Forever Young

May your hands always be busy

May your feet always be swift

May you have a strong foundation

When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful

May your song always be sung

And may you stay

May you stay forever young”

Bob Dylan

On a hot summer’s night in June, they gathered once again. Some, to renew old friendships, for others, a chance to reconnect after far too long apart. It was a chance to share old and cherished memories, recall some funny stories, outrageous characters, and to fondly remember those no longer here.

Time had taken its toll on them. The ranks have been thinned by the passing of teammates. They are older now, all with some gray hair, and some thicker around the waist. Some were urban boys, some country, and some from large cities. There was one thing, though, that they shared from not so long ago…. they all met at a little town just north of Interstate 30, about an hour east of Dallas to attend college and play football. And they played it well.

They sacrificed together. Sweated. Struggled. Strained and hurt. They also drank and had a good time together. For some, they endured the hardship of coming as close as possible winning a championship, only to see it slip from their grasp at the last moment. Others were denied even an opportunity to compete in a playoff due to conference politics. And for others, it just wasn’t meant to be.

For this night, though, whatever hurt and heartache their might have been faded far into the background. There were countless embraces, and if I heard the words “I love you” once, I heard them a thousand times. This night was about happy.

The stories were many and rich. Stories of tough, fast, talented opponents, and of equally tough, fast, and talented teammates. There were the funny stories of real characters. Boley Crawford was a legend in Commerce. In today’s terms, to say he would be politically incorrect would-be a vast understatement. There were all sorts of “Boleyisms” exchanged, and how he could be insulting, yet funny at the same time. Looking back, they wished they had been written down. There were stories of defensive wizard Bobby Fox, and how intimidating he could be. There were many laughs and stories of former player Ted Sample and the tunnel between the dorms and the main campus back in the 70’s. For one night, they were young again.

There was much of discussion of those that had gone before them. Danny Kirk, one of the most ferocious and hard-hitting linebackers ever to don the blue and gold. Wade Wilson, one of the greatest Lion quarterbacks ever, and yes, it was mentioned about, during Friday walk through practices, how he would throw pass after pass to both Jimmy Buster and Curtis Ray running routes against defensive backs, and talking trash the whole time, with Wade laughing the whole time. Kennis Miles, a tough and determined weak side linebacker. Rickey Spence, a jack-of-all-trades, do-it-all running back/receiver who once filled in for an injured Cary Noiel, and proceeded to rush for over 100 yards.

Time was what inspired and drove this reunion. A reunion of The Pride. Day after day passes, and a little grayer hair appears. Too many have left our ranks already. So, this day was chosen to slow time down for a bit and push the sun back up in the sky. To share some old stories and make up some new ones.

To feel young again. Forever Young.

On a personal note- To David Lowe-Thank you for involving me in your efforts to pull this off, to issue me a personal invitation. To be remembered by all of you and included….it means more to me than you know.

To those I hadn’t had a chance to meet before….it was a definite pleasure. Let’s not wait so long again.

To those that I haven’t seen in so long….Kevin Rush, Vaughn Williamson, and Tony Lauro….it was so good to see you again. You guys are very special.

I must have been asked about three or four different times, the last I remember by Chris Flynn, “Russ, are you going to write about this?” Yes, Rock Star, I am. That’s what I do.

As my wife and I left on the walk back to our hotel room, I already had the title, and began to hum the old Bob Dylan tune to myself…. Forever Young.

And that is how they will all remain for me. Forever Young.

Postscript- I mentioned this to a few, but I wanted to make sure this got out. On behalf of Brian, I’ll make all of you this promise. We’ll leave the light on for all of you. People will know of your accomplishments and achievements. Those currently involved in ETSU/TAMUC athletics will know of the rich history and tradition of Lion football and Lion athletics.

The Pride Runs Deep.

Roar Back Here.....

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