Today is Jeff Beck's birthday, and the innovative and brilliant guitarist sure found just the right tone and sound on the classic Yardbirds song "Heartful of Soul". Tomorrow would have been George Preas's 89th birthday, and then on Sunday is one of my fav singer-songwriters b-day—Mr. Chris Isaak who took the tune Heartful of Soul to another level; thus the title for the story today. Possibly you folks will play either or both tunes as you read this.
Every NFL team has a history, yet some teams history is just more damn compelling than others. During visits to NFL Films, my discussions with Steve Sabol on Colt history were always a highlight. Let us begin with leadership and teaching the game shall we?
Weeb Ewbank was the tackles coach for Paul Brown, and he knew the traits needed to play the position, and how to teach the skills necessary. Much has been written about the Baltimore draft in 1955, and George Preas was part of that draft and played in every game. Pro Football Reference lists Preas as starting one game that season, but when I did the research for my book "THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN 4-3 DEFENSE" do not have him starting any games (could be an error on my part), but do have him playing some at right guard.
The improved Colts of '55 open the season of '56 with a victory over the Bears, and starting at left offensive tackle is Preas. He starts almost every week and is rock solid in technique. Offensive lineman are taught to keep their fists under their chin, elbows up and wide, with their hips flexed and a wide base when pass blocking.
Preas has excellent technique and his feet are nimble, and he moves well in sliding to his right to push pass rushing defensive ends past the quarterback, or joust with them at the line of scrimmage. Joining the Colts for '57 is future Hall of Famer Jim Parker, and he is one of the best offensive lineman of all-time, and when you see him on film you just shake your head at how well he could dominate most defensive linemen. The exception, of course, were his legendary battles with Doug Atkins of the Bears. The Colts are contenders in '57 and with the focus on the stars of the team...yeah you know all the names, how much is going to be written about the starting right offensive tackle George Preas?
He adjusts quickly to playing the right tackle position and starts all but two games. One of the most dramatic games in '57 is the Colts come-from-behind victory over the Redskins. Gene Brito is an all-pro left defensive end for Washington and a nightmare for tackles to handle. Early in the game Brito beats Preas's block and takes down Johnny Hightops. For the rest of the game film study shows George battling Brito to a standstill. No more sacks allowed, and a solid game in blocking for the run.
When you watch film you get a sense of how teams run their plays. Preas, at times, is asked to drive block the defensive end in front of him, or down block on the defensive tackle, and the guard will pull and take out the defensive end. Preas is more than adequate at both skills. His assignment on wide running plays to the left is to release and quickly get downfield and block.
Preas is outstanding in doing so. Surprisingly quick, and taking the proper angle he is effective many times in getting his man, or at least getting in the way. Think this is easy? By far one of the most difficult assignments for a tackle. The winning touchdown in the greatest game ever played is Ameche going over right tackle to score, and that right tackle was? George Preas!
Baltimore repeats in '59, and there is every expectation that will win it again in '60 since they win six of the first eight games of the year. The game in Wrigley in November is still one of the most dramatic in Colt history, and watching Unitas pump fake and hit long-legged Lenny in the end zone to win the game is just damn fun to watch (even for a Bears fan), and that Baltimore o-line gave him the time to deliver the winning throw. Very, very little is written about him in the football publications; in fact, in Don Schiffer's Football Handbooks for '59, '60, and '61 there are 55 bio's and nary a one on Preas. Some other publications state he is a steady player and of course the starter. Baltimore is just not the same team in 1961 and '62, and there are games where Preas struggles in pass protection. Dan Colchico in October of '62 sacked Unitas twice in the 49er victory.
When a team loses 57-0 at home you know changes are coming. Don Shula was a former teammate of Preas and he not only understands defense----he has his own ideas on how he wants the offense to operate. Unitas and Shula were not always on the same page, Opening day '63 vs. NYG he faces Jim Katcavage and the man who would lead the league in sacks got nary a one against Preas and the Colts. Baltimore finishes strong in '63 and no doubt believe they can give Green Bay and Chicago a battle in '64 for the Western Conference crown. Parker is now at left guard, as Bob Vogel entrenches himself at left tackle.
Preas is still the starting right tackle. Not sure how often Marchetti and Preas faced off against each other on the practice field, but there are other left defensive ends in the Western Conference that play the game at an elite level. David Jones of the Rams, Carl Eller of the Vikings, and Willie Davis of the Packers earn recognition each year for their exploits at defensive end. How much recognition did Preas ever get you ask? He is voted second-team All-Pro in '64 (one of nine offensive tackles). His tenth year in the league and finally one of the unsung heroes of the Colt offensive line gets some recognition, yet watching him on film in '64 he is just not the same guy. His blocks are not as crisp, and he does not move near as well?
Preas had become a master at his trade by 1958 and through 1963 he was consistent and certainly did his job. Did he ever allow a sack? Oh yeah, a few, and he did not always overpower the defender he was assigned to block on running plays, yet overall he was the type of player you win with. He looks to be back to his old self in '65, and at times he is asked now to pull and lead a play! An eleven-year veteran out front on sweeps! NFL Films Play by Play Report (game of the week if you will) at Memorial Stadium in December of '65 against the Bears is another classic. Unitas is injured when the Bear pass rush gets to Unitas and he is injured. Preas man (Evey) is not one of the culprits. So many outstanding players in this game for both teams; and here he is again doing yeoman's work in the O-line. Losing the game to Green Bay must have been devasting to the entire team, but Baltimore ends on a high note with the 35-3 play-off bowl victory over Dallas. George Preas ends his career on a winning note.