker would have put their coconuts in a pinch if they had. Besides, Elvis’ team still probably won the game anyway because one has to follow the “golden rule”: he who has the gold rules.
Nevertheless, I wanted second opinions to my analysis. I casually sent Elvis’ play to three friends that followed football for their respective takes.
“Looks like a trick play to me,” said the first respondent.
“What a mess of a play…get it together Elvis!” said the next.
“Looks like a Rams’ play,” said the third. “He was probably pilled up.” Ohhhh. Ouch!
In the end, this gridiron gambit either resulted in a projected 15-yard gain if performed correctly or a two-yard loss if read accurately by the defense.
The city of Memphis was considered one of five locations in the running for an NFL expansion team in 1974 and inevitably succumbed to Tampa and Seattle. They were up once again in 1983 and one has to wonder, if Elvis were alive at the time, considering his love of football, his philanthropy to the community and his jump-suited pocketbook back then, would “Mempho” have had a legitimate chance to snag a franchise?
Or would have the King just sufficed by being a majority owner of the USFL’s Memphis Showboats in 1984? Interesting things to ponder while munching on a fried peanut-butter and banana sandwich.
Musicians and sports make interesting bedfellows at times. Perhaps I should anecdote Alice Cooper’s love of golf the next go-around? Mill-e-wah-que, here I come!