Olean Times Herald
by Mike Abdo
July 12, 1974
Crist Anxious To Earn That Starting Job
From Penn State basketball star, to the NFL, to a starting job.
The New York Giants’ third year strong safety says matter-of-factly, “They say the job is mine until somebody takes it away.”
He adds parenthetically, “Of course, they might say that to everybody else, too.”
But you get the idea that Crist, who never played a second of college football, doesn’t believe that new Giant coach Bill Arnsparger was misstating the truth.
Last year, the former Salamanca football and basketball star, played behind Richmond Flowers in the New York secondary. But Flowers’ switch to the WFL (he’s working in the Houston Texans front office until the 1975 season) moved Crist to the top spot on the depth chart.
Now he faces the prospect of a new coach and a new coaching staff (all but offensive line coach Ray Wietecha were replaced) but seems to relish both.
Jim Garrett (former Giants’ defensive coach) was most responsible for me getting to play pro football,” Crist says, “but there were some problems toward the end of last season..”
Those problems involved Crist’s crack at a starting role.
“I had gotten a chance to play when Flowers injured his knee,” he says. “But then Richmond refused to have an operation and wanted to continue to play. So there I was back on the bench.”
“I wanted to know why, so I went to Garrett. I know I didn’t play super, but I did as well as anyone else. Richmond was a faster straight ahead runner than me, but I was just as quick agility-wise and with his knee...
“Anyway,” Crist continues, “I asked Garrett why I should be back on the bench, and if the job was automatically Richie’s. He told me I didn’t have the right to ask those questions. I wasn’t tying to down-grade Richie’s ability as a player, I wanted to know for my own satisfaction.”
What made him wonder even more was the fact that he had a bonus clause in his contract that gave him extra money for being in the top 22 players on the team in minutes played.
He says, “At the time Flowers came back, I’d started six games, and the seventh start would have assured me of the bonus. It struck me as being odd. As it turned out I got the bonus anyway because we had so many injuries, but it sure made me wonder.”
If Crist was a bit disenchanted last year, he beams with excitement about the coming season under Arnsparger, the former mastermind of the Miami Dolphins defense.
“The guy is unbelievable,” he says. “His defenses are fantastic, and even the coaches who are new to him, are learning them now. In the times I’ve talked to him, his enthusiasm has been fabulous.”
Crist, a free agent who was signed on the recommendation of his basketball coach John Bach, doesn’t believe the Giants will have to wait a year to rebuild.
“You see teams bounce back all the time. There’s no reason why we can’t, especially with a coach like him who’s so defense-conscious.”
The 23-year-old veteran is already against the new punting rule that permits only the two ends to go down on the snap and holds everybody else until the ball is kicked.
“As a special teams player, I don’t like the rule,” Crist says frankly. “There are enough injuries already. Plus, those two ends can be treated like receivers and the punt return team can do all sorts of things to hold them up. The Giants had a rookie camp and tried the new rule by having the return team just bump the ends on the way down, Even then, the closest they ever got to the returner was 12 yards before he caught the ball. It’ll open up the game, but...”
Crist, who is currently 204 pounds, has set a goal of 200 pounds.
The 6-2 defensive back says, “The Giants asked me to report at 207 and then they’d decide whether I should lose more or stay the same. I’d like to hit 200 for my own satisfaction, but I’m no quicker than I was last year when I played at 214.”
The Giants’ new defensive backfield coach is John Symack, who replaces Emlen Tunnell, who according to Crist, is guaranteed a job for life because he’s in the Mara’s (Giants’ owners) will and now will handle scouting.”
Now Crist just wants the strike to be over and a chance to earn that starting job.
“Let’s face it,” he says, “It’s like starting all over again as a rookie. I think there will be a settlement soon because the pre-season games are coming up. Even if the owners try to play the games with rookies and free agents, they are risking possible law suits because the ticket buyers have a stipulation about the quality of the players in those games.”
“Right now I am lifting weights, something I thought I’d never do, and trying to get ready whenever the time comes. I hope it’s soon. I don’t think I can live without football.”