Thursday, January 05, 2006

On the Passing of the Last Block

Meet the offensive line of the undefeated 1937 Fordham Rams. From right to left, John "Tarzan" Druze, Al Babartsky, Vince Lombardi, Alex Wojciechowicz, Nat Pierce, Ed Franco and Leo F. Paquin. These gentlemen went by the moniker "The Seven Blocks of Granite," and are considered by many, including myself, to be perhaps the greatest offensive line ever seen in college football. "How would you know", the little voice asks. "You weren't around in those days." True enough, little voice. In fact my father was just 13 years old himself.

But that's the thing. My father was a 13 year-old kid living in The City with 3 brothers much older than he, all of whom attended Fordham. (Uncle Bob the Priest later taught there for many years). He had, as they might say today, drunk deeply of the Fordham Kool-aid. Where do you think he went to college after the war? Yepper! So who do you think heard incessantly about the famous Seven Blocks while growing up? Right again. Everytime the Green Bay Packers were on the TV, my Dad would regale anyone within shouting distance about how Vince Lombardy was once a Fordham Ram, and not just any Fordham Ram, either. He was a BLOCK!

You must admit, these guys were pretty damned good. As the story reads:

The 1936 Rams finished 5-1-2 and lost a possible Rose Bowl bid when they were upset by New York University at Yankee Stadium, 7-6, in the season's final game.
"That was always a blood game," Druze told Newsday in 1986, referring to the rivalry. "Forget about the records. It was like Purdue and Notre Dame."
Fordham's 1936 team shut out three opponents and gave up only 33 points.
The 1937 Rams were 7-0-1 and held five opponents scoreless.
Not too shabby, especially considering that their biggest guy was 6'1" and a whopping 220 lbs. And, Mister, they all graduated from that pretty tough Jesuit university in four years. Redshirt? Hell no. Go study.

Here's where I come into the picture. See that fellow at left end? Leo F. Paquin was my latin teacher in my freshman year at St. Francis Xavier High School on West 16th St. Mr. Paquin was also our football coach, and though I was still in J.V. myself, I got the wisdom of the ages from that man. He was still strong and would run with us as we took the inevitable post-practice laps.

We beat the Fordham Prep Rams that year 36-0. Or, as the Yearbook pronounced "We dined on Lamb." When it came time to award us our letters at the "Block X" dinner, guess who showed up? THE MAN HIMSELF. Coach Lombardy. I thought my dad was going to wet his pants. Hell, he might have wetted his pants for all I know, I was so busy staring at the hand that shook the hand of THE MAN himself.

And now the last of the Blocks, Tarzan Druze, has passed into memory. But I still have some old football books and memorabilia from those glory days of Fordham football that I found among the attic treasures when I was cleaning out the family home. My father was an artist- a good one- and his skills with a pencil as a youth were unbelievable. Among the drawings of his I have are sketches he made of the Seven Blocks from newspaper reports. And when I get home tonight I'm going to pull them out, pour me a glass of Basil Hayden, and drink to the memory of the Seven Blocks of Granite, and to the man who made them real to me.

1 comment:

erindangercampbell said...

hi, my name is erin and i'm actually one of Johnny Druze's grand daughters although he'll ALWAYS be dziadiau to me. We called him Dziadiau (pronounced Jaw-Jew, grandfather in polish)
He passed a little over a year ago and I have been missing him a lot lately. I googled his name tonight and came across your blog. If you have any other stories to share or memorbelia that would be awesome. thanks so much