Judge found his football footing at Mid-Am school

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

For a young man known for his smarts at St. Gregory High School in Detroit, Gershwin Drain found that his ticket to a college education would run through the gridiron.

It would be a path that would intersect with two future NFL greats – literally.

Even though he played for a small parochial school, Drain drew attention from college scouts, eventually landing a partial athletic scholarship from Western Michigan University, a member of the Mid-American Conference. The MAC, as it became known, featured several Michigan colleges in addition to a number of football programs from the Buckeye State, including perennial power Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, which at the time was guided by a coach named “Schembechler.”

 “While I was recruited as a running back, we were short on defensive backs at Western, which meant that the coaches saw me as someone who could help out on that side of the ball,” Drain indicated. “While I certainly preferred offense, I also had a desire to play on a regular basis, so I was very willing to switch.”

After redshirting his sophomore year for the Broncos, Drain earned a starting position as a defensive back as a junior and senior, making his mark as one of the team’s finest tacklers.

“I also had the unique distinction of never intercepting a pass during my football career at Western,” Drain said with a grin, downplaying any suggestion that it was simply because teams were afraid to throw to his side of the field.

“I recovered a number of fumbles and broke up a lot of passes, but never had the thrill of intercepting a pass,” he said, noting that he gained a reputation as a “run stopper.”

That label was put to the supreme test in 1968 and 1969 when the Broncos took on West Texas State, a team that featured a pair of running backs with star power. One was Eugene “Mercury” Morris, who led the country in rushing in 1968 on his way to a banner NFL career with the Miami Dolphins where he was part of two Super Bowl championship teams.

The other was Duane Thomas, a future first round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys, a team that also won a Super Bowl title while he was there.

“Let’s just say they were ‘good,’” Drain said with a chuckle. “We had our hands full with them, but we somehow kept the games close (West Texas won both contests by 28-20 scores). What I really remember about those games was the sight of them breaking through our line of scrimmage and bearing down on me. They were big and fast, which was not a welcome sight.”

His playing career at Western did offer more pleasing views, however

“I’d never been on an airplane before going to college,” Drain said, noting that his “maiden voyage” took place on a road trip to the West Coast.

“My first plane ride was when we played the University of Pacific in Stockton, California,” he said. “For me, as a kid who grew up in Detroit, that really was a thrill.”




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