Colts Alumni Q&A: RB Don McCauley

Running back Don McCauley was a first-round draft pick by the Colts back in 1971 and spent his entire 11-year NFL career with the team. Read about some of his most fun and interesting memories as a Colt during that era in the team's history in our exclusive interview.

Todd Taylor: During practice early in your career, who did you hate getting hit by the most – Bubba Smith, Mike Curtis or somebody else?

Don McCauley: You had to stay out of Bubba's grasp because he was so big and such a force. But I would say Curtis; to this day he is probably the most intense football player I ever played with or against. He always had it revved up and he was an intimidator – he was what a middle linebacker is all about.

TT: How difficult were your first few years as a Colt with all the coaching changes and suffering a few losing records after your rookie season?

DM: It was tough. My rookie year we were the reigning Super Bowl Champions and then there started to be a turnover in the coaching staff. I believe from my first to my fourth year I was the only one left on the team. I think I had six or seven head coaches while I was in Baltimore, but very productive years in the mid-70's with Ted Marchibroda. 

TT: When general manager Joe Thomas fired head coach Howard Schnellenberger and named himself coach in 1974, how did the players react -- and was there an adverse effect in the locker room?

DM: I think it was right after a game against the Eagles, so it was quite a circus and I remember that day like it was yesterday. Joe was the general manager and became the interim coach. The first thing he did to get everyone on his side was he decided to cut practices in half. We didn't do any hitting during the season which was great and brought everybody together, but on Sunday we didn't know what we were doing on the field because there were a lot of things shown to us that we hadn't seen during the week in practice. The preparation just wasn't the same as having a regular staff in place.

TT: Can you talk about the impact Ted Marchibroda had on the team when he came in?

DM: I think he was a rallying point for the team. Ted was, to this day, the most thorough coach I had ever played for – just the opposite of the Joe Thomas situation. We were always prepared. There was nothing on game day that you would see that you weren't prepared for. He brought us together as a team, there were some great years there with Ted. 

TT: You were a dangerous weapon out of the backfield as a receiver, was that a facet of your game that you are most proud of when you look back?

DM: I think so. I would have liked to carry the ball like I did in the beginning – then I moved over to fullback when Lydell Mitchell was drafted out of Penn State. In retrospect I kind of think I should've stayed at halfback because I didn't really have the size of a fullback, but that was sort of how Coach Marchibroda got me involved with the offense. I think he sensed my frustration that I wasn't playing more, but I considered myself a team player. He decided to start using me in short yardage situations – spelling Lydell, so he wouldn't take some of those big hits – at fullback and in passing situations. It kept me in the league 11 years, and the success was due to the relationship I had with (QB) Bert (Jones). We knew each other and we worked hard with each other before, during and after practice so again, it kept me in the league and it kept me being productive. I didn't want to sit on the bench and watch the team; I wanted to help in anyway that I could.

TT: For readers who weren't Baltimore Colts fans, how would you describe your game to them and are there any players today that you would compare your game to?

DM: That's a great question; again in Baltimore – the beloved Baltimore Colts with such wonderful tradition, it's right up there with Green Bay and a few other franchises – I played at about 215-218. I look at some of the players with the Colts right now that I think are absolutely exceptional. Dominic Rhodes, I think he does a terrific job there…who I would compare myself to? I'm not really sure with today's game – the way it has been specialized. But I follow professional football, it has changed so much – bigger, stronger, faster – but it's still all about offense and defense.

TT: What was your reaction when you found out the Colts had moved to Indianapolis?

DM: It was disappointing; I finally figured I would be able to come back and have a chance to be a fan for once. My career was lengthy and I looked forward to being able to come back and spend some time in Baltimore and watch the games. I felt somewhat cheated by the fact they picked up and left. At the same time it was an economic decision on their part and a "walk a mile in my shoes" type of situation that if they left I guess there were good reasons for it. It was unfortunate because I would have loved to have had the Colts stay in Baltimore.

TT: Your final season, you still had more than 300 yards receiving, what weighed into your decision to finally retire?

DM: They started to break up the last wave of players that came through – Bert Jones, (DB) Bruce Laird, (WR) Roger Carr – I probably could have played another two or three years but I just figured it was time. It looked like there was a pending strike so I figured if there was a good time to let go of the sport it was then. (GM) Ernie Accorsi had a tough decision too.  If you're going to rebuild a team you have to start with younger players and I know he appreciated my services over the years. That played a factor too, it made it easier on him by me coming in and handing over the playbook as opposed to getting a knock on the door. It was a combination of things, but I would say the team getting broken up and (head coach) Frank Kush was coming in as the head coach. As they say in (the movie) North Dallas Forty "it's time to put childish games to rest."

TT: Are there any specific games or players you played against – what are some of the memories that stick out?

DM: I remember teams we played against – I used to love going down to the Orange Bowl to play the Dolphins. I remember playing Kansas City; (linebacker) Willie Lanier just about ended my career a couple of times – he was as good of a player as I had ever played against. I just think the opportunity to play professional football. I always said the biggest adjustment I had to make coming out of college wasn't playing the game itself, but playing against and with some of the people like Johnny Unitas, (Colts QB) Earl Morrall, and to go against players like (Bears MLB) Dick Butkus and such. It was a great time to play football; there were some great characters out there. 

TT: If you were at a reunion with some of the guys from your old teams and you were asked to tell a funny story, what would it be?

DM: During my first couple years, my fiancée was at the game and it I got hurt in the first half. I was laying on the field and they brought me in at halftime and as I'm going into the dugout, my fiancée – we are still married after 31 years – was standing on top of the dugout and said, "Donny, Donny are you okay?" As I looked up I couldn't believe my eyes I thought, "Oh my God, my wife is saying this." So, of course, as I was going into the tunnel the whole team was behind me going, "Donny, Donny are you okay?"

In-Story Photo Credit: Indianapolis Colt


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