Garron was the Patriot workhorse

The Boston Patriots of the early 1960's were to say the least a colorful organization. The Patriots had some of the AFL's most interesting characters and inspirational players who beat long odds to make it to pro football.<br><br> The workhorse of those teams was Larry Garron, who played defense for a year and then switched to fullback on offense and was an outstanding kick return specialist.

Garron was a multi-sport star at Argo Community HS in Argo, Illinois. Garron joked that Argo is famous for "three things - Mazzola oil, Argo corn starch, and Ted Kluszewski."

After an outstanding high school career, Garron had scholarship offers to Idaho and Kansas. He went to Kansas on a basketball scholarship. While he was there he met Wilt Chamberlain, but Garron didn't stick with the Jayhawks.

"Jimmy Ogle, who was my classmate in high school," Garron recalled. "He was at Western Illinois; he was the quarterback there. He called me up and said come on down and tryout and I was a walk-on. I was fortunate enough to make it and stayed on there for four years. I never went to Western Illinois on a scholarship for athletics. I was there on a biology and English scholarship."

Lou Saban was the coach at Western Illinois and Garron made a lasting impression.

"I wasn't drafted by the NFL," Garron said. "But the Browns, Packers, and Bears showed interest. Saban got the job coaching Boston in 1960 and called me."

His career didn't flourish right off the bat. He joined the team as a 165-pound flanker. Weakened by tonsillitis, he was cut after the fourth game of the season.

Garron spent the off-season in a local YMCA, building his body with a weight lifting program. "I was working at the Huntington YMCA," Garron explained. "And I met Archie Bergus and Peter French, they were Mr. New England weightlifters and those guys put me through a training program that was unbelievable. Along with that I was working out in martial arts, which has always been a part of my lifestyle, and they got me up to 215 pounds - a solid 215."

He played defense at corner and safety his first year back with the Patriots in 1961 and then switched to fullback.

"Billy Lott got hurt," Garron remembers. "And Mike Holovak, who replaced Saban as coach, put me on offense and I stayed there for the duration of my career."

Garron played for the Patriots from 1960 through 1968. He piled up 2, 981 career rushing yards for 14 touchdowns on the ground and had 185 career pass receptions for 2,502 yards and another 26 touchdowns.

The 1963 campaign was his finest as he led Boston to the Eastern Division crown, carrying the pigskin on 179 occasions and gaining 750 yards for an average of 4.1 per try. He tallied twice on the ground. Garron snared 26 passes, good for 418 yards, and scored two more six-pointers including one for 92 yards. On kickoff returns he returned 28 for 693 yards, which averages out to 24.7 per runback.

One of his outstanding performances occurred against the Buffalo Bills in the 1963 Eastern Division playoff, won easily by the Patriots 26-8. Garron scored twice on pass plays of 17 and 59 yards after taking short flips from QB Babe Parilli.

Boston was routed by San Diego in the 1963 AFL championship game 51-10. Garron scored the Pats' only TD on a seven-yard run.

Despite that loss Garron is proud of what the Patriots accomplished that year.

"It's not a real disappointment," Garron said. "If you think about it, we accomplished many things - beating our arch-rival Buffalo. I would say we had a successful season. It's just that when we got to out there it was a whole different ballgame. I guess their scouting report was much better than ours."

Garron loved his time with the Pats, "All of the ballplayers I played with were students of the game and they were serious - I mean serious students. They knew everything about the game and how to play it and the people that they were playing against. It was a group of guys - we weren't very big. We were fairly fast, but not that fast, but we were able to contend with all the big guys out there. We weren't the greatest ballplayers in the world, but we did have talent. We were a team."

Boston was a team of characters - Babe Parilli, Nick Buoniconti, Gino Cappelletti, Houston Antwine, Larry Eisenhauer, and Jim Hunt.

"That's what kept us alive," Garron mused. "That wasn't a period of time where you were making money. So you know, you had guys that could really entertain you."

The 1963 Fleer card was Garron's first football card. "That was after we played an exhibition game with the Eagles," said Garron. "Fleer Bubble Gum came down and they took some pictures right after that game, or before the game, I can't remember when. The next thing I know, I received this box of cards with my picture on the cards and I'm going wow. I'm still getting cards from collectors to sign and send them back. I can't believe it. It was a thrill and it means something. But it never crossed my mind that I would be on a football card or on television."

Garron retired in 1969 and is a professor at Bunker Hill Community College teaching marketing and management.

He hung on to one or two mementos from his career.

Garron receives mail from all over the world and will sign through the mail.

"It's nice, I'm still in touch with some of the fans that are local," Garron said. "I see them; I write to them; I have their grandchildren and daughters and sons pictures on my wall. When I go to the games, I still attend Patriots games and they invite me to cookouts and tailgate parties as I pass through going to the stadium. It's a good feeling to be remembered."

George Von Benko

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