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Sunday, July 7, 2013

55 Days! Dark Territory Clemson Letterman Photo Of The Day-O.K. Pressley

55 Days Until Kickoff!

Dark Territory Clemson Letterman Photo Of The Day

O.K. Pressley


Today’s photo is of O.K. Pressley, who lettered at center for Clemson between 1926-1928.

Frank Mellette wrote this about O. K. Pressley in his book:

O. K. Pressley finished Clemson in the Class of 1929 in Animal Science and has retired as a Brigadier General in the Marine Corps. O. K. will always be remembered as one of the best centers that Clemson ever had on any of its football teams and was practically a unanimous choice as All-Southern center his senior year in 1928.

He tells of the days when football players had to be "made of iron" to make up for the lack of protection in their uniforms and equipment." Protective devices were optional and only consisted of thin shoulder pads, a helmet, built like a skull cap, with no knee pads or face masks. I can remember when many college players did not wear a helmet during a game.

The game was so dirty that players often hit each other with their fists or even kicked their opponents in the face. It was the common practice, if a player had something like a sore leg, he would bandage the other to protect the hurt one. The opponents would always try to work on the bandaged limb.

In a game with South Carolina, O. K. saw every player on the first team, except one, carried off the field on a stretcher. The eleventh player walked off the field voluntarily and gave it over completely to the second team.

O. K. said that, on one occasion, a player tackled and then hit him with two stunning blows in the head. A teammate begged him out of fighting this opposing player. If he had fought with him, both of them would have been put out of the game. The opposing team had hoped to get Pressley out so that they would have a much less capable opponent in his place. His fellow player said, "We will take care of him very soon." About two plays later, the player who had hit O. K. was carried unconscious off the field.

O. K. had a scholarship to Furman, due to contacts made by his high school coach, but he would not go there and chose Clemson instead. In spite of making All-Southern in high school, he did not receive any financial aid from Clemson and borrowed much of the money he needed. He was trying to help relieve his parents of the full financial burden of sending him to college.

Since the football candidates had already been chosen before practice started, O. K. did not start with the Clemson team. He was playing intramural football at the YMCA when Mr. Holtzendorf asked if anyone would volunteer to act as a practice dummy for the football team. O. K. volunteered and acted that part during the varsity practice on the following afternoon. He broke up so many varsity plays that he was accused of reading the signals. This accusation was emphatically denied.

The next day and thereafter he was told to work out as a member of the varsity football team instead of playing the part of the practice dummy. However, he "warmed the bench" for the first few games that fall and saw no action whatsoever. Finally, in an off-the-campus game, O. K. was told that the varsity staring center had been left at home and he must take that position in the lineup.

These were the days of the single-wing when the center snapped the ball. This gave him his opportunity and that was all that he needed to show his mettle. He played so well that for the rest of his time at Clemson, he was always in the first-string lineup, except for a few times when he was too injured to play.

O. K. was captain of the 1928 team. In a game against Georgia in 1927, his fingers were bent back against the back of his hand sufficiently that it tore his hand open and disjointed several knuckles. With his great willpower and presence of mind, he snapped the knuckles back into place and went for treatment on the sidelines. However, no hypodermics or other pain killers were given O. K. at any time on the railroad trip back to Clemson from the University of Georgia. As he groaned in agony during the homeward trip, the only first aid that he received was some hot towels on his forehead.

On one occasion, a teammate, Raeford McMillan, relates that O. K. intercepted a pass but was run down and tackled after a considerable gain. They said that it was a comical sight to see Raeford and the Clemson coach running along the sidelines with him cheering and urging him on at the top of their hoarse voices.

O. K. played football for Clemson at an up-and-down time, during which the Tigers were anything but consistent. With most of the important games being played away from home, it made a bad situation. Clemson had such poor facilities for getting and attracting "big name" teams. O. K. Pressley was a victim of the times.

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Scott Rhymer can be reached at scottrhymer.tps@gmail.com