Athens, Ala. – In emergency situations, we depend on first responders to help us. Many times, first responders are unsung heroes. They simply do their job. On March 4th, one of those unsung heroes passed away, Connie Green. Connie was a retired paramedic at Athens-Limestone Hospital. One of Connie’s friends described her as having “a heart of gold.” Friend, Wendy Wright, said, “Connie was loved her family and loved her ‘kids.’ She was loyal, she was kind, and would give you the shirt off her back or her last twenty bucks. She always listened, she always gave advice, she never had a problem telling you like it was if she needed to do it.”
Right now, because of issues with insurance, the community is coming together to take care of Connie’s funeral expenses. A GoFundMe has been set up to give people a way to contribute. If you would like to help, go to the link and donate.
Athens, Ala. – I received a call of a stranded motorist, so I headed to Clark’s Restaurant to help them out. When I pulled into the parking lot, there were my dear friends Tammy Breasseale Woodward, Connie Breasseale Waldron, and Doris West Breasseale talking outside. After assisting the motorist, I went over to talk to my friends. After the conversation, I asked the ladies if they wanted me to take a picture of them together. I snapped a couple of photos and we said our goodbyes. Little did I, or the family, know that just a few days later Tammy would be re-diagnosed with cancer, a battle she fought and won just a few short years ago.
On March 7th, I received the call from Tammy’s husband, Pete. I had first met Pete when he was working at U.G. White’s on the Athens Square and my wife and I owned Tortillas Blanco. We became fast friends as I made deliveries of our chips to the store where he worked. Pete called and thanked me for the picture that I had taken when his wife, sister, and mama at Clark’s Restaurant. After a couple of minutes, Pete began talking about the news that they had been given. It was cancer and it was aggressive.
Sadly, I had heard those words before. After dealing with my granddaddy’s cancer in 1998 and my daddy’s cancer just this past August, cancer is something I am familiar with. Like so many, I know what it does and how it affects loved ones. It’s unmerciful. Pete wanted me to know what was going on and I wanted him to know that I would do whatever I could to help as they face this battle together. With that, the “Together With Tammy” idea was created. Through the challenges, Tammy not only wanted to be encouraged by friends and family around the country, she wanted to be an encouragement to others as well. When Tammy was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2011, she not only became one of the survivors, but she also became an advocate for other women who were facing cancer.
Anytime someone hears the word “cancer” there is the fear of the unknown. Tammy’s husband, Pete, was by her side the first time Tammy was diagnosed with cancer and he will be there again. As an owner of a small business, the diagnosis presents a new set of issues. At this time, Pete needs flexibility when it comes to time and finances. This is how the YouCaring “Together With Tammy” fundraiser came to be. I know there are friends and strangers alike who are willing to help. In the past 24 hours, we have already seen it as people have contributed and shared the fundraiser and Tammy’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Together With Tammy is a group of caring people coming together to help bear another’s burdens. It is with that thought in mind that I would encourage you to like Tammy’s Facebook and Twitter pages along with sharing Tammy’s fundraiser. The family needs you. Tammy needs you! The long journey has just begun, but Tammy remains positive. As she sat the chair at her home describing the blessings of the day, the emotions came out. As Tammy faces this battle, her motto is “Let’s just do today.” That is something we should all consider as we wake up and begin each new day. At this time, I would like to encourage you to join our effort and “Let’s just do today”, together, with Tammy.
Fundraiser: Together With Tammy
Facebook: Together With Tammy
Twitter: Together With Tammy
Athens, Ala. – As representatives from the Huntsville Rockets football team walked into Applebee’s to come on Applebee’s Tailgate Talk, I noticed an older gentleman was with them. After the show was over, I went over to the table where he was sitting and introduced myself. We shook hands and he said, “I’m Robert L. Boykin.” As soon as he began talking, I knew I wanted to sit down and talk to him so I pulled up a chair. The conversation that day interested me so much that I wanted to talk to Mr. Boykin more, so I arranged a visit at his home in Huntsville. I wanted to know more from this man who served in WWII.
Robert L. Boykin was born in Woodland, Alabama, in Randolph County in 1923. Mr. Boykin described his family as “cane farmers.” Boykin said his grandfather, Mack Boykin, was a tough man, but a hospitable man. Being a successful farming family in first half of the 1900’s in the south, brought its share of challenges, but Boykin said his father, John W. Boykin, and grandfather, Mack, stood their ground. Boykin said his family was friends with both whites and blacks. When it came to his friendships, he said they respected each other.
Mr. Boykin attended Woodland High School and was a successful baseball player. Unfortunately, Mr. Boykin was sent to war before he could finish school. After finishing basic training in Ohio, Mr. Boykin served his country in the European Theater in Paris, France, during WWII. For a black man in the U.S. Army, life was different. Mr. Boykin spoke of having to stay on the bottom of a military ship and not being allowed to go to certain levels because of the color of his skin. On a positive note, Mr. Boykin told the story of becoming the driver for an Army general. He said that he was at his post when the general walked in. The general told him that he had seen him driving a truck and liked the way he drove. The general told Boykin that he wanted him to drive for him. Boykin said that he told the general he would have to get permission from the officer above him to leave his post. When he spoke with his ranking officer he told him that the general was above him, so he needed to do what the general requested. At that time, Boykin became the driver for the general and he would be the general’s driver throughout his time in the service.
During our conversation, Mr. Boykin described both good and bad experiences during WWII. At one point, he took out his billfold and pulled out a picture of him and a young boy. He said the boy was a young German he had come in contact with during the war in Europe.
These many years later, Mr. Boykin still expresses great sadness when talking about fellow comrades who were lost in battle. Like so many, the war had an powerful affect on Mr. Boykin’s life.
When Mr. Boykin came back to the States, he made his home in Ohio. With a love of baseball still in his heart, he said he tried out for the Detroit Tigers. Ultimately, he played some ball for a team in Dayton before finding success in small business. During our conversation, Mr. Boykin had held up his left hand to show me the affect of wearing a poorly made glove while playing third base. Of his small business, Boykin said he did very well selling cars and operating a car wash in nearby Pennsylvania.
During his time in business, although he still faced some adversity simply for the color of his skin, he said he provided many jobs to people both black and white. In spite of the times, Mr. Boykin was a fair man. Mr. Boykin attributed his treatment of others to the way that he was raised.
Mr. Boykin eventually found his way back to Alabama. He and his wife of 41 years, Merle, now call Huntsville home. At 93, Mr. Boykin enjoys watching the teams his son, Jason, coaches.
Whether it’s J.O. Johnson or the Huntsville Rockets, Mr. Boykin says he likes to talk to young people and encourage them. Mr. Boykin has much to share if people are willing to slow down and just pull up a chair.
The following is an article from The Alabama Courier concerning the passing of my 3x great grandfather, James Calvin Jones Gordon, on February 23, 1932, 85 years ago today. My great grandmother, Margaret Legg White, referred to him as “Grand Pa Gordon.” It’s been said that Grand Pa Gordon fired the last shot with a cannon as part of Ward’s Artillery Battery on Sunday, April 16, 1865, one week after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered. Grand Pa Gordon was also one of the first to be elected sheriff in Limestone County post-Reconstruction.
Athens, Ala. – At his late residence in Athens last Monday afternoon, Mr. James C. Gordon, one of the best known and most prominent citizens of Limestone County, departed this life at the age of eighty-seven years.
Born in Giles County, Tennessee, he came with his parents to this county when a small boy and spent the remainder of his life among the people of his adopted county, serving them in many capacities, always well and faithfully. When grown, he taught school for many years, having enjoyed unusual advantages and was one of the best educated men of his time, and he was sought in many communities as a teacher. Few men of his day had the preparation for the work that he enjoyed.
Sixty-five years ago, he was happily united in wedlock with Miss Mary Meals, who passed away seventeen years ago, leaving the husband of her youth to mourn her passing, together with three daughters and two sons, the daughters being Mrs. W.J. Legg, Mrs. W.L. Jones, and Mrs. James Jones, the sons being C.E. and Benny Gordon.
Mr. Gordon was elected sheriff of Limestone County in the eighties and served one term, rendering a fine service and leaving an enviable record as a faithful and conscientious servant of the people.
He has made his home in Athens since his retirement from the office and devoted himself to many causes, chief of which was that of the Confederate veterans, being a solider of the Confederacy, serving four years and seeing hard service as any man in the cause. He was one of the best informed men on the great Civil War we have ever heard discuss the question. He was also a very devoted member of the Masonic order and was one of the most regular attendants on the meetings of the lodge and was for many years secretary of the local Masonic lodge, being faithful and efficient in the service given him to discharge.
He lived by the golden rule as any man we knew. He believed in doing the right thing and did his part. He gave to his children every benefit he was able. He wanted them all educated, and he offered them the best education he could afford.
For some time his health has been such that he was unable to be out of the home, but was interested in all that was going on. He has been failing rapidly of late, and his death was not a surprise to his family and friends.
His funeral took place Wednesday afternoon from his late home, and his body was laid to rest by the side of the fine woman who journeyed with him so many years and shared with him his joys and sympathized with him in his disappointments.
When he was prepared for his last rites, his body was clothed in a beautiful black broadcloth suit that he was married in and which had been religiously taken care of for more than sixty-five years for this occasion and was as beautiful as when he stood before the bridal alter and plighted his troth to the young woman who was to share with him his future years.
To the children who will miss the passing of this noble father we tender our sincere sympathy. For nearly fifty years, he has been a friend of the editor of the Courier and as such, we appreciated him. We regret deeply the passing of this noble, generous and true friend.
Florence, Ala. – Coach Ashley McCool Cozart knows success. Cozart played high school softball at softball powerhouse Ezell-Harding Christian School in Antioch, Tennessee, before earning a scholarship with Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville. At Trevecca Nazarene, Cozart was part of a team that had a couple of top-five finishes at the NAIA Softball World Series. Additionally, Cozart was selected as the TranSouth Conference Freshman of the Year in 2004, four-time all-conference and all-region selection and broke the school career record for hits and doubles and is ranked in the program’s top five in runs batted in, home runs, batting average and runs scored. In 2014, Cozart was selected to the Trevecca Athletic Hall of Fame. After finishing at Trevecca Nazarene, Cozart had the opportunity to be the head coach at Antioch High School in Nashville. After one year of the two year program at Antioch, Cozart decided to apply with Lindsey Wilson College. Speaking about Lindsey Wilson College on Applebee’s Tailgate Talk on Saturday, Cozart said, “I came into a situation where the program needed turning around and needed some love and TLC. We were very successful. After success there I had the opportunity to go to the University of North Alabama in July of 2013. Since that time, UNA Softball has been a part of the NCAA Tournament three straight times and ultimately won the NCAA Division II National Championship last season.
Coach Ashley Cozart will tell you, coming off a 2016 NCAA Division II National Championship isn’t easy. Referring to UNA’s successful championship run, Cozart said, “People don’t realize it’s so hard coming off a year like last year. I think some people think it’s easy, but it’s super super hard. Everybody plays their best game against you.” Currently UNA is 10-5 on the season and ranked number 3 in the NFCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. Coach Cozart said, “I’m pleased with where we’re at, but I feel like we haven’t really hit our stride yet. There’s something special about this team.”
As a Division II school, Coach Cozart has built the majority of her team with many outstanding players in and around our area. As UNA moves into Division I and the Atlantic Sun Conference, Coach Cozart says that she will definitely continue to look at local talent, but they’ll have to send more recruiters out and go everywhere. She says one area that she’ll be looking at is deeper south in the state of Alabama. Cozart said, “We haven’t had to go too deep south because there is so much talent north of Birmingham, but we will need to send more people out and look at more kids. Alabama is such a hotbed for talent with such great softball programs.” When Cozart was in Columbia, Kentucky, at Lindsey Wilson College, she says that she recruited quite a few players from the state of Alabama. She said that over time, it became harder and harder to get those Alabama kids. After that, she decided that she just needed to take a job in Alabama and applied for the head coaching job at UNA.
Coach Cozart is helping others along on the coaching path as well. On Applebee’s Tailgate Talk she mentioned a couple of great student assistants who currently work with her at UNA, Brooklynn Clark of Seadrift, Texas, and Courtney Shields of Columbiana, Alabama. Both student assistants played for UNA and did their part to help the team to NCAA Division II National Championship in 2016. Of the pair, Cozart said, “They have been wonderful this year. I don’t know what I would do without them.”
When talking about the job she has, Cozart said, “Coaching is an awesome profession to be in. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself because I love my job so much.” Roar Lions!
Sources: UNA Softball, Trevecca Athletics, Applebee’s Tailgate Talk
Atlanta, GA – As a kid, Tyrone Poole never thought about playing sports beyond playing in the neighborhood until his elementary P.E. coach, Coach Parsons, asked him about playing organized sports. Poole said that Coach Parsons saw his talent and how athletics came easy for him. Poole said that Coach Parsons’s influence was the launching pad for his athletic career. Poole says that he talks about Coach Parsons in his book “Ultimate Success In The Game Of Life.” In the book, Poole shares the principles of his success, stating there is success and “ultimate success.” Poole says, “Success is the plane taking off and ultimate success is the plane landing at its destination.” A natural-born athlete, Poole was not only able to get his proverbial plane in the air, but land it as well.
After playing college football at Fort Valley State University, Poole was a first-round NFL Draft pick for the Carolina Panthers in 1995. His career would take him from the Panthers, to teams across the NFL including the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans, and the Tennessee Titans. While at New England, Poole won two Super Bowl rings, one in 2003 as he faced off against his first NFL team, the Carolina Panthers, and the other after the Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004. In his 12 seasons in the NFL as a corner back, Poole had 18 interceptions and 145 tackles, which included six sacks and five forced fumbles.
When asked on Applebee’s Tailgate Talk what it was like for a kid out of LaGrange, Georgia, to go from Fort Valley State College to the NFL, Poole responded, “It was like a deer in the headlights.” He said, “If you don’t have the right instructions or follow the right manual, it’s easy to mess up. The most difficult thing is the mental capacity of the NFL. Mentally, that game runs 1000 miles per hour. NFL veterans helped me a lot.”
On the show, Poole was asked about his most memorable moment during his time in the NFL. He said, “The greatest memory that I am always going to take with me is the fact that I won the two Super Bowls and to see that confetti fall from the rafters and to see the smile on everyone’s face. When I look back, there were 31 other teams who said the same thing (they were going to win the Super Bowl). From OTA (Organized Team Activities) to training camps, we were the only ones standing at the end of the season. That confetti falling, the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and the Super Bowl rings, those are like having your first child or walking across the stage to get your degree. Those are things that you just won’t forget.”
Tyrone Poole’s book “Ultimate Success In The Game Of Life” is currently available at TyronePoole38.com.
Washington D.C. – We all have certain things that we would like to do before our lives are over. When you find out that your days are numbered, it puts those wishes into overdrive.
On August 12th, 2016, at 3 pm, my daddy, Mark White, Sr., received the news that no one wants to hear. “Mr. White, you have cancer. It’s advanced and it’s aggressive.” The normal questions flowed. “How long do I have?”, “What will be my quality of life?”, “What are my treatment options?” The doctor gave his best guess on how long daddy had to live. At the time, it looked like daddy had months. Daddy’s first response was “Well, maybe I’ll live long enough to see Trump sworn in as president.” Daddy supported Donald Trump from Day 1. He had no doubt that he was going to be elected president. Living long enough to see Donald Trump become president was his goal…his wish. The truth was, daddy had less than a month to live.
Daddy would not live to see President Donald Trump’s inauguration. After President Trump won the election, I decided to call my congressman’s office and see about getting tickets to the inauguration. It sounded like tickets would be hard to come by. In December, I received the news that my name had been randomly selected for tickets to the inauguration. They were for the ticketed Mall area. I was thankful to have tickets and be able to make the trip in honor of my daddy. A couple of weeks later, I received another email. “Good news…”, it began. “There are some people who received tickets who could not go. You have been upgraded to Union Square.” Here I was with an even better spot to view this special moment in honor of my daddy.
On January 18th, we hit the road from our home in North Alabama to Washinton D.C. I placed daddy’s hounds tooth hat on the dash and had a picture of him in the vehicle. A couple of times I cried, but I did it quietly. It’s just something I have to go through. The thought of taking a trip for someone who can no longer do it is very emotional. Especially for my daddy.
We arrived at my wife’s cousin’s home. It was about an hour and half outside of D.C. We enjoyed their company. They’re down-to-earth people and easy to talk to. On Thursday morning, we made our trek to D.C. to pick up tickets for the inauguration from Congressman Mo Brooks’s office. Parking was difficult. We found a three hour spot and spent one of those hours waiting on the train. We arrived in D.C., exited the Metro, and headed for the Rayburn Building where Congressman Mo Brooks’s office is located. Outside of the building, there was a long line of people waiting to pass through security. Brooks’s office had indicated that there was a 3 pm cutoff on holding tickets. It was 2:45 pm. I emailed one of his staff members. “We are here, but waiting in line for security to check us.” She emailed back saying, “We’ll hold your tickets.” We went up the elevator to the fourth floor and entered Congressman Brooks’s office. There were a lot of people inside the office and quite a bit going on. We picked up our tickets, and as were walking out, I asked Congressman Brooks for a picture. We stood along the wall and had our picture made, daddy’s houndstooth hat included. I mentioned that we only had two tickets and that my wife and daughter were going to stay with family during the inauguration. He told me to hang around and they might have some extra tickets. We decided since my wife and daughter were not going to go, there was no need to hang around. We went back down the first floor to exit. Before we left the building, I asked my wife about me staying behind. I told her that I wanted to see if I could get an upgrade on tickets. I emailed Brooks’s staff member and asked if there was a possibility of an upgrade. At that time, it didn’t look like it, so the return email reflected that. By this time, my family had already left to catch the train and move our vehicle before three hours were up. I went outside to see the Capitol.
After a few minutes, I looked at my phone. I had missed a call, but they had left a message. Area code “202”. I knew it was a D.C. number. When I called back, I was met with “Mr. White, we know you have your tickets already, but if you would like to upgrade, come back to the office.” I immediately began jogging that way. I called them back. “Sure I’d like to have them, but I have to go back through security.” They said that they would be waiting on me. A lady came outside while I was waiting. “Staff ID?” Staff ID?” No staff ID here. About 5 minutes later, she came back out. “Staff ID?” “Staff ID?” Still no staff ID. Then she said, “No bags?” I looked at both my arms and held up my hands. I had no bags, so I was shuttled through another security gate. I made my way to the office. When I walked in to Congressman Brooks’s office, a young staffer said, “Mark White?” “That’s me”, I responded. One of Brooks’s staff members said, “I’m sorry I told you that we didn’t have any upgrades, we actually did.” I really appreciated her thinking about me. I traded tickets. I was now in the “Orange Section”, right behind the chairs up front! I reminded her of the story of my daddy and why I was making this trip. It’s always hard to tell the story without getting emotional. The trip meant a great deal to me.
I saw Trump sworn in as president and daddy was there in my heart. For me, it’s about tying up loose ends. It’s about closure. When daddy was diagnosed with cancer, we had no idea that he would be gone so soon. We were making plans of things that he would like to do over the coming months. The months never came. He wanted to go see that Statue of Liberty, but the closest he came to that was through pictures one night in his hospital room.
If you have things that you would like to do, I suggest that you do them. You never know when you might not be able to anymore. Life happens. It was an honor to be able to see President Donald Trump’s inauguration in memory of my daddy. Now that he’s gone, it was the best that I could do. That was for you, daddy.
Athens, Ala. – The doctor walks in and breaks the news. “We’ve done all we can. Our recommendation is now palliative care. “Palliative care?”, you ask. “There’s nothing else that can be done?” The doctor responds, “Our goal now is to keep your loved one comfortable.”
It’s never easy to admit that nothing else can be done and you would do anything to take away the illness, but you can’t. The question that now remains is how do you make your loved one as comfortable as possible while they are here with us. Enter Hospice. The paperwork is signed and a few short hours later, equipment arrives and caring individuals are now at your home ready to serve. Along with your love and concern, these are now the resources to make your loved one comfortable.
The following is the mission statement of Hospice of Limestone County:
“Hospice of Limestone County is a care system for the terminally ill patient and their families. Care is provided by a team of professional and trained volunteers. The goal of Hospice of Limestone County is to help the terminally ill patient and family live as fully and comfortably as possible the lifetime remaining through pain and symptom control, counseling and spiritual support.
Hospice recognizes that we cannot cure the dying person nor remove the pain and grief, but, we can care enough to be there. Hospice offers the healing grace of compassionate presence.”
In an effort to explain what they do, Hospice of Limestone County website reads, “In simple terms, hospice is home-based care for the terminally ill. At the Hospice of Limestone County, we provide pain control, medical assistance and emotional support for our patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our focus is the patient, and our goal is to restore as much dignity, comfort and peace as possible to the time he or she has left.
At hospice, we accept that there are some things we simply cannot do-like remove pain or grief, or prevent the terminally ill from dying. Instead, we focus our energy on what we can do: reduce physical pain, control symptoms, provide spiritual counseling and lend emotional support.”
Hospice offers adult support like widowed person’s support group, adult grief groups, parents and families group for loss of a child, and individual counseling at the Loft or at home. When it comes to young people, they offer Camp Hope, “Good Grief Club”, groups at The Loft, and individual sessions for teens and children at The Loft, school, and even at the home when appropriate.
In addition to the above, Hospice of Limestone County offers: crisis response, training for managers on how to manage grief in the workplace, special events serve to provide opportunities for remembering lost loved ones, educational workshops and presentations dealing with death, dying and grief issues, as well as a library of books, videos, and pamphlets geared toward all ages and addressing all types of losses.
Each year, Hospice of Limestone County organizes the Chili Challenge to meet the challenge of carrying out the above services. The event brings businesses and individuals alike together to support a great cause. Funds are raised in various ways. From tickets at the door to booth spaces and a silent auction, there are many ways to contribute.
This year is the 29th edition of the Chili Challenge. It will be held on Saturday, February 18th, in the Athens High School cafeteria and gymnasium from 10am-2pm. Booth spaces are still available and donations are still being accepted for the silent auction. Last week, Applebee’s Tailgate Talk announced that they would be doing a “live remote” from 10am-12pm at the Chili Challenge this year. The guys at Applebee’s Tailgate Talk hope that this will help spread the word even further and encourage friends in the community to come out the day of the event. It takes many businesses and individuals throughout the Limestone County area to make this event a success.
If you would like to participate in the Chili Challenge or donate to the silent auction, you can contact Hospice of Limestone County by phone at (256)232-5017 or by email at email@example.com.
Find a way that you can contribute and make your plans to be at this year’s Chili Challenge on Saturday, February 18th.
Athens, Ala. – On December 19th, 2016, Lele Anderson hit a milestone with 1500 points in her basketball career with the Clements Lady Colts. On January 10th, Lele was recognized by her teammates and Coach Zach Meadows with a plaque for her achievement. On Applebee’s Tailgate Talk on January 14th, Coach Meadows said that Lele has been on varsity since she was in the 7th grade, before he was even the coach.
He said that Anderson had a really good coach even before he came into the picture. He went on to say that she developed back then and he’s has continued to develop as a player. Lele has been at point guard all four years that he has been coaching the Lady Colts. In Coach Meadow’s description of Anderson, he calls her a “great leader.”
Since hitting the milestone, Anderson is now over 1600 points on her career. When asked about her teammates, Anderson said, “We work really well as a team. I just love them. I couldn’t do it without them. If it weren’t for them, I would’ve never scored 1500 points.” Anderson said that Coach Meadows had told her how close she was to 1500 points at the beginning of the season, but she did not know where she was at in the points hunt when she finally hit the mark against West Morgan.
Coach Meadows said that a high school player hitting 1500 points is very uncommon. He said that there was another girl at Clements who hit 2,000 points. At which point Lele said, “It was 3,000…She was Miss 3,000!” Coach Meadows emphasized that it’s a team award as well as an individual award. He said, “Lele is a team player, she is unselfish and it’s just happened that way, because she’s a good basketball player…a very good basketball player.” He went on to mention that on Friday night, Lele was voted “Miss Clements High School” by her classmates, so she is also well respected by fellow-students as well.
Now that area regular season play is over, the Lady Colts to face West Limestone and Tanner before the County Tournament. Coach said, “It’ll be a fun week, but it’ll be tough week. Hopefully, we can get some wins next week.”
When it comes to her future plans, upon graduation, Lele will be attending Wallace State where she has signed a scholarship to play softball for A.J. Daugherty who was recently hired from James Clemens to coach the Wallace State Lions Softball team. When it comes to a major, she is undecided.
Los Angeles, CA – In a recent interview on Applebee’s Tailgate Talk, five-time NBA All-Star player and two-time NBA World Championship Coach Rudy Tomjanovich said that his first love actually wasn’t basketball, but baseball. Tomjanovich grew up in Hamtramck, Michigan, which is surrounded by the City of Detroit. He said the recreational programs in that city were outstanding, especially when it came to baseball. In a city where it seemed all the boys grew up wanting to play baseball, young Rudy Tomjanovich went right along with them. When Tomjanovich was around 11 years old, Hamtramck won the 1959 Little League World Series. Some of the older boys that he played with, including a cousin, were a part of that championship team. As a side note, a team from Gadsden, Alabama made it to the quarterfinals of the same tournament, but never faced Hamtramck. Tomjanovich said the guy that really encouraged him was his Uncle Joe. His uncle bought him his baseball spikes, gloves, and other equipment because Tomjanovich’s family didn’t have much money. Tomjanovich took to baseball, even becoming an All-Star. Tomjanovich said he played baseball in high school, but, unfortunately, he had a baseball coach who he described as a “sarcastic guy.” He said because of the coach’s personality, he quickly lost his love for the game.
Tomjanovich’s Uncle Joe had always told him it would be good for him to play a sport and keep his grades up, because of the possibility of getting a scholarship. When he told his uncle he wanted to give up baseball, his uncle wasn’t happy about that. At that time, Tomjanovich said that his uncle was concerned about his future if he didn’t pursue baseball. When he told his uncle that he wanted to play basketball Tomjanovich said that this announcement garnered a strange look from his uncle. While he had played on the basketball team, he had never actually played in a game. Tomjanovich started practicing on a basketball court at a junior high school. He said the basketball court where he practiced happened to be the “hot spot” for all the great players in Detroit. He said he started at one of the smaller baskets and moved up to the big baskets. Tomjanovich said that the day he got to play on the big baskets with the high school players and the college players was “like going to Madison Square Garden.”
Although he was enjoying honing his skills on the basketball court, Tomjanovich’s pursuit wasn’t met without some resistance. In the process of trying to play basketball, he had those who told him that he shouldn’t waste his time and even pursue the sport. After he had told his uncle he was going to play basketball, he went out for the freshman team the next year. Tomjanovich said that the freshman basketball coach was a new teacher at the time. The coach was an ex-football player, a linebacker. After trying out for the freshman team, Tomjanovich was in homeroom class when a classmate came in the room and informed him that he had seen the list of the players who made the team, and his name was not on the list. That was something that didn’t sit well with Tomjanovich. Before the next practice the next day, and before the coach could do anything, he challenged the coach to a game of one-on-one. Tomjanovich said the coach, coming from a football background, didn’t know how to play basketball. He said every time he dribbled the ball, it was like a fumble to the coach. The coach would lunge at him and he even had to jump over him a couple of times. After the match up, the coach saw that he had a passion for the game and put him on the team.
After freshman season, Tomjanovich signed up for a gym class that the varsity boys were in. Tomjanovich described himself as the “scarecrow” with “wobbly legs” as a young man. He said, the varsity coach pulled him to the side and asked him what he was doing there. He asked him if he was thinking about going out for the team. He said, “Yes, sir”. The coach, who Tomjanovich described as “the king”, responded, “Well, don’t waste your time.” At that moment, Tomjanovich said, “My heart dropped out of my chest.” After that experience, he said he made up his mind that he loved the game of basketball and that his love of the game was so strong that he was going to play wherever and whenever he could, even if it meant playing in leagues outside of school. By the end of the year, the head coach had moved Tomjanovich up to varsity. In high school, Tomjanovich was an All-State basketball player.
Upon graduation from high school, he went to the University of Michigan to play basketball. Tomjanovich said that Michigan “didn’t make a lot of noise” as a team, but they did get to play the number one toughest schedule in the country his junior year and the second toughest schedule in the country his senior year which meant that when all the NBA scouts were coming to watch players from the other team, they were watching him on the court as well.
In 1970, the NCAA All-American was the number two draft pick by the San Diego Rockets. After being drafted, the San Diego Rockets were sold to Houston. At that time, no one thought they were going to make it in Houston because Texas was a football state. Tomjanovich said they hung around and built the program and laid the foundation for the great franchises found in Texas today. He said it was pretty cool to be a part of that process.
Although Tomjanovich had great success as a player and a coach, he said that one of the most important moments of his career was when his former player, Akeem Olajuwon, was being inducted into the hall of fame. Tomjanovich said that he gave Olajuwon a call. During that call, Tomjanovich said that Olajuwon was so gracious. Olajuwon told him, “This is for you too, Coach.” Tomjanovich said that Olajuwon saying that was an incredible feeling, it was the greatest moment in his career. Tomjanovich said, although he wasn’t the one who traded Olajuwon, he wasn’t sure about how felt about him until that moment. A reporter who was there told Tomjanovich how happy Olajuwon was that he had called him. Tomjanovich said that having a connection with someone you’ve gone through the wars with and then them show their appreciation for your support, that’s his most rewarding moment.
In December 2016, Tomjanovich returned to the list of nominees for induction into The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. With Tomjanovich being an All-American at Michigan, a five-time time All-Star with the Rockets, nominated by the coaches committee as the winning-est coach in Rockets history, having led the Houston Rockets to two NBA championships, USA Basketball to an Olympic Gold Medal, and a team of replacement players to a World Championships Bronze medal, it seems that his resume warrants induction. The finalists and direct-inductees will be announced on Feb. 18 in New Orleans. The entire class of 2017 will be announced on April 3 during the Final Four in Phoenix, Arizona. The induction of the class of 2017 will take place from September 7th through the 9th at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“What I’d like to say to the non-believers is never underestimate the heart of a champion.” – Coach Rudy Tomjanovich