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and they drive three hours east

Time:2017-10-12 23:23Shoes websites Click:

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YOU REMEMBER THE picture. Y.A. Tittle is on his knees in the end zone after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Swollen hands on his thigh pads, eyes fixed on the grass, he is helmetless and bleeding from the head, one dark stream snaking down his face, another curling near his ear. His shoulder pads make him seem hunched over, resigned, broken down. The black-and-white photo was taken in 1964, the final year of Tittle's career. It hangs in a silver frame at his home in Atherton, California, not with the prominence befitting one of the most iconic pictures in sports history but lost among many mementos from a Hall of Fame career. The picture is now 50 years old, and Tittle is now 87. He does not remember much anymore, but that photo is seared in his mind. "The blood picture," he calls it. He hates it.

HE REMEMBERS A place. It is in Texas.

On a December morning, he's sitting in his usual spot on his couch, flipping through a photo album. His breathing is labored. There is fluid in his lungs. Waistline aside, Tittle doesn't look much different now than he did in his playing days: bald head, high cheekbones, blue eyes that glow from deep sockets, ears that have yet to be grown into. His skin is raw and flaky, and when he scratches a patch on his head, a familiar line of blood sometimes trickles down. He shares his large house with his full-time helper, a saint of a woman named Anna. His daughter, Dianne de Laet, sits nearest him, leaning in as he touches each yellowed picture.

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"That's at Marshall High School!" Y.A. says, pointing to a shot of himself in a football uniform worn long ago, long sleeves and a leather helmet. That takes Y.A. back to his tiny hometown of Marshall, Texas, near the Louisiana border. Friday nights in the town square, where "I'd neck with a girl, if I was lucky." Brown pig sandwiches at Neely's barbecue. And football, always football. In 1943, he says, Marshall High traveled 200 miles to play Waco, ranked second in the state. The Mavericks pulled off the upset, and on the couch he recites the beginning of the newspaper story: "From the piney woods of East Texas came the challenging roar of the Marshall Mavericks, led by a tall, lanky redhead with a magical name: Yelberton Abraham Tittle."

He is slightly embarrassed as he utters his full name. As a teenager he reduced it to initials, and it later became legend. Remembering his Texas days seems to bring a youthful spirit out of him, which is why Dianne gave him this album today. But then he flips to a photo of himself during his college days at Louisiana State, and something slips. "Where did you get these pictures?" he says to Dianne. "I haven't seen them."

She knows that he has seen these pictures many times, of course. Some even hang in his house. Dianne is 64 years old, with blue eyes shining from a face that she tries to keep out of the sun, and it is hard for her to watch each old photo bring the joy of a new discovery. She lives feeling a loss for her father, a loss that he doesn't feel for himself -- until something stirs it up. That happens when Y.A. mentions that his phone has been strangely quiet, considering that Christmas is in a few days. He suddenly realizes that he hasn't heard from his best friend from high school. "I don't think Albert died, did he?" he says.

"He died," Dianne says, with the forced patience of having to repeat news over and over. "He died a couple months ago."

"Oh yeah, right. He was such a good friend."

"Jim Cason" -- Y.A.'s best friend from the NFL -- "also died about a month ago," Dianne says.

"You said Jim Cason died too?"

"He's gone."

"Damn," Y.A. says, closing the album.

"You're the last leaf on the tree," Dianne says.

SHE REMEMBERS HER dad. It's not the person he is now. Some years back, doctors diagnosed dementia. Friends always ask Dianne if his condition is related to football. She can't know for sure but thinks he's simply getting older. In the past year, Y.A.'s memory loop has tightened like a noose. He repeats himself every minute or so. It has left a football legend, whose speaking engagements used to take him around the country, incapable of holding normal conversation and limited to a handful of topics: his late wife, Minnette; his four children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren; football; the hope of a vodka rocks each day at 5 p.m.; and, most of all, his hometown of Marshall, Texas.

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