Austin Pettis' overtaking of Don Hutt's season high td total last year (14-and he sat out 3 games!) and his approach to overtaking Don's all time career receptions is a fit occassion to discuss that early great Bronco wideout. I was acquainted with him. Don was big for WR in those days; he seemed both taller and heavier than his listed stats. Curly long blonde hair in the fashion, blue-eyed, with the impossibly condign football name (hutt-hutt-HIKE!), Don had more swagger than humility, but it was deserved. I still see him in my mind holding "court" at the Bronco Hut (can't make this stuff up; its now the Japanese steak house on Broadway), basking in the glow of respect (it wasn't fawning) for his efforts. Like a shark with a pilot fish, Don always was accompanied by one hanger-on, some nondescript non-athletic guy; I used to imagine it was his own greek chorus to sing his praises in the lull of distraction, when Don ceased to be the center of attention. Don was approachable, but one needed caution: I once said to him following a game that he had made his best catch ever (amazing finger-tip grab, covered by 3 guys, in the end zone)-he fixed me coldly, didn't respond, while those around him nearly gasped at my affrontery. How dare I suggest that this one catch was greatest, when he had made so many spectacular ones? Well-you'd have to have been there.
Don was in some ways a typical Bronco, in some ways not. Local kid (Borah),he had been offered a scholarship to USC: his reason for choosing Boise State? As he said "they throw the ball" (long, long time ago). He wasn't overly modest, but not a braggart either. As for throwing blocks,well, in some ways he was a Bronco, others not so much. He had the best hands I've ever seen on a Bronco, and next to Bilitnekopf, the best I've seen (minus the Stickum). Decent vertical, if he went up in a group of 4 pairs of hands, his would be the one with the ball. He had a trick of pretending to fall down, do a spin, and then come up and make a catch. Now after a while the DBs didnt bite, but it didnt matter. He had the move down so well that he could come out of it anywhere, and the DB had to wait to see where he'd be. That was enough to make the completion. He caught passes from Guthrie, Autele and McMillan, the latter ultra-accurate and perfect for Don.
Don made the East/West Shrine game his senior year and caught a long pass from , I think, Steve Bartkowski. He told me the QB for his team didnt compare with McMillan. He was drafted by the LA Rams as a TE, watched Jack Snow practice, and decided to take his chances in the Hawaiian franchise of the WFL. Chances aren't cheesecakes; when league folded he came back to the mainland. I watched his last catch in Bronco stadium in the '75 alumni/varsity game that used to be played. He caught a fade for a td, did a little bowlegged funky chicken,tossed the ball in the stands. Ta-Da! (flag!)
I hadn't seen Don for years when I saw him interviewed with Hawkins talking about Boise State's success. I haven't seen him recently, but saw his brother Terry last night at Gold's. Terry is also a record-holding Bronco WR; I may do article about him.
It's been 40 years since Don first took the then green AstroTurf of Bronco stadium. In another 40, maybe another Bronco will eclipse the records Pettis is setting. I won't be here, but most of you will. Maybe you'll tell younger Bronco fans about Austin the way I've told you about Don. Thus the tradition, when Fall pours its red/orange syrup on the leaves, on bright clear days when young men take the field as old ones ponder the fading glow of accumulated years.