at times when a young man has a dream and then that bubble bursts. But you just tell 'em, 'Put your ladder on another wall and see if it works.'"
Has a coach ever tried to pull an awful joke on a player, maybe sent Mays to get him only to tell him, "You've made the team?" Imagine what that might do to a rookie's fragile psyche? (And don't think a player could never be that gullible. Chan Gailey once told receiver Wane McGarity he was being made inactive for a game, and McGarity thought he was getting cut. You'd be amazed what some of these guys don't know.)
"No, no, that's never happened," Mays says. "But one time I was walking through the locker room on the last cuts and everyone's eyes were following me. They were waiting for a team meeting to start, and I did just what you're saying. I walked up to one kid and said, 'I need to talk to you,' and he looked at me and said, 'Oh, no.' And I said, 'Congratulations, you made the team.'"
Oh, that Bruce. What a card.
But don't think even the Turk isn't aware of the impact of this aspect of his job. "It can be an emotional thing," Mays said. "You have other players seeing you coming in and you're doing your job. I just don't know of a better way to do it. You'd like to have it be less conspicuous, but sometimes other people see you."
Ever have a kid try to hide, thinking maybe if Mays couldn't get to him, they couldn't cut him?
"No, I've never had a kid do that," Mays says, "but once in Austin we did have two kids who looked alike, similar in stature. Jimmy told me to go get this kid in a hurry and I went flying through the locker room and tried to catch him before we went out to practice, and I started making a beeline at this kid. (Player development director) Steve Carichoff starts yelling at me, 'No, no!' I said, 'No, no what?' He said, 'That's not the young man you want.' He had his back turned to me, and I had the wrong kid. Or I would have."
Of all the cuts he's had to make, two stick in Mays' mind in particular. One was his very first, months before that fateful Thousand Oaks staff meeting: Veteran quarterback Danny White. "I hardly knew what to do," Mays recalls. No one had given Turk instructions, it seems.
The other was journeyman center Ben Fricke. "Jerry Jones was out of town when we cut him, and he asked me to get Ben on the phone for him," Mays recalls, shaking his head. "Jerry talked to him for a while, and then Fricke (who had a chemical engineering degree) says, 'Mr. Jones, may I ask you a question?' Jerry says of course, and Fricke says, 'Would you give me a letter of recommendation?' That was a first."
Fricke got his letter. And the Turk learned to expect anything.