There have been amazing stories down through the years about football coaches staying up all night to prepare for games.
Tatum dared to break existing protocol by rooming with his star quarterback, Jack Scarbath, and going over every possible scenario Scarbath would face the next afternoon.
"Tatum would say over and over, 'Now, if they do this, what will you do?' " said Scarbath last week. "I think I finally fell asleep. I never heard of a coach doing that before Tatum did it and I doubt if anybody's done it since."
Tatum never told any of his players or assistant coaches about what he did and Scarbath never revealed the lengthy strategy session with his coach. "That was Jim Tatum," said Scarbath. "He was always prepared for everything."
Scarbath, who lives near Rising Sun, compared Tatum to Ralph Friedgen, coach of the Maryland team that has just completed a 10-1 regular season. "They're both very thorough in their game preparation, leaving nothing to chance," Scarbath said.
In those days, no polls were taken after the New Year's Day games, so Maryland remained No. 3. The No. 2 team, Michigan State, did not play in a bowl game. So the nation and Volunteers readily recognized that the 10-0 Terps - though it was unofficial - were No. 1.
And although 50 years have gone by, no Maryland team since has had a perfect season. Those 1951 Terps thrashed the rest of the teams in the Southern Conference by an average of 34 points and shut out nonconference opponents Missouri and Louisiana State.
It all started with the team's 6-foot-4, 260-pound coach, a larger-than-life, Babe Ruth type of man who wasn't afraid to take risks.
Tatum was enticed by Maryland president H.C. "Curly" Byrd in 1947 to leave behind a strong Oklahoma program. He was brought in to lift the Terps into the national football limelight, and delivered with a 73-15-4 record over nine years. Besides the perfect season, Tatum took the team to five bowl games and one national championship (1953).
He left in 1956 to become head coach at North Carolina, which was closer to McColl, S.C., where he grew up. Tatum died at 45 after contracting Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
"By the time they figured out what was wrong, it was too late to do anything about it," said his son, Jim Tatum Jr.
Tatum Jr., 54, an attorney in Durham, N.C., recalled his father. "He was the kind of man who could fill a room. He had a presence. When people find out who I am, they still come up to me and hug me."
Tatum's assistant at Maryland was Warren Giese, now a South Carolina state senator. He said Tatum had a "family-like atmosphere" around the team and "if he erred in discipline, it would be on the stricter side."
Giese also said Tatum was a master recruiter and salesman. "He usually looked for kids who came from tough financial backgrounds and strong families," he said.
Tatum once was on the verge of tears as he delivered an emotional talk to the mother of a prospect. The woman was so moved that she turned to her son and said, "Son, you're going to Maryland."
The coach had been accompanied on the recruiting trip by his star defensive tackle, Dick "Little Mo" Modzelewski, who recalled what happened next.
Upon leaving the house, the player said, "Coach, I thought for a minute there you were going to cry."
Tatum responded: "It worked, didn't it?"
The success story in 1951 was based on a team-oriented group of talented players who perfected Tatum's choice of a rather new offense at the time, the split-T. In that formation, the quarterback lines up behind the center to take a direct snap.
The domination by Maryland's split-T in the Sugar Bowl matchup against Tennessee's renowned single wing contributed to the demise of the latter formation. In the single wing, the center snaps to any one of three backs - halfback, fullback or quarterback.
Baltimore's Scarbath quickly mastered the split-T, and he had plenty of weapons at his disposal. Modzelewski's older brother, Ed "Big Mo" Modzelewski, was one of the most feared fullbacks of the time. He overpowered Tennessee for 153 yards and was named Sugar Bowl MVP.
Halfback Ed Fullerton, who now lives in Pittsburgh, could also have been named the MVP as he played a major role in three of the four touchdowns against the Vols.
Fullerton provided a light moment during one of the Terps' huddles in the Sugar Bowl. After Scarbath called his number on an option pass at the Tennessee 6-yard line, Fullerton, who had small hands and had trouble gripping the ball, protested, "I'm not throwing that ... ball!"
But he did throw the ball, right to the late Bob "Shoo-Shoo" Shemonski for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Fullerton later bragged in jest: "Who's the greatest passer in Maryland history? Me, of course. I was 1-for-1."
Left guard Bob Ward, Maryland's first All-American, talked about how Shemonski got his nickname. "The guy stood right in front of me in the huddle and never said one word the whole time we played together."
Ward and linebacker Dave Cianelli were both 24 - having seen military service - and they were chosen co-captains.
Ward, a rock of a man at 5-10 and 182 pounds, was often described as the "best player, pound-for-pound," in the country.
Later, as Maryland's head coach in 1967 and 1968, Ward won only twice and resigned. He now lives in Annapolis.
Dick Modzelewski credits Ward's skills on the field in 1951 with helping prepare his teammates. "The games were easy for me after Bob Ward beat ... me in practice," he said.
"Little Mo" got his nickname because he was a year younger than brother Ed. But Dick actually was bigger (6-0, 235) than "Big Mo" (6-0, 210).
The Modzelewskis, who were from West Natrona, Pa., were typical of the players from hard-working, blue-collar families that Tatum loved. The coach often invited their father, Joe Modzelewski, onto the sidelines during games.
The father would pose proudly for pictures with his sons while wearing Ed's No. 39 on the right side of his top-coat lapel and Dick's No. 63 on the left.
When "Big Mo" graduated and got married in his hometown, near Pittsburgh, Tatum attended the ceremony. It left a lasting impression with the family.
During the recruiting process, the Modzelewskis received enticing financial offers from schools, the brothers said, though none of them came from Maryland.
Tennessee recruiters laid $5,000 on the Modzelewskis' kitchen table in an attempt to lure "Big Mo" to the Volunteer State. It didn't work, Ed Modzelewski recalled, even though his mother, Martha, said increduously, "Your father only makes $6,000 for an entire year."
Dick Modzelewski said a South Carolina recruiter drove a new, 1949 convertible to West Natrona. He told "Little Mo" it could be his.
But "Little Mo" chose Maryland, putting him in a position to lead the defensive front against Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl.
Besides "Little Mo," the finely tuned unit consisted of Paul Nestor, Ed Kensler and Bob "Blubber" Morgan. During the regular season, Tatum had employed a five-man defensive line, but changed it to confuse Tennessee in the bowl game. As a result, the Volunteers did not make it into Maryland territory until midway in the second quarter.
The Terps' offensive strategy in the game was to run straight at a very quick Tennessee linebacker, Ted Daffer. Tennessee's triple-threat, All-America halfback Hank Lauricella, said last week the 10-0 Volunteers were surprised by the Terps' tactics.
"By the time we figured out what they were doing, it was too late. We were well into the second half," he said.
It was a Sugar Bowl that would have far-reaching ramifications since the Terps' appearance led to the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Maryland was suspended by the Southern Conference in 1952 because Byrd had defied the league's ban on playing in bowl games by accepting a bid to the Sugar Bowl. That prompted Maryland to play an independent schedule in 1952 that included five Southeast Conference schools.
Then, in 1953, Tatum and his close friend, South Carolina football coach Rex Enright, joined forces to lead a drive that would result in the birth of a seven-team ACC. The schools were Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Duke and Clemson.
Ward was the only first-team All-American on the 1951 Maryland team, being a consensus selection after he was a first-team All-American choice in 1950.
The Modzelewski brothers were second-team All-American picks in 1951. Of course, the voting was done before the Sugar Bowl.
"Little Mo" was a consensus first-team All-American and Outland Trophy winner as the top lineman in the country the next year.
The NFL drafted 12 seniors from the 1951 team, with "Big Mo" being the only first-round pick. Cianelli (sixth round) and Ward (24th round) went to Texas, and Shemonski (30th round) to Chicago.
Three underclassmen on that 1951 team would later be first-round picks. They were quarterbacks Scarbath and Bernie Faloney and fullback Dick Bielski.
"Little Mo" and Chet "The Jet" Hanulak would go on to be second-round selections in 1953 and 1954, respectively.
After Ed Modzelewski was drafted in the first round by the Steelers, he played for the hometown team for two seasons before being traded to Cleveland.
The Browns would later draft Jim Brown, and "Big Mo's" pro career ended after five injury-marred seasons. He then opened a steakhouse in Cleveland and now spends three months a year there and the rest of the time in Arizona.
Dick Modzelewski now lives in New Bern, N.C., where the fishing is good. He played 14 years in the NFL for Washington and the New York Giants.
"Little Mo" played in what has often been called the "Greatest Game Ever" in 1958 when the Colts beat the Giants in sudden-death overtime. He went on to spend eight more seasons in the NFL as an assistant coach.
The 1951 Terps have sometimes been overlooked because they played in the Southern Conference rather than the ACC. When members of the team got together for a 50th anniversary reunion last month on homecoming day in College Park, one of the hot topics was the team's absence from the Byrd Stadium banners honoring the school's bowl teams.
The co-captains, Cianelli and Ward, spoke up at the reunion. Cianelli said he would lead an effort to have the 1951 team included on the wall of fame. Ward said he believes the team deserves a special place at Byrd Stadium.
Sun staff researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.
Maryland 54, Washington & Lee 14
This season opener on the road against defending Southern Conference champion W&L; was a breeze for Maryland as 50 players participated in the humiliation of the Generals. Six of the Terps' seven touchdowns came on long drives directed by four quarterbacks - Jack Scarbath, Bob DeStefano, Bernie Faloney and Lynn Beightol.
Maryland 33, George Washington 6
"Big Mo" - senior fullback Ed Modzelewski - began to assert himself, scoring two touchdowns - one on a 62-yard run - to lead Maryland in its romp over the Colonials in the home opener at Byrd Stadium.
Maryland 43, Georgia 7
It was Chet "The Jet" Hanulak's turn to score two touchdowns as Maryland rolled over the Bulldogs in Athens, Ga. The Terps had now outscored their first three opponents by a 130-27 margin.
Maryland 14, North Carolina 7
Unsung defensive back Joe Petruzzo was the player who made a perfect 10-0 season possible by knocking down a Tar Heels pass in the end zone in the final minutes of the conference game at Byrd Stadium. This was Maryland's first win over North Carolina since 1926. It would be the only close call all season for the Terps.
Maryland 27, Louisiana State 0
This was Scarbath's day to shine in Baton Rouge, La., as he wove through the LSU defense for a 56-yard touchdown run after scoring earlier on a 4-yard run. Bob "Shoo-Shoo" Shemonski scored on an end sweep and Hanulak off a double reverse.
Maryland 35, Missouri 0
The Terps' defense, led by the "M Squad" of Dick Modzelewski, Bill Maletzky and Bob "Blubber" Morgan, wrecked Tigers coach Don Faurot's spread passing attack on Homecoming Day in College Park.
Maryland 40, Navy 21
The city of Baltimore got a chance to witness the exploits of Maryland and Scarbath, who grew up in the Hamilton section of the city. Scarbath completed 16 of 34 passes for 285 yards, with his number of attempts being nearly half of his total of 81 for the season. But the offense turned the ball over 10 times on five fumbles and five interceptions. That allowed Navy to score the most points of any team against UM all season.
Maryland 53, N. C. State 0
Moments before the Terps scored their most resounding victory of the season, school president H.C. "Curly" Byrd announced that Maryland would accept a bid to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans despite the Southern Conference's opposition to playing in bowls. The Modzelewski brothers were superb again as the team ran its conference record to 4-0 in a game at Byrd Stadium.
Maryland 54, West Virginia 7
Maryland scored on its first four possessions and rushed for 523 yards in the mud at Byrd. The win gave the Terps a 9-0 regular season and a 5-0 conference mark to share the league title with Virginia Military.
Maryland 28, Tennessee 13
The finish line was even sweeter than coach Jim Tatum and his team could have expected. The Terps, ranked No. 3, dominated No. 1-ranked Tennessee, outrushing the Volunteers, 289 yards to 81. The Vols' renowned triple All-America halfback, Hank Lauricella, was thrown for so many losses he gained exactly 1 yard. Maryland intercepted four passes to Tennessee's one. Volunteers coach Bob Neyland said: "We were soundly beaten by a superior team."
Maryland scored three touchdowns in seven minutes of the first half. Halfback Ed Fullerton accounted for three of his team's four scores, scoring on a 1-yard plunge for the first, throwing a 6-yard option pass to Shemonski for the second and completing the scoring with a 46-yard interception return for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Scarbath scored the third Maryland touchdown on a 1-yard run for a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.- Bill Free