They’ve played 47 Super Bowls, and no quarterback has won more than Terry Bradshaw’s four.
So the guy who played ahead of him for two years at Louisiana Tech must have been a pretty good player himself.
Perhaps you’ve heard of him — fellow by the name of Robertson. Phil Robertson.
Yes, that Phil Robertson. The patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family. The ol’ Duck Commander himself.
If you haven’t caught Duck Dynasty on A&E, you’re quickly becoming the minority. The show has moved from cult status to mainstream hit.
Last Wednesday’s season three premiere almost won its time slot, finishing just behind CSI on CBS. Duck Dynasty garnered more viewers than Chicago Fire on NBC, or Nashville on ABC.
Who wouldn’t tune in to see a multimillion dollar business manned by a group of guys who’d rather be out having fun in the woods — or doing anything else, for that matter — than running a business?
Phil described the show to Holly Anderson at SI.com.
“Let’s face it, the bar has been set pretty low for you to get on American television these days,” he said. “I think they said, ‘Why don’t we try a functional family?’ and somebody said, ‘That’s a novel idea.’ Round here, there’s no outbursts, belligerence, cursing, getting drunk, dope. No, we’re all Godly people, so maybe it’s a little switch for a change. We’re not actually rednecks, but we probably could be called good ol’ boys.”
Phil invented his duck call, and got his patent, in 1972. His goal was to create a duck call that actually sounded like a duck.
“No duck would ever place in a duck-calling contest,” he says at duckcommander.com.
But before that, Phil played quarterback at Louisiana Tech, from 1965-1967. As Bradshaw noted in his book, “It’s Only A Game”: “The quarterback ahead of me, Phil Robertson, loved hunting and fishing more than he loved football. He’d come to practice directly from the woods, squirrel tails hanging out of his pockets, duck feathers on his clothes. Clearly, he was a fine shot, so no one complained too much.”
A teammate, Butch Williams, told Doug Williams of espn.com, “His main interest was not quarterbacking. His main interest was hunting and fishing. Coach Aillet would make him come over and spend the night with him before the game, where he wouldn’t get up and go duck hunting at four o’clock in the morning, so he’d have his mind on the ballgame instead of hunting and fishing. That’s just the way Phil was. What you see when you watch him on TV, that was Phil.”
Phil had his priorities in order during college.
“I made a little pact with myself,” he told Williams. “I was going to study enough in between hunting squirrels and ducks and deer and whatnot to come out with a solid C. Because in my mind, if I come out with a solid C with the least amount of study I can get away with, at the end of the day that will prove I’m at least smarter than half of them. So that’s what I went with.”
Of course, conflict was inevitable.
“One time the dean of men called me into his office,” Phil told Williams. “When you go to the dean of men, you had messed up somehow, and what he said to me was, ‘Mr. Robertson, do you realize the name of that street you live on?’ I’m thinking, what the heck is it? He said, ‘Let me help you out. It’s called Scholar Drive.’ He said the president of the university had some dignitaries over and he said he was showing them Louisiana Tech’s facilities, and he said, ‘Mr. Robertson, I got to tell you, when we got to your house, there were nets, there was duck feathers and blood on the sidewalk, an old deer hide and antlers and a bunch of old junk piled up.’ And I said, ‘Dean Lewis, that’s my equipment.’ And he said, ‘I want you to get out there and get that stuff out of sight because it’s just not real scholarly, Mr. Robertson.’”
In 1966, Louisiana Tech lost to mighty Alabama, 34-0, but Butch Williams never forgot Bear Bryant’s quote in the Sunday paper.
“That young man over there on the Tech sideline, that quarterback, he has one heck of an arm,” he recalled for Doug Williams. “He’s a great prospect. He’s one of the best prospects I’ve seen.”
High praise indeed, considering that Bryant’s own quarterback that year was Kenny Stabler.
But Phil’s heart was never on the football field.
“Let me put it this way,” he told Anderson. “Throwing a touchdown pass to a guy running down the sideline, and he runs down with the ball for six, it was fun. However, in my case, it was much more fun to be standing down in some flooded timber with about 35 or 40 mallard ducks comin’ down on top of me in the woods. That did my heart more good that all the football in the world.”
Against Southeastern Louisiana in 1967, Phil recorded the first 300-yard passing game in Bulldog history. But by the final game of the season, Phil had made up his mind to quit football, with one year of eligibility left.
As teammate Bob Brunet told Williams, “He and I and Bradshaw were standing on the field before our last game, and we used to call Terry “Bomber.” He looks at Terry and says, ‘Bomber, I’m not coming back next year.’ He said, ‘You’re not? What are you going to do?’ He said, ‘I’m going for the ducks, you can go for the bucks.’”
Phil didn’t run into Bradshaw again until last November, in the Los Angeles airport. “I hadn’t seen him in 44 years,” Phil told Williams, “and he runs up behind me and grabs me. Well, he’s got four Super Bowls, and I’m some kind of movie star now, but he said, ‘You did pretty good, Robertson!’ and I said, ‘You ain’t done bad yourself!’”
Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His column appears each Thursday.