Jim Young had never seen it before and never saw it again.
The former Shawnee High School football coach - acting as Michigan's head coach in the 1970 Rose Bowl because Bo Schembechler had suffered a heart attack early that morning - was approached on the sideline by a messenger carrying a telegram during the third quarter of the game.
Young's first thought was that messages aren't delivered to coaches during games, so it must be a communication from Schembechler or word about his condition.
"I opened it up with that in mind. It said, ‘Don't forget to pass on first down,' - Sally Beery," Young said from his home in Tucson earlier this week. "I still have the telegram."
Beery, who had taught with Young when he was Shawnee's coach from 1960-63, carried on a running joke with the coach about his conservative offense while he was there.
"Almost every Monday after we played on Friday night, she would come to school and she would say, ‘Why don't you pass more on first down?' " Young said. "I hadn't seen her for probably six or seven years when she sent that telegram.
"I had to smile and laugh a little bit because I couldn't believe I was reading that on the sidelines of the Rose Bowl with 100,000 people and everything going on."
The story of Beery's advice to Young came to my attention when I was reading "War As They Knew It, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and America in a Time of Unrest," a new book about the two coaching legends and the campus climates they worked in during the late 1960s and 1970s by Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press.
This has been a football season that didn't live up to expectations for Ohio State and a historically bad fall for Michigan football.
But books about Ohio State and Michigan football never go out of style.
Three of the most recent are: "1968, The Year That Saved Ohio State Football," by David Hyde of South Florida Sun-Sentinel; "Chic, The Extraordinary Rise of Ohio State Football and the Tragic Schoolboy Who Made It Happen," about OSU legend Chic Harley by Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch and Rosenberg's book.
Two of the three books have Lima stories in them.
Hyde's book focuses on the 1967 Ohio State recruiting class, who became the "super sophomores" of the 1968 national championship team. Lima Senior's Dave Cheney and Bluffton's Jim Oppermann were among that group.
Cheney tells the story in Hyde's book about the recruiting push he got from Lima Senior principal Howard "Cappy" Scheuerman.
He was sitting in English class one day when he got a message to report to the principal's office. Cheney knew he wasn't in trouble for anything, so he asked why he was there.
Scheuerman proceeded to tell him he was there because he needed to tell Woody Hayes that he was going to Ohio State.
Rosenberg's and Hyde's books both cover ground that has been gone over many times before, but both deliver new insights into the careers and personalities of Schembechler and Hayes.
Hunter's book explores an Ohio State legend whose fame burned out long ago, or was never carefully handed down through the generations like that of other OSU football heroes.
Harley, a running back from 1916-19 who gets credit for taking OSU football from a pleasant distraction to a statewide obsession, is just a name from a hazy, distant past to most Ohio State fans.
Without the attention he garnered, though, Ohio Stadium might never have been built, might not have come along until many years later or might have started out much smaller.
Besides distance, Harley's story might not have been embraced by fans or the university because his post-Ohio State years did not go well. He spent much of his adult life in mental hospitals.
Young had already read "War as They Knew It," which draws its title from the World War II memoirs of Hayes' hero General George Patton, when I contacted him.
As he talked about it, he obviously remembered the telegram delivered to him at the Rose Bowl.
But there was also a second telegram from Beery's family, he said.
"My last game I coached at Army, the Army-Navy game in 1990, one of her sons sent me a telegram saying, ‘I know if Sally were still alive, she'd be telling you, Don't forget to pass on first down,' " he said.