All those seasons of being engulfed in the mainstream of football, as a player and coach, totaling 39 years, has provided Maxie Baughan with a full-field perspective. He remembers his first day with the Philadelphia Eagles in l960, when he spoke to Chuck Bednarik and called him "Sir".
What a place for a rookie. A starter with the Eagles at linebacker who was entrusted with calling defensive signals without help from the sidelines, voted to the Pro Bowl and a member, right away, of a championship team. A great time to be an Eagle. There wasn't much else to achieve, but he made eight more trips to the Pro Bowl.
Now, Baughan and wife, Diane, with their three sons married and raising families, are looking forward to retiring to a mountaintop house they plan to build near Murphy, N.C., only a short stroll from where the states of Georgia and Tennessee crowd up against the southwest tip of North Carolina.
Baughan spent the three previous football campaigns with the Baltimore Ravens as coach of linebackers. Three of his students -- Peter Boulware, Ray Lewis and Jamie Sharper -- brought aptitude and ability with them while learning from a master teacher at the position.
"They are gentlemen, along with being special kinds of players," he said. "I've entertained them in my home. I know how outstanding they are. I knew when I worked out Lewis in Miami that he was alert and had a 'burst' to his play."
Baughan, who must like heights, lives on a high hill in Carroll County, not far from where the Ravens, and the Colts before them, trained, but he hasn't been to a football game of any kind this fall. Too busy visiting sons Maxie in Branford, Conn., where he's a golf professional; Matt, an assistant golf professional at the Cornell University course in Ithaca, N.Y., and Mark, who is a stockbroker in Boston.
"This time next year, we expect to be in Murphy," he said. "I can't wait. I think the extent of my daily decisions are going to be: Do I fish today; will it be for brim, bass or trout? And if I play golf, will it be at a country club or a city course? Now that's deciding important issues."
Looking back to when he played, Maxie believes Jim Brown was the most adept runner he tried to tackle. "Absolutely the best," he said. "He was bigger, faster, stronger and smarter than I was. Mentally tough, too. He couldn't be intimidated."
John Unitas, no surprise, was the best of the quarterbacks. "In fact, he's the toughest individual, mentally, I ever saw on a football field. A true leader, respected by all."
And when it comes to isolating on the art of passing, he considers that Y. A. Tittle had the smoothest delivery. And every ball was a picture spiral.
For deceptive moves, either starting a run, or changing direction, his nod goes to Lenny Moore and Bobby Mitchell. He recalls both Mitchell and Brown were in the same Cleveland backfield until Mitchell was traded to the Redskins.
As one former linebacker looking at another, he puts Lawrence Taylor in a class by himself. From a coaching aspect, he believes George Allen was "an innovator, a producer and 100 percent a players' coach. But if a player took a shortcut with George, he was gone. Allen often said sometimes a player of lesser talent might be better for a team than an individual with more ability who didn't fit his team concept."
As for the coaches who made the most impact on the NFL, he pointed to Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns, Tom Landry when he was handling defenses for the New York Giants and the combination of George Halas and Clark Shaughnessy when they were with the Chicago Bears.
"What football is today evolved from those three places -- Cleveland, New York and Chicago -- and from the coaches I mentioned."
He expresses the utmost respect for Ted Marchibroda, saying, "His calm manner, decency and respect for other people set him apart. His approach was to throw to the weakness in a defense rather than exploit an individual in that defense. And the same applied to the defense going at the offense."
Maxie is distressed, as is his former teammate, Bednarik, over the way players today demonstrate after making merely routine plays. "The league is going to have to do something about showboating. There's no reason for it. This is football, not wrestling. There also is supposed to be a thing called sportsmanship."
And the devastating tackle Bednarik put on Frank Gifford in 1960 was witnessed by Baughan from two yards away. "It was a clean hit. Chuck just ran right through Frank. It was a downfield pass play."
Ah, the memories. But the best is yet to come. He can't wait to see the sun come up over Murphy, N.C.