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Football Digest, March 1975

Where Will King Corcoran Turn Up Next

By Marty Twersky

It's been said of James Sean Corcoran, otherwise known as the "King." That if you threw him in a muddy, deep river with steel chains wrapped tight around his arms and legs, he would float to the top. Not only float, but probably swim a lap or two.

James Corcoran has a knack for survival, for walking on quicksand, for making chicken soup out of a pot of boiling water.

He's proved his knack, banging around the lowest minor pro football league, after failing his few tryouts with NFL teams. And even playing with teams like the Pottstown Firebirds and Wilmington Clippers, this King has managed to make himself the big-time money and keep his name in print.

The fans had always loved this happy-go-lucky, flamboyant quarterback. And the press ate up his every word, the stuff he tossed out like juicy bones to hungry dogs. The King became used to the big print, the rolled-out carpets, the adulation. He fed on it, he grew on it and he prospered on it.

"The people, wherever I might have been," says the King, "they always loved me. I'm different man. And I made them happy. I gave the press something different. Heck, I'm a wild guy."

And after nine years of kicking around, the King hooked on with the World Football League last year as quarterback of the Philadelphia Bell thus re-united with his old buddy coach Ron Waller, his old backs John Land and Claude Watts.

"Part of it was getting back with Waller." He says. "Part of it was the chance to be a pro and show some of those guys in the NFL that they couldn't stop me from being what I was."

And Corcoran went on his merry way, throwing the passes, gaining the yards, feeding the press the wild stories. Enough stories so that if you looked in the back of his car, you'd find the write-ups. The back seat of his car is a small library filled with homage paid to this King.

Homage somewhat deserved. The King was still coming up wit the wild quotes, the witty, pithy remarks that made good copy. And on top of it all, the man was turning into the leading passer in the fledging league, passing for more than 3,000 yards, sparking an offense that was moving the ball with ease.

The articles weren't always flattering, but Corcoran took them as they came. And playing for the World Football League, well, to his mind it didn't matter. He was proving a point. The King was a big time quarterback. Phooey to the Patriots and the Eagles, who saw his talent as lacking.

"The NFL," says the King, "they were so worried about my size. They couldn't understand me. Heck, I know I could play for their teams, but I'm not even thinking about it. This is where I'm happy. This is the league where I belong. Here, there's none of that baloney."

That is the King on a good day, making the press happy, feeding his own ego. The man they portrayed as a who-could-care-what-happens, was enjoying on this moveable feast. Even if the fans were crying that the WFL was the nothing pro league.

"Me, I feel there are some fans, no matter what I do, that are not going to be happy. Heck, I lead this league for five years in passing and still they're going to call me a bum. It doesn't bother me. I know I've proved my point. I'm leading a great offense. The only problem this team has is the defense.

"Maybe, I've had some bad games. But that came because I didn't adjust to the twenty-game schedule. And I got hurt midway through the season. Next year, that stuff won't happen. No what if they offered me an NFL job, I wouldn't take it. No way."

The King thinks big. His coach is more honest. The two have been together a long time, but Waller doesn't hold back his feelings.

"He's got all the passing yardage, but so what," says the former NFL coach and star running back. "Jim's arm has deteriorated over the past few years. He couldn't be an NFL quarterback. He couldn't even play for a WFL team outside of us. The guys' arm just ain't what it used to be."

"This quarterback," says wide receiver Ron Holliday, who played for the San Diego Chargers last year, "is terrible. He's a bad man. Really bad. I'm always open and I never get the ball."

With an ego as large as the Goodyear Blimp, Corcoran just laughs these things off. He still believes he'd be NFL material but for the league's stringent, stifling attitudes. He laughs over these comments, just like he laughs over everything else.

"I'm good," he says. "I know it, I have the ego. Let them say what they want,"

They say what they want anyways, and the King laughs. And laughs. But sometimes he does sit down and cry. There's more to this man than the images and the stereotypes. The King, though the press may not know it, is a sensitive guy, and this day, he is sad, not even cracking the standard jokes. For just a few moments the press act is over and the King is letting the hair stand out.

"Sometimes I feel like jumping off a bridge and committing suicide," he says. "I can take most things, anything they say to me. But I can't take losing."

In all the years of football, high school, minor league, Maryland, he never suffered a losing season. Now he was feeling defeat. In the middle of his pro glory, Jim Corcoran is an unhappy man.

"Six games last year I walked off the field leading by at least four points with two minutes to go," he says, "And the team loses the ballgame. It's never happened to me before. I just can't handle it. I've got pride. Maybe the others don't have the same pride.

"You know what? Forget all the passing stats. If I complete just three passes and we win I'm happy man. If I throw three TD passes and we lose I'm ready to kill myself. I can't believe I'm with a losing team. It hurts me. I' a man of so much pride."

The talk flows after a heavy practice, near the end of the season. The hurt lasts for a few minutes before the King finds his magic again. A reporter is in the room and a reporter must be entertained.

"The King. He's the best around and he's proved it," he says. "And you know what? The Bell is the most popular team on the road. It's because people love to come out to see me and Tim Rossovich. They love us or they hate us, but they want to see us.

"I'm going to go over 4,000 yards passing this year, I've had 60 passes dropped and I've had four TD passes called back. What more can you say. I think I could have played NFL ball. But now I just don't want to anymore. I've shown that the King is a good quarterback."

And the King rolls on with the stories, how he's been fined 1,400 hundred dollars, how he went wild on the beaches in Hawaii and 50,000 followed him wherever he went. And the missed curfews, the missed meeting, all the good times.

And as for the WFL, which has lost two teams, been plagued by troubles that even the old American Football League never felt, the King just shrugs them off.

"We're strong," he says. "We'll be around for some time. Next year we're adding four more teams. All the bad press you hear it written by the NFL writers. Don't believe it. This league is here to stay. And I'm here to stay with it. Problems? What problems? When you consider the economy, we've done a tremendous job."

And the King goes on and on, still the quarterback floating with the chains and treading lightly but firmly on the quicksand.