100 Percent Cotten

March 4, 2007

Back in the 1980's when I was cutting my teeth on Carson-Newman football, the Eagles were awfully good. They won five national titles while I was there, and after each a huge banquet was held complete with a speaker of national import. One has always stood out in my mind, and last week at the dinner honoring Jim Grobe as the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year, I was thrust back in time.

Bobby Dodd was to be the speaker at the C-N banquet, and I had aggressively volunteered to pick him up at the airport. He was a Tennessee All-America, a coaching giant and a living legend, and I was a Knoxville native and a Tennessee grad. There was no way anyone else was picking up Bobby Dodd. Not on my watch.

I remember waiting for him at the airport gate back when they let you do that kind of thing. I was nervous for sure. I was barely in my twenties, and Dodd was one of the greatest football minds to ever live. I didn't need a cardboard sign with DODD written on it so we could find each other. He wouldn't know me from a house plant, but I would easily recognize him when he got off the plane. He was Bobby Dodd. I thought he might even have on his famous hat.

When I saw him I approached with a smile on my face and introduced myself. He was kind but not overly talkative. He said he was tired from his trip. I told him we had an hour and a half ride to Jefferson City and that he could rest in the car. I envisioned a 90-minute ride back to Caron-Newman with me driving and Coach Dodd fast asleep. I was disappointed. But not for long.

We got on the road and drove for about five minutes. Coach Dodd broke the silence by asking, "Did you ever play football?" I told him that I had, and then he asked me another one. "What position did you play?" I smiled. "Quarterback," I said. Then he smiled. "Where are you from?" he wanted to know. "Tennessee, sir."

Our conversation never broke stride until we pulled into the parking lot at Holt Fieldhouse. It was a ride I remember vividly to this day. I was so impressed with Bobby Dodd. It was easy to see how he had excelled as a leader of men. All the ingredients were there. Humility, wisdom, integrity. Sounds a lot like Jim Grobe, doesn't it?

Dodd's speech at the banquet was terrific. He was in control of the room just by being in it. After the evening was done, it was back in the car for the return drive to Knoxville. Dodd was visibly exhausted, and we didn't talk as much as we did on the way up. When I left him he shook my hand firmly, smiled and said with a wink, "Once a quarterback, always a quarterback." It was simply one of the best nights I've ever had.

Seniors Shine

As a college senior you get one chance to make a splash on Senior Day, and that's it. Mike Drum and Kyle Visser did themselves proud with their lone opportunity, putting up the numbers to lead the Deacons past the favored Virginia Cavaliers. Drum scored sixteen, logged several "hustle" plays and was right on from three point range. Visser, weakened by week-long flu symptoms, played through inevitable fatigue to register a final Joel Coliseum double-double to help improve the Deacs' mindset heading into the ACC Tournament.

Drum and Visser proved that there are different ways to get what you want. Visser was the one recruited by Prosser, but even that came as an accident. Prosser stumbled on to Kyle while in Michigan recruiting another player. Drum was a local product, growing up in Rural Hall and prepping at North Forsyth. He started his college career at Presbyterian before transferring to Wake without a scholarship.

The Deacs found Visser. And Drum found the Deacs. And together they gave us a Senior Moment worth having.

Spring Game