When I got to Orono in August of '66, I was looking forward to playing football. The first several days of practice gave me several first impressions, of my future Fiji brethren, and of myself. I should take a second to note that the squad picture of the Freshman Football team included in Dewey's musings was missing Mike O'Leary.
Mike had blown out his knee a few days prior to the squad picture, and was recovering, I believe, from ACL surgery in the Infirmary. Mike and I had been playing next to each other on the right side of the defensive line. We would commiserate about the heat, the black flies, our mutual thirst for cold brew, et cetera. We would also bitch about a conditioning drill that was a favorite of Coach Bob Pickett's where one had to stand on one foot, reach behind with one hand and grab the opposite foot, and hop one-footed backward and forward and side-to-side for what seemed like forever, and then do the same thing on the other leg. It was murder. The day O'Leary got hurt, the first day in preseason, we did nor do that drill. Mike always said that he thought that not doing the drill somehow set him up for his injury.
That was a pretty good bunch of future Zobes. O'Leary went on to start at defensive end for a couple of varsity years before breaking his leg. John Kimball was about 180 pounds of gristle and spit at linebacker, who somehow or other managed to get to the ball carrier every time while looking like he was never in a hurry, and tough.
John Collins looked like a perfect combination of an Eagle Scout and an altar boy, until it came time to hit someone.
And, of course, Dulac. Not a big guy, by any means, but one of the best football players I ever knew. He was undersized, half-blind, and I have a memory of Dewey wearing a pair of black rubber 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle' styled goggles that he wore until contact lens technology caught up to his vision, and lean and mean for a defensive lineman. He was fundamentally perfect. He would fire off the ball, low, diagnose what was going on and get in the middle of the play, every time, all the while giving away 30-50 pounds to whomever was trying, notice I said “trying” to block him. Future captain of the Bears.
I remember our first game was against Bridgton Academy. It was a warm, humid late September afternoon. They were fucking HUGE. I think their offensive and defensive lines averaged over 250#. They kind of had their way with us for the first half, but wilted in the second half. It was 14-0 at the half, and we beat them 21-14. I remember my life-long best friend, a guy named Mike Doyle, played nose tackle for Bridgton that game, head up over Paul Pooler. After the game, he said that he'd never been hit so low playing football. I got moved from defense to offense in the second half, and never got back on the defensive side of the ball again. We went on to play Colby, Bowdoin, and the BU freshmen. We lost to BU, I think by a score of 14-6. My biggest memory of that game was when future San Francisco 49er All-Pro Bruce Taylor intercepted a little pass over the middle. There was no place for him to run, no place at all, except right at me. He was literally two feet away from me when I made the mistake of putting my head down to make the tackle. I still don't know how he evaded me, but he did. I never touched him.
Anyhow, the season served to humble me as a football player. And then a Perfect Storm of personal shortcomings hit me: lack of discipline, laziness, monumental immaturity, and, I had no drive whatsoever to do any of the work it might have taken, maybe, to make me better. After spring football, where I got my ass handed to me on a daily basis, reinforced everything I suspected about my chances going forward, I gave up football, but the friends I made on the field, in the dorms, and within the Castle served me in good stead.
I never got to play with John Rhodes. My football days were over by the time he got to UMO. But he's a story unto himself, another undersized defensive lineman. I am not sure he never weighed over 200 pounds, but he was tough beyond description, and an athlete. The story was that on the first day of varsity preseason, everyone had to run a mile. If a player could not do a mile in 6:00 or less, he had to come out before practice every day until he could make that time. In the year in question, John Rhodes had the fasted time on the squad. I think he ran about 5:20; a defensive lineman, which is astounding enough until you factor in that he smoked at least a pack of unfiltered Camels a day. One of my all-time favorite guys, always smiling.
Well, that's that. Sorry to be long-winded, but this brought back some good times.
Richard M. Paganucci
Omega Mu, 1971
I wanted to add a few words on my dear long departed friends, Rick ‘Dusty’ and John Rhodes and a couple of other points, which will be rather long & convoluted so I beg your Indulgence.
I have to start with my life long friend, George Paul Dulac - ‘Dewey’, one of the nicest people on the planet. He and I go back to third grade in grammar school, St Mary’s in Augusta, Maine. Sports were a big part of our lives, and we could not wait to play football in high school. Dewey even played basketball while at St Mary’s. He was a rebounding animal as you could imagine.
Dewey was a year older and got a head start, but we played football together for a couple of years in high school. He was astonishing. As Tony noted, he was small for his position but quick as a cat and strong as a bull.
After my senior year, I was being recruited by U-Maine and went up to Orono for a visit. Dewey was my guide and introduced me to Tony Flaherty, Mike O’Leary and Paul Pooler. These guys inspired me to want to join Phi Gam when I came back in the fall.
Now to the Rhodes boys: I met Dusty the first practice of freshmen football. He was a gregarious guy and we hit it off. After that practice, we walked out of the locker room, it was early evening, we stood there and chatted. We said now what? We looked at each other and said, “Pats”.
We walked into Pats, underage as we were, and who do we see but Tommy Savage and John Perkins, so we joined them for the evening. It was a fun time for two frosh sitting in a bar all night with two senior Fiji’s. That was the start of a four year relationship, imbibing or working with the Farnsworth family.
Dusty and I we’re planning to live in the house our sophomore year with John Nale and Tommy Richardson. Dusty called me during the summer with a change of plans. His older brother, John, ‘Rocky’, was getting out of the Marines that summer and planned to enroll at UM, so our arrangements changed.
John graduated from HS in 1964, enrolled Springfield College but left soon after and joined the marines in late 64, early 65. He left the highlands of South Vietnam in July, 1968 as a Marine Staff Sgt. John was a wonderful guy, the real deal.
He could not play ball that year due to admin issues. When he arrived in Orono, he slept on the floor because he was not used to a bed. John’s stories were classic and hysterical. He always used humor in his stories of his days in Vietnam.
As a result, Dusty and I roomed together during preseason and road games as John frothed at the mouth to play. John and I became fast friends as he did with everyone he met.
Dusty left school after our sophomore year, so John and I roomed together during preseason football and road games for two years. We had a blast together. Coaches stopped checking us for curfew during preseason - they knew we were not in the room.
As Tony indicated, the first day of preseason everyone had to meet physical requirements, including the dreaded 6 min mile. JR smoked more than I but he was incredible. He did the mile in record time. Unfortunately, I had to show for the 5:30 AM runs until completed.
John became a starter at linebacker where he was a key player for the two years he played. He barely weighed 185 lbs, but he was tough as nails. After school, John went to law school and later became mayor of Westfield, MA.
Sadly, Dusty died in 1984 and preceded his beloved big brother as John died a few years ago due to exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. John touched a lot of people and was loved by all. He was was an incredible guy.
James D. McLean, Jr.
Omega Mu, 1972
At John Rhodes memorial services the stories did not stop. He was remembered as an accomplished practical joker, which was guaranteed to keep the entire town in stitches. When I went through the tollbooth, I asked the toll taker how to get to the cemetery. She asked whose service I was attending. When I said John Rhodes, she talked about John for five minutes; not giving a hoot that there was a long line of cars piled up behind mine. John, from his teaching, mayoral and DA days was a much-loved legend in Westfield. She was furious at the current mayor that he had not ordered the flags in Westfield to be flown at half-mast in honor of John. John emailed Tom Richardson and I many times in the final years of his life. He never talked about his illness, which, according to the people I met at the funeral, was devastating. In his last e-mail to me, he spoke about how he, Tom and I should plan a cross-country drive to California as a sort of last hurrah adventure.
He is buried in the same plot as Dusty in the Catholic cemetery in Westfield. I really miss John. We were, indeed, very fortunate to have the great gift of knowing both he and Dusty.
John was scouting in Cambodia one night and a NVA sentry stood on his hand for several hours guarding the NVA camp John was observing, and fortunately, John remained undiscovered. He was also sent to the Southern Philippines as part of an elite team to quell Muslim/communist insurgents prior to a state visit by LBJ. He said the fighting conditions there were even more dangerous and difficult in Viet Nam and Cambodia. After graduation John returned to his native Westfield, Ma. to teach. He quickly was elected mayor of Westfield, and as one of the US' youngest mayors, was named Outstanding Young Man in America for cleaning the mob out of Westfield. He later earned a law degree and served as DA in Westfield and Springfield. John was a legend in Westfield and in Veterans circles in New England. He passed away due to the after effects of Agent Orange exposure, and is buried next to his biological brother and Black Bear teammate, as well as our FIJI brother Richard "Dusty" Rhodes, '71, who passed away to cancer in the late 1970’s.
“What if the space be long and wide,
That parts us from our brother’s side
A soul-joined chain unites our band,
And memory links us hand in hand.”
(Phi Gamma Delta fraternity song)
Chip Chapman, ’82