Their Passes Once Crossed in a Pick-Up Game : Steve Pelluer: Now He's Receiving Ayes From Dallas

Times Staff Writer

They'll never forget that first scouting report in 1983. At the time, the Dallas Cowboys were searching for America's Quarterback, and one of their scouts was at the University of Washington, where a tall kid named Steve Pelluer was throwing many a go-pattern.

But, also, what an ego! With the Cowboys' scout watching practice, Pelluer had the following conversation with his quarterback coach:

Coach: "Steve, I didn't see the coverage that way."

Pelluer: "Well, I did."

The scout, astonished, quickly wrote in his notebook, "Pelluer--Contradicts his coaches."

Later, the scout approached the quarterback coach, Ray Dorr, and asked: "He ever done that before?

"Done what?" Dorr said.

"Contradict you," the scout said.

"Ah, he wasn't contradicting me," Dorr said. "He was just telling me what he'd seen."

The scout, who apparently had seen enough, went home and told Tex Schramm, the Cowboys' president, his version. Dallas drafted Pelluer anyway.

They'll never forget that first game in '85. The Cowboys were playing the Giants with nothing at stake but first place in the NFC East. Danny White, first string, was hurt. Gary Hogeboom, second string, was hurt. In came third string, Steve Pelluer. On a key drive in the fourth quarter, there was a timeout on the field.

"Pelluer came over to the sideline," White remembers. "Tom (Landry) and I are going nuts trying to come up with something, and I look at Pelluer, and he's looking up in the stands."

Landry, the Cowboy head coach, assessed the situation later: "Pelluer is too nonchalant. Even I show emotion once in a while, but not him."

And a Dallas writer said: "There's nothing exciting about Pelluer. He's about as dull a guy as I've ever been around."

Now meet the new first string--Steve Pelluer. He faked everybody out. He's not egotistical, and he's not nonchalant.

It just looks that way.

If you want to know the truth, his mom, Jodee, has been getting on him for years to be more forceful. She'll watch him play one day, and say, "Steven, you need to show more leadership in the huddle."

"I'm trying," he says.

"You look nonchalant," she says.

"I'm trying," he says.

So how to explain that incident in front of the Cowboy scout? Dorr always was saying to Pelluer: "Believe what your eyes tell you. . . . Believe what your eyes tell you." Well, that day, Pelluer's eyes saw the coverage a certain way and believed it.

So there.

Really, Pelluer is more like Roger Staubach, and that includes the "Roger the Dodger" part. Landry says that Pelluer is a better scrambler than Staubach ever was. Also, Staubach was a genuine good guy, and you should hear all the good things about Pelluer.

--Said Cowboy teammate Brian Salonen: "He's got to be one of the most eligible bachelors in Dallas, but he'd rather go home and read his playbook."

--His idea of a curse word is "Gosh darn it." He says this every time he throws an incomplete pass.

--He's one of those "Yes Sir, No Sir" kind of guys. Danny White might call Landry "Tom," but Pelluer calls him "Sir."

--His mom is one of his best friends.

--He had a 3.8 high school grade-point average. In college, he did the unthinkable--he took textbooks to away games.

--He sent Dorr--now the coach at Southern Illinois--an autographed picture of himself in a Cowboy uniform. And the inscription reads: "Thanks, Coach."

--He's a devout Christian.

--He quotes Winston Churchill. His favorite saying: "Never . . . Never . . . Never give up!"

It's the Arnie Pelluer in him. Arnie, Steve's father, was a diabetic who managed to have a successful football career at Washington State. Then, one day while he was swimming, Arnie went into a coma. He drowned.

Steve was 8.

Jodee Pelluer saw so much of Arnie in her son. And she was worried what the tragedy would do to him. In school, Steve always was slow in responding to his teachers. So Jodee thought Steve had a learning disability, but one of Steve's teachers said to her:

"Do you know what your son's IQ is?"


"It's very, very high."

Faking everybody out again.

"When his father died, it was tough for Steve to verbalize his feelings," Jodee said. "My two other boys (Scott and Arnie Jr.) talked about it, but Steve internalized it. He does, even to this day. He keeps things inward, and he's hard to read."

Steve said this week: "Yeah, that (his father's death) was tough on me."

Jodee eventually married Jim Harryman (Steve loves Jim and even calls him dad), who moved the family from Spokane to Bellevue so the Pelluer boys could play football for one of Arnie's old friends--Rollie Robbins--at Interlake High School.

Besides, Bellevue was a football hotbed. For instance, the local high school kids would get out of bed in the summertime and play touch football at a lit parking lot until 2 a.m. Who was the brilliant kid to think of this? Tom Flick, who was three years older than Steve Pelluer. Flick was the Interlake quarterback right before Steve, was the University of Washington quarterback right before Steve and got drafted by the NFL right before Steve.

Flick, a Charger quarterback, also helped recruit Steve to Washington. Pelluer's mom and dad were both Washington State alums, but Steve somehow chose Washington.

Flick's trick.

Now the two will see one another again Sunday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium when the Chargers play the Cowboys in a game starting at 1 p.m.

Flick was a slick kid in high school, Pelluer was not. But then, right before a championship game against Issaquah High one year, Pelluer went to Issaquah, posed as a student there and obtained some Issaquah stationary from a secretary.

He came home, wrote nasty letters to some of his Interlake teammates and signed each letter with a name of an Issaquah player. This way, his buddies would be fired up to play.

But the Issaquah secretary saw Pelluer's picture in the paper and realized she'd been had. The Issaquah principal asked the Interlake principal to suspend Pelluer from the game.

"You have a real rebel there," the Issaquah principal told him.

But Pelluer got to play and Interlake won.

Faked them out again.

The Cowboys have big plans for him. White is out for the year with a wrist injury, so it's up to Pelluer to read NFL defenses and--as Dorr used to say--believe what his eyes tell him. He threw five interceptions in last Sunday's loss to the Raiders, but said afterward: "Well, it just seemed like my head wasn't working as smart as my heart was. . . . But I know I'm capable of playing in this league and capable of taking this team to the playoffs."

It's the Cowboys now who can't believe what their eyes are telling them.

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