My undergraduate days were some of the happiest if not the happiest days of my life. I have friends who were college athletes at other universities with whom I share stories, and it seems that none of them had experiences that were as good as mine. We were blessed to have a coach whose guidance and encouragement not only helped us to prepare and perform at elevated levels in athletics but also in life after graduation. I personally was blessed to have teammates who were supportive, giving and understanding. Those friendships have lasted for my entire life, and I am grateful to have been a part of those magical times.
Here’s an interesting statistic that might surprise most people. In 1963, Coach Rohe’s first recruiting class were all freshman and could not participate on the varsity in 1963. There were about nine or ten of us who participated on the varsity that year, and we had to run in multiple events to be competitive. Typically, Winston Russell, Dick Evey, and myself would compete in five or six events every meet. Dick Evey (one of the best guys I ever knew) who would later be a first-round draft pick in the NFL as a defensive lineman would not only compete in the weights, but he also ran the second leg of the 440 relay. Of those men who were on the varsity that year, over half went on to graduate school and received doctorates.
I graduated in 1965 with a degree in civil engineering. Coach Rohe always encouraged us to do our best in the classroom as well as on the track. I studied hard and even though I could have done better, I had a respectable grade point average. The 1965 class has to be one of the dumbest classes to have ever attended the University of Tennessee. Right before graduation, I got a call to tell me that I ranked first in my class in the college of engineering. I still think that there must have been a mistake. I took this elective course in home economics and made an A which probably put me over the top. It was a course in love and marriage. I took the course to meet girls. There were three guys and twenty-eight girls.
I took a year off after undergraduate school and went to work in New Orleans for the Humble Oil Company (now Exxon). Andy Heiskell and I had spent many weekends in the mountains hiking and camping. We also like to shoot our bows and arrows. I joined the New Orleans Archer Club and won the Louisiana State Archery Championship in 1966.
After a year in New Orleans, I went to Georgia Tech where I got my M.S. and PhD in civil engineering. The head track and field coach at Tech was Buddy Fowlkes. Buddy had been a member of the Georgia Tech track team when Tech was still in the South Eastern Conference. He had won the high point honors in three SEC track and field championship meets. Coach Fowlkes and I became friends, and I coached the shot and discuss for him. One day when I was working with the shot putters, the sprinters were practicing their starts near the shot-put circle. The best sprinter was this kid named Loudermilk. He was winning all the starts (15-yard sprints) and was being a little boastful about it. I walked over to the student assistant coach who was firing the starting pistol and whispered a few words to him. After another successful start, Loudermilk was berating his teammates, and I told him that I believed that even though I was an overweight old man, I could beat him. He laughed and bet me ten dollars. We got into the blocks. The starter fired his pistol. I won the race. What I did not tell Loudermilk was that I had told the starter to fire his pistol when he saw me move.
After graduate school, I went to Auburn University where I taught for three years. By that time, I had my professional engineering license and had the opportunity to go into the construction and engineering business for substantially more money. I subsequently worked in the business for twenty-five or so years. I went to Virginia Tech and developed the MS and PhD program for them in their Building Construction department. I got a call from LSU and was offered a job as a department head and a distinguished professorship. While I was a professor, I wrote eight books primarily on construction management and legal issues. Some of these books were translated into a number of foreign languages.
I retired form LSU in 2003 and have continued my engineering consulting practice.
I have four wonderful children, three girls and one boy. And I have ten grandchildren. My wife of almost 42 years and I live in Auburn, Alabama.
As I look back on my life, one of the things for which I am most grateful is that a boy with only moderate abilities could have been a teammate with such terrific guys.