Hall Of Fame

Tonight, Rabun County High School will induct it’s second Sports Hall of Fame Class prior to the start of the evening football game.

The Hall of Fame was formed last year, and in it’s second year of existence many people representing numerous sports and decades have been recognized.

Tonight’s class is no different.

For me, tonight’s class holds special significance, because one of the teams being inducted is the 1970 Rabun County High School Football team.

The 1970 team is special to me as my dad was the Assistant Coach of the team and my brother Tom would have been a senior on the team that year. Tom died in a car wreck in March before that season began.

From this point forward, let me preface this by saying the memories set forth on this post are coming from a 5 year old mind, so I may not have it all exactly right, but I think it’s pretty close.

Obviously, after the death of my brother our family was in turmoil, the greatest tragedy that could ever happen to a family had happened to ours.

Living in a small tight knit community, the people of our town rallied around us and held us up on a daily basis and as football season approached, we had something to look forward to.

My mama and daddy both grew up in Toccoa, just 30 miles from Clayton and in 1970, Toccoa High School was ranked very high in the State. Rabun County would be playing Toccoa late in the season and Toccoa was the odds on favorite to win the game handily.

My daddy and his entire team WANTED the win and sure enough, in the 3rd Quarter Rabun County went ahead and held on for the victory. Up until that time, this was the biggest win a team from Rabun County had ever seen.

The Hall of Fame story could easily end here, but for me, the game that was played against Toccoa wasn’t what made this team Hall of Famers, it was what they did off the field, how they helped save a family and surrounded a 5 year old with love and protection.

You see, when my brother died, he was an integral part of that team, the guys that made up that team were his best friends and they loved one another as brothers.

When Tom died, parts of them died too, they also had to grow up in ways that most would never had expected and I suspect they formed a bond that still exists today.

And for me, they became a group of young men who did everything they could to help fill the void of a big brother who would not be coming home again. They took care of me, they (and their girlfriends) made sure that I didn’t get swept aside in the grief of our family, they protected me. They became a whole new group of big brothers for a 5 year old missing his own and not understanding the concept of death or loss.

When Tom died, we were in the process of building a new home. It was the home we moved into in 1970 and still remains in my family today.

The house wasn’t complete when Tom died, but it was getting close. I think my parents realized very soon after Tom passed away that we needed to get out of the house we were living in and into our new home, a fresh start or at least a new beginning.

Growing up, my mother went to get her hair done every Thursday afternoon. Immediately after school she would go get her hair done and usually be home about 5PM.

On one Thursday afternoon, the entire 1970 Football team showed up at the house we were renting. With their pick-ups and cars and their father’s pick-ups and anything they could find and while my mother was at the beauty shop, they moved our entire house.

When my mother got home from the hairdresser we were moved into our new home. Mama used to joke that they didn’t even put anything in boxes, they just moved the dressers and closets as they were, but they got us moved.

This group of high schoolers continued to bless our family and I hope in some ways we enriched theirs. Simple acts of kindness and love is what represented this group of young men and I think they always realized that 1970 season included a guardian angel who was in every practice and huddle with them along the way of the season.

These young men, the 1970 Rabun County Wildcat Football Team protected us, they helped our family get our footing once again and they provided us with some valuable memories that put a smile on my family’s face when it was much easier to let tears stain our eyes.

I will always be indebted to the 1970 Wildcats, many of them I haven’t seen since I was a child. But they will forever hold a special place in my heart and in the history of my family.

Tonight, many fine people will be inducted into the Rabun County High School Sports Hall of Fame, but I’ll be cheering just a bit louder, with a lump in my throat for a special group of men, who in my eyes were Hall of Famers long before tonight’s induction ceremony.

As a child, I never knew how to say thank you for what these men did, I honestly didn’t know what I would be thanking them for, they were just part of my life. But as a man, I now know the sacrifices they made from their own lives, their teenage years, to help a little boy have some normality to a life that had been turned upside down. From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you, these normal band of high school football players did much more than they ever knew and more than I ever told them and for that, I will always be filled with gratitude. These will always be my Hall of Famers!

Congratulations to all the deserved honorees, especially the Hall of Famers of 1970.