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WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABE LAUFENBERG?
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He was one of the greatest high school football players ever to come out of Southern California, and yet his name is somehow associated with unfulfilled promise. From the time he left Crespi High School in 1978, it seemed that Babe Laufenberg's career has been star-crossed.<p>

Laufenberg was consistently inconsistent during a pro career in which he mostly rode the pine for Washington, San Diego, New Orleans and Dallas, usually watching while some star played ahead of him. The list includes Joe Theisman, Doug Williams, Mark Rypien and Troy Aikman.

 

In eight NFL seasons, he played 16 games.

 

He went on to play for the Ohio Glory of the World Football League, but there was no glory in the WFL. Even with the glory he sat behind former USC quarterback Pat O'Hara.

 

It was not supposed to be that way. The 6-3, 218-pounder came out of Crespi, but found himself sitting behind another Valley product, John Elway, at Stanford. That was the beginning of a long career as a benchwarmer. Laufenberg quickly realized Elway was never going to be replaced, so he transferred to Pierce JC in Woodland Hills. Then he transferred to Indiana, and in two years he set school records for yards passing in a season and completions in a career (361 and 217). He once completed 34 passes in a single game.

 

After being drafted on the sixth round by the Redskins in 1983, he saw not a single snap in two seasons. He was released in 1985, the Chargers signed him in 1985, but they cut him the same year. Again, the Redskins' inked him, after Theisman's terrible Monday Night Football broken leg.

 

Laufenberg was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, watching on TV, went Theisman went down. The call came quickly, and Babe had to make connecting flights to hook up with his new team.

 

He never saw a snap.

 

In the next five years, Laufenberg went to New Orleans, Kansas City, back to Washington, to San Diego and Dallas. He traveled more than then-Secretary of State George Schultz. He actually started six games for San Diego in 1988, but he suffered three broken ribs and never played for them again.

 

He closed out his NFL career as a Cowboys' backup, but he actually found a pretty good gig as the Cowboys' radio broadcaster for Dallas' KVH, as well as host of a syndicated TV show about the team.

 

"Football was over," Laufenberg recalled. "I had my chances. Things didn’t work out for me in the NFL, but I never complained. Most guys never get a chance to be on an NFL team for single game. I hung around for eight years. In San Diego, I had my real chance and I did well. And then I broke some ribs, and when I healed I didn’t have a job. The transition to radio and TV made it easy. I missed football. But not much."

 

When the new Ohio franchise made Laufenberg the number two overall draft pick, he packed his bags and headed for (the) Glory. For $25,000 a season.

 

"At a quick glance, the paycheck looks the same," said Laufenberg. "But when you look closer you see there's a decimal point where the comma used to be."

 

Laufenberg did not perform well for the Glory and was benched. O'Hara took over, but when he went down with injury Laufenberg came on and played well. Until O'Hara came back. His coach explained that he did not believer in players' losing jobs due to injury. Laufenberg would have benefited from the same policy in San Diego.

 

All things considered, Laufenberg's career was one big "what might have been."