THIRD DOWN AND FOREVER by J. Brent Clark

THIRD DOWN AND FOREVER

Joe Don Looney and the Rise and Fall of an American Hero
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Football star Joe Don Looney--an All-American running back in the early 1960's--had, according to Oklahoma attorney Clark, ``the tools to be the next Jim Brown.'' But as Clark shows in this smoothly written, riveting biography, Looney's brand of nonconformity and manic temperament was not readily accommodated 30 years ago. An early advocate of weightlifting and steroids for football training, Looney was also ahead of his time in his devotion to yoga and meditation. Even so, he indulged in drinking and brawling that, despite his prowess as a runner and punter, got him dismissed from several secondary schools. Arriving in 1962 at the University of Oklahoma, Looney--a ``fun-loving reckless hell-raiser'' who was also a ``melancholy existentialist''--clashed with Coach Bud Wilkinson, whose football program still ``had a distinctive military air to it.'' Looney's penchant for guns and fighting, his petulant refusals to practice, and his bridling against becoming ``a mindless grunt'' led to his dismissal from the team--but his extraordinary potential and on-field record convinced the New York Giants to draft him. Looney balked at the pro regimen, however, and was soon traded to the Baltimore Colts, where his ``performances were awesome.'' But after a series of disturbing incidents-- including his arrest for kicking in a neighbor's door--he was traded again. Nagging injuries, lack of interest in playing, and further off-the-field difficulties pushed Looney out of football by 1967. A brief stint in Vietnam renewed his interest in Buddhism but also led him to marijuana and psychedelic drugs, and his life became one of messy relationships and marital problems, of drifting to India, Peru, and back to Texas--although, before his death in 1988 in a motorcycle accident, he found some peace as a disciple of the mystic Muktananda. A well-researched, in-depth study of a most unusual athlete: one of the best--and most fascinating--sports bios in years. (Sixteen-page photo insert--not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-07870-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993