The following is an excerpt of our most recent interview with Leroy Keyes and Bob Griese held on Nov. 21, 2020 for an edition of “Gold and Black LIVE.” The two Boilermaker legends were together via Zoom on that Friday afternoon.
It is no secret that Keyes has is currently battling serious health issues and is in the thoughts of the staff of GoldandBlack.com and Purdue fans everywhere.
GoldandBlack.com: Great to have the two of you on the show. Bob, starting with you, welcome to the show.
Bob Griese: Well, it’s nice to be on the show. I email, I get on my Internet and see you guys from time to time. And just it’s nice to be on with a guy (Leroy Keyes) that when he was in the huddle, it made me feel a lot better.
I can over there and I’m saying there’s Leroy, I can either hand him the ball, I can either throw the ball to him. But when that would happen like four or five times, the crowd would be sitting and saying, “get the ball to Leroy” and Leroy doesn’t want the ball, he’s tired (laugh).
GoldandBlack.com: Leroy, talk about that relationship of playing with a guy like Bob Griese:
Leroy Keyes: Going to Purdue (in the fall of 1965) was kind of an eye opener for me personally, coming out of the South. I didn’t know anything about Bob Griese. I didn’t know anything about Jack Mollenkopf. I really didn’t know where Purdue University was.
To come out and meet the guys, I mean, they weren’t going to lay back and give it to you; you had to earn it. You had to earn the respect. You had to earn your playing time. And I only had one critic on the team; (assistant coach) Bob DeMoss because he questioned everything I did. You can’t do this. You can’t do that. And I’m like, how do you know? You haven’t seen me play.
When when I got out on the field, it was so much camaraderie, so much togetherness. You were accepted automatically. I had Bob, Lou Sims, John Charles, George Catavolos. All those guys just kind of embraced you, even though we were freshmen, they beat the stuffing out of us as freshmen. But when you finally got up to the varsity, they showed you so much love and respect. They just say, look, if I can’t play good with you guys, who can I play good with?
The only thing I could do better than Bob was was kick off. Other than that, he was the man. And I would just sit there and say, ‘What a pleasure to play with a future Hall of Famer.’ Because we all saw that he had that, what I want to call it that karma. He had it all written on him and I knew him just a matter of time before we’ve said, ‘man we play with one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history.’
GoldandBlack.com: Now, Bob it’s interesting because you were the place kicker. Even earlier in your career, did you punt some as well? You were a straightforward kicker, but you made your you made your kicks, and you had to do it all in addition to being the quarterback. That was a big part of what you were on this football team.
Griese: Well, back then, you know, there were no soccer style kickers; we all kicked straight ahead. The shoe that I wore was the square toe and f we were going to kick up extra point or a field goal, I just used that shoe.
But if we were going to punt, and I did punt for like two years, that was a problem. We had to call timeout; I had to change shoes. Now and then and then I had to punt the ball with a with a flat toe instead of a square toe. So that was it was it was kind of interesting back then. But of course now we got these guys that kick 50-yard field goals with a with a soccer style. It just it’s a whole new game now.
GoldandBlack.com: Leroy, as a sophomore in Purdue’s 1966 Rose Bowl season, you played primarily defense, but were you ever chomping at the bit to get in and play more offense that year? Was that hard for you to sit and watch knowing you were in the in the hands of a Hall of Fame level quarterback in Bob Griese?
Keyes: It wasn’t it wasn’t hard. We had so much talent on that squad. I mean, when I looked at Lou Sims run I say, oh my god where this kid come from? Then I looked at Bob Hurst, I looked at Bob Herrick, I looked at Bob Baltzell.
The only person I could compare myself to my sophomore year was Perry Williams. We both were freshmen, and I said ‘I don’t know what you want us to do to go get some playing time here, friend.” Perry came to Purdue as a quarterback out of Cincinnati Withrow. Once you got out on the field, you know, you saw Bob Griese, the starting quarterback, and Perry had to think where can I fit in up here? It was the same for me. So I think (assistant coach) Burnie Miller (who recruited Keyes) said, well, I’m gonna get you on the field somewhere. And so when they say he will go on defense, I was like, I really don’t want to go to defense; I want to play offense. because I can get a handoff from Bob Griese. You’ve gotta be kidding me?.
So, when they say you go play defense, I said (to myself) ‘go over there and do the best you can.” And, you know, I always tell everybody, Alan, God is good.
The first road game, we go to Notre Dame. I am shaking in my booties. I didn’t know when South Bend was. Here we go into South Bend and it looked like everybody said, don’t worry, we got this. We go up there, we get shellacked, (receiver) Jim Seymour and quarterbackTerry Hanratty had a field day, but we learned a great lesson. We learned how to be humble and understand that it’s not going t o be our way every game.
They believed we could win, and we had one of the best leaders in the world in Bob Griese. So when Jack said, y’all just listened to Griese on field, and on defense, when the defensive captains spoke, we shut up.
GoldandBlack.com: Bob, did you have any experience in a scrimmage with Leroy where you had to look his way or worry about him jumping in front of your passes when he was playing as a DB or corner?
Griese: First of all, you know, back then freshmen weren’t eligible, or Leroy would have been starting in as a true freshman. Second thing is , how about the memory of that guy Leroy, he can remember names and numbers, guys and all this other stuff?
When Leroy was a freshman and I was a junior, they played with him on defense as a cornerback. You could tell that once he got to know what was going on once he really got to be coached defensively, or later offensively, he was going to be good. He was just a cut above anything else that we’ve ever seen walk through those doors at Purdue.
GoldandBlack.com: . The game against Minnesota In ’66 was historic for Purdue as it clinched the school’s first Rose Bowl trip. It was a game played i the freezing cold (19 degrees at kickoff), what are your memories?
Griese: Well, the couple things that I remember about that game was it was colder than all get out, like you mentioned. . The defense just shut them out. You know, offensively, we stayed on the field. I know the defense players just say just stay out there offense. Make first downs, we’ve got enough points to win. We got 16 points, just don’t let them get an interception or a fumble or whatever. So yes, I remember the the after the game, everybody was just jumping up and down. Coach Mollenkopf, Bob DeMoss and the rest of those guys, it was just great for them to be on the first Purdue team to ever go to the Rose Bowl. And then we finished it off by winning the Rose Bowl.
GoldandBlack.com: How good was that 1966 defense from your standpoint, Leroy?
Keyes: It was an awesome defense. When you go back and you think about how Bob says I remember all the crazy names, I’ve been doing my homework. When I am on in sports shows (like these) I do my homework.
And I mean I’m used to look at George Olion. And Bob Yunaska. He says they wanted to be the best at their position. I looked at Lance Olssen. I looked at Chuck Kyle. These guys up on that front line were like, if it’s a run play, we are going to stuff it. Then you had guys who would jump off a 20 story building just to get in on the play. Yeah. And we had Frank Burke, a guy with aging spirits (Burke was a veteran who played at Purdue in his late 20s. And then looking at corner, you had two great leaders in George Catavolos and John Charles in the middle. And here I am, a lowly southern boy standing on the other corner. And I remember about Minnesota.
As Bob stated earlier, it was cold as cold can be, but for some reason it looked like we didn’t have enough parkas for everybody to have a parka. Back in the day, they didn’t have all these heat blowers. People like (trainer) Pinky Newell and (equipment manager) Pat Dyer will go to and say, look, just keep clapping your hands. And we say, guys stay out there a little longer, so we stay a little warmer. And then, once Bob punted (Griese was the punter too), we went out there and said, hey, look, we’re gonna get off this field as soon as we can.
But I just played with a group of guys who knew how to swarm to the ball. Guys who knew how to just be overly aggressive within the rules of the game, and we didn’t get into stupid penalties, where we kept ourselves on the field any longer. And I used to look at those guys and say, man, I’m glad I can go to war with you guys, because you guys understand the game. And when that when that final gun went off, when that whistle went off, it was like, who can get into the locker room first? We knew we had Indiana coming up, so we didn’t want to spoil the Old Oaken Bucket game. We said well, we’ll go down and shellack these suckers. And so when we won that game, we knew Michigan State couldn’t go back (league champion MSU was not eligible due to the conference’s no-repeat rule at the time). And we say, hey, on a plane ride back, to see the (happy) faces of all of us.
I had never seen the Pacific Ocean in my life. We got to enjoy Pasadena, California. Like you said, we came home with a victory and that made playing defense for me that year so much easier because I just said to myself look, I’m on the field, I’m helping my team and whatever Jack (Mollenkopf) and Bob (DeMoss) had in store for me coming into my junior and senior year, (was fine). We had great leadership.
GoldandBlack.com: Bob, tell us about (receiver) Jim Beirne and your relationship with your receivers.
Griese: I didn’t call the plays back then. Not many quarterbacks in college did or do now; they get the signs from the sidelines. We ran it a lot, so I would think ‘damn, I hope the next play call is a pass play to them.” It was almost like I was enjoying when we would get stuffed on first and second and nine. So it’d be third and nine. We had to throw the ball. So I looked over to Beirne when I called a play, and he just he just smiled. And I just kind of nod to him. We hit this last week, we hit this in practice. We got adjustments in case they do this in case I do that. And he was a bright guy too. You know, we had all kinds of adjustments.
We were pretty sure that we were gonna get it as long as Leroy was In the huddle. We had two (big-play) weapons, you know, we had Beirne and we had Leroy (who made cameo appearances on offense in Griese’s senior year of 1966).. It was fun.
Bob DeMoss called all the plays. He didn’t get enough credit, and the sad part about all of this is the success that he had as an offensive coordinator and as assistant coach. He never had that success as a head coach. When when he was the head coach, that the teams weren’t that good at Purdue, and I always felt bad for him for that.
GoldandBlack.com: Leroy, talk your buddy (fullback) Perry Williams, who carried the load up the middle (he scored both of Purdue’s touchdowns in the Rose Bowl).
Leroy Keyes: You know it was a lot of trash talking when I came in as a freshman. When they put him at fullback, Perry believed that nobody in the defense could stop him. He ran with his knees high. He wanted to punish you rather than get punished, and he had speed and he could catch the ball out of the backfield. We were always a little leery that if one of his contact lenses had come out, he’d be blind on the field.
Perry prided himself on learning his position. He knew it was the first time that he ever had to put his hand on the ground instead of under the center’s butt. Perry accepted without any fanfare. He didn’t go to DeMoss and say “I don’t want to; I think I’m a better quarterback than Griese.” No, he said, “Look, wherever you need me, therefore, I will go.” He ran the ball with reckless abandon before the Earl Campbell’s in the world and all the other guys came up, and he knew how to fight for that extra yardage to keep us on the field so that we could drive in for a touchdown.
I just would look at him and say hey P-Dub, we called him P-Dub, one day I’m gonna be just like you. P-Dub was a hard-nosed, gifted young man who enjoyed the game of football. I just thank him that (and thankful that) we can still call each other, as I called my senior leader there, Robert Griese: A friend forever.
Griese: One guy,that Leroy has not mentioned and was a big part of that defense. was George Catavolos. He was one of the captains of that team and went on to a very successful career in coaching at the college level and then at the pro level. George was kind of the boss and he got everybody where they were supposed to be lined up.
Keyes: George was so smooth. You didn’t even know if George was in the secondary. There used to be a movie when I was young called the “Great Ghost,” that was George. He would show up at the most unexpected time, but right on time, and he will get us in the huddle. He looked at (fellow defensive back and Rose Bowl MVP) John Charles and says, John, you make the tough tackles. I’ll make the tough breakups. When I talk to George today, I say, “man, you knew how to keep the ship afloat.’
GoldandBlack.com: Bob, what would it have been like to have played in Jeff Brohm’s offense as a quarterback?
Griese: I would love it, with the guys that they have on the outside. It’s a spread offense. When you have a spread offense, the defense has to spread out as well. Throw into some of the guys that they have now. The young kid (David) Bell and Rondale Moore. I enjoyed watching him play two years ago when he was a freshman and he made the All-America team as a freshman, then injuries got him last year.
I’m an offensive guy and just see us and think yeah, that’s good. [Brohm] is a good guy, and I’m so glad that the year before last, he didn’t leave and go back to his alma mater Louisville and he stayed at Purdue. I think that’s a tribute to the athletic director and the president of Purdue, keeping a great coach like that.
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