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Today's Tidbit... Hanging With A Glue Guy
We talk more about glue guys in basketball and hockey than football and baseball. Still, regardless of the sport, glue guys help teams do the little things correctly, contributing to a team's success in ways unaccounted for by the game's statistics.
Bruce Maher was a glue guy in college, but not in the usual sense since he was a star on the University of Detroit's football and baseball teams in the late 1950s. Maher redshirted before taking a starting role as a sophomore halfback on offense and defense. He performed well enough to be drafted by the Detroit Lions in January 1959 as a future pick following his junior year of eligibility. After earning Associated Press All-American honors as a senior, Houston's AFL team also drafted him.
Maher played defensive back for the hometown Lions in 1960 and spent time with the Detroit Tigers' Class B minor league team in 1961 before committing full-time to football. Maher played seven more seasons with the Lions, earning the team MVP in 1965.
Near the end of training in 1968, the Lions, needing another running back, traded Maher and draft picks to the New York for halfback Bill Triplett and linebacker Bill Swain. Maher likely was unhappy with the trade but had a good enough season to be named the Giants' MVP in 1968. He played the 1969 season in New York as well before retiring.
Having established his football credentials, let's get back to the glue thing, which was unrelated to his role on the teams he played on. He was, after all, a star on many of those teams, finishing his NFL career with 22 interceptions in 136 games.
Maher's role as a glue player came in the spring of 1959 before his final season at UofD when he helped demonstrate the effectiveness of epoxy. Patents for epoxies were registered in 1934 and 1947, but it was not until the mid-1950s that they saw widespread commercial use.
For unknown reasons, LIFE magazine ran a story on epoxy in March 1959 and chose an eye-catching way to demonstrate epoxy's strength. Also, it is unknown how they chose Bruce Maher as their glue guy, but they chose him, and he hung himself out there.
The first step in the demonstration was to apply epoxy to the top of Maher's football helmet. The helmet was then attached to the underside of a goal post crossbar, Maher climbed a ladder, inserted his head in the helmet, and they took the ladder away, leaving Maher dangling in the breeze.
How long Maher hung from the crossbar is unknown, but they eventually let him down, and he went on to a happy and successful life, even if he was not your average glue guy. The real mystery, however, is whether and how they managed to remove that helmet from the crossbar. Maybe it still haunts the city of Detroit.
(Thanks to Dave Pagnucco for sending me the LIFE magazine story and to his UofD alum uncle, Don Michielutti, for telling Dave about the glue guy.)
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