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New York Giants Open Training Camp

July 10, 1964 - Jerry Hillebrand (pictured #87) took the socks, shorts, and T-shirts and stacked them in one drawer, then placed the sports shirts in another and hung two suits in the closet. He was unpacked. In a summer training camp, a pro football player needs a minimal wardrobe. The employer in this case, the New York Giants, supplies the working clothes, the padded armor.

The Giants opened their training camp at Fairfield University today and bunked 43 players, 29 of them rookies, into Loyola Hall. It will be the residence of some, but not all, for the next two months. The day was devoted to physical examinations by Dr. Francis Sweeny. Tomorrow, the work begins.

Hillebrand, a 24-year-old Iowan starting his third training camp, will pick up a heavy responsibility. He will replace Sam Huff at middle linebacker and will attempt to justify the most controversial trade the team has ever made.

Huff, now a Redskin, played in 118 consecutive games for New York over eight seasons. Hillebrand’s past consists of six games in one season. However, so strong is coach Allie Sherman’s faith in Jerry that there are no other middle linebackers in camp. The job that made Huff a national sports hero is Hillebrand’s.

“I guess I’m going to get to play,” said Jerry today. “That’s what I want. It’s hard to find a place to play on the Giants. I look on this as a great opportunity, a real challenge, and I’m ready for it.”

Hillebrand last season was the left outside linebacker. “Playing the middle is tougher,” he said, “because you have to go both ways, left and right. You have more keys to follow, watching the halfback and the fullback, sometimes both. Against passes, it’s not so bad. You have the middle to cover. Playing on the outside, sometimes you have to go a long way, staying with a back who can run. From that standpoint, the middle isn’t so tough.”

At 6-3½ and 240 pounds, Hillebrand is one of the largest linebackers in pro football. In a way, he is fortunate to be here at all.

Two seasons ago, he was the team’s first draft choice following a career at Colorado as an all-America end. But he failed to make the regular team and was kept on the peripheral taxi squad only because he had a no-cut contract. He could have quit and gone elsewhere.

Sherman recalled today:

“I asked him to stay. I told him that playing on the taxi squad would be the hardest thing he would ever have to do. It’s dirty, dull work all week and then no play on Sundays. There’s no glory, no nothing.”

Hillebrand stayed and hustled, playing a variety of positions in practice.

“He worked hard and said nothing. He earned the respect of everyone on the team,” said Sherman.

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