The heaviest player in the 1945 Egg Bowl was Mississippi State tackle S.J. Carroll of Greenville, who packed 215 pounds over his 6-foot, 2-inch frame.
Only seven Mississippi State players weighed 200 pounds or more. Only two Ole Miss Rebels weighed 200 pounds or more.
Compare: The 2016 Mississippi State roster lists 20 Bulldogs who weigh 300 pounds or more and 38 who weigh 250 or better. The current Ole Miss roster lists a dozen players at 300 pounds or more and 29 at 250 or more.
In fast food terms, football players have been super-sized. Our gladiators have grown from Krystal burgers to double whoppers.
The four current Mississippi State quarterbacks average 237 pounds — or 22 pounds heavier than the heaviest player in 1945.
We don’t need scientists — or dieticians —to tell us why. For one thing, humans are just bigger today. Get this: In the U.S., the average weight of a woman today (166 pounds) is the same as a man 50 years ago. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The average weight for a man has gone from that 166 all the way to 194.
Since 1950, the average weight of a professional football lineman has risen from 220 to nearly 320 pounds. A guard today is as big as two halfbacks back in the day.
Here’s another way to look at it: The sports writers who cover the games today are heavier than the men who played it in 1945. (Insert joke about press box hot dogs.)
Today’s players not only eat more, but they also lift weights and build far more muscle mass. The 300 pounders today are not necessarily any fatter than the 200 pounders of 60 and 70 years ago.
But diet and strength training do not account for all the increase in size. The game, itself, has changed.
Back when S. J. Carroll was a monster at 215 pounds, he was expected to play 60 minutes. Offensive tackles also played defensive tackle. Fullbacks played linebacker. Quarterbacks doubled as free safeties. Halfbacks usually were cornerbacks and so on.
This was before liberalized substitution rules. You played both ways. You didn’t come out of the game until you got hurt or your team got far ahead or far behind.
How long do you think today’s 330-pound offensive tackles would last if they had to stay out there and play defensive tackle, too? A better way to ask that question: How long do you think that 330-pound tackle would still weigh 330 pounds?
Answer: Not long.
Football has changed so much in so many ways. They throw it more. They huddle less. The clock stops more often. Players are more specialized. If Dick Butkus, the most famous and feared linebacker of them all, played today, he probably would come out of the game on obvious passing downs, replaced by a defensive back.
This writer is just old enough to remember one-platoon football, back when they didn’t play until the third week of September, games lasted two hours and there was no such thing as a TV timeout. Night games started at 8 o’clock and ended at about 10, or about the same time 6:30 games end today. And when a referee threw up his hands and signaled “Touchdown,” it meant touchdown. We didn’t have to wait three minutes for some guy in the press box to review the play.
Football was much simpler then. Offsides was offsides, not a false start or encroachment. There wasn’t as much scoring. There wasn’t nearly as much passing.
And the players, for the most part, looked like ordinary human beings.
Rick Cleveland writes a weekly sports column running Fridays at Mississippitoday.org.