Catch Up with the 1959 Draft Pick from Hardin-Simmons University Jim Gehman
Dewey Bohling had a connection with the upstart American Football League's New York Titans, who would later become the Jets, before the Titans ever existed - Sammy Baugh.
Baugh, the Titans head coach in their inaugural 1960 season, had coached Bohling, a standout running back and kick-returner, at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas.
But before the two would reunite in New York, Bohling experienced the trials and tribulations of professional football with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I went through the whole training camp with the Steelers and I thought I had the team made," said Bohling, who was chosen in the 13th round of the 1959 Draft. "Our last exhibition game was up at Green Bay, and they brought in a punter. He had just flown in and didn't have a uniform, so I was the one that gave him a uniform. I didn't want to, but I had to. We were about the same size.
"So, I watched the game on the sideline, and then they cut me the next day when we got back to Pittsburgh. And after being cut, I went to the Chicago Cardinals and was on their practice squad for about six weeks. They didn't have an opening on the team and let me go. But I was glad to be able to keep on playing for a while. After that, I went back to Abilene to pick up some hours to graduate."
That was when Bohling received a call from Baugh. "He said, 'They're opening up a new football league, the AFL, and I'm going to be the coach of the New York Titans.' He got people from down in our conference, people that he knew, was familiar with, and had faith in."
In the first game of the franchise, at home against Buffalo on September 11, 1960, the Titans beat the Bills, 23-7. "I remember there were less than 6,000 people in the Polo Grounds," laughed Bohling, who would help the Titans post a 7-7 record by contributing to 699 all-purpose yards - 431 rushing and 268 receiving - and six touchdowns.
Vastly different from Abilene, Bohling felt fortunate that he was able to share his first season in New York, and all that comes with that, with his family.
"Oh, there were a lot of differences," Bohling said with a laugh. "A bunch of us and the Yankees stayed at the Grand Concourse Hotel, and I had my wife and my children come up there with me. My son and I would walk down to Yankee Stadium, and for a $1 apiece, we'd sit in the right field bleachers right behind Roger Maris. That was one of the wonderful things, too, to be able to see the New York Yankees play in their heyday."
Splitting the 1961 campaign between the Titans and the Bills, Bohling finished his AFL career by playing in 26 games, and totaling 178 carries for 584 yards and four touchdowns, to go along with 43 receptions for 485 yards and five touchdowns.
Now making his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his wife, Sandra, Bohling is enjoying retirement after coaching high school football, track, cross country, and basketball for 43 years at 10 different schools.
"They called me the 'Vagabond Coach.' I coached all over the state of New Mexico," Bohling said. "(What I enjoyed most about working with kids is) how fresh they were. How anxious they were to please when you were out on the practice field. They were always so upbeat with their attitude. It was enjoyable to watch those kids having so much fun playing football."
Bohling compiled a 150-100 record and won four district championships in football. His track teams won eight district championships, and he coached 15 state champions. He is in the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame, the New Mexico Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame, as well as the Hardin-Simmons University Hall of Fame.
"With all the coaching that he's done in different towns and different places, as I watched him coach, he had the personality of really, really caring about the students," Sandra Bohling said of her husband. "When any of the kids wanted to be on the team and they weren't fully-grown young men, he would still use them on the sidelines. Have them be a part of the team even though they couldn't play. That was impressive to me.
"And I remember one time he didn't come home and they told me he was in the hospital. I called him and he said, 'How did the kids do? Did they win?' instead of telling me why he's in the hospital. He put all those kids first."