When I enrolled in the fall of 1965, I was about as wide-eyed as a freshman could be. I had received a dozen or more full ride offers, all orchestrated by my high school coach, Jerry Peters of Memphis University School. I had broken the Tennessee state record in the long jump by over a foot (23'6") and was favored to win high and low hurdles at state as well but blew it. He explained that I could choose to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. The difference was, at UT, I would have the opportunity to become my BEST, given the competitive level of the program. I was sold.
I want this to be a story about Chuck but much of this information is necessary for the set-up. Two months later, in October of '65, on a cloudy afternoon, our daily training work-out session was underway. It was cold and dark with a strong smell of tobacco. No...this was not the world class indoors training facility promised by Coach, but a tobacco barn somewhere in north Knoxville. Of course, a new facility was not even on the drafting table yet, but this barn stood in sharp contrast to the visions that Chuck had shared with each of us. Chuck had laid out a running oval that zig-zaged around support post and other obstructions. For me, there was an approach runway and a hole cut in the old warped oak floors for long jumping. One afternoon as I maxed out at full speed, bouncing up and down and side to side, my jumping foot collapsed, and my life came crashing down. I suffered a torn Achilles tendon, and it was almost Christmas before I dropped the crutches.
That was the end of my long jumping future, but, fortunately, not my hurdles. I recovered, but it was late spring before I was contributing to the team. Soon after the episode, Chuck called me into his office. He heard from the doctors and told me that my long term outlook was excellent. He said that I should expect an outstanding four year experience with the Big Orange. Since I would be out for a while...there would be no points from me in the track meets, however, Chuck, with his "leave no dollar behind programing," said there was something I could do for the team. Scholarship money was very tight, and he explained that since he understood that my family could afford to give me some financial support, he was looking under every stone for money to sign new athletes that were just waiting for Chuck to make that call. He asked if I could give up my monthly laundry money allowance. That was easy! Did I receive all those things over four years that he promised? Many times over!
In high school Steve Keltner dominated in every event he participated and broke the state long jump record by almost 2 feet. He encouraged me to be a walk on and directed me to Coach when I arrived at U.T. a year after him. In the summer of 1968 I recruited him to sell books door to door in Dallas Texas where he was very successful. We were having lunch not too long ago and discussing his many exploits in college track meets when he mentioned that he had scored points in nine (9) different events over his four years. Can anyone name them? That is a remarkable athlete and a significant achievement! GOD Bless,
Being Steve Keltner's roommate for three years was priceless. He was always up to something. There was the time he put together student care packages at the Sigma Chi house that were a huge success and he made good money. He figured if he did it a second year the profits would even be bigger. He invested most of the money he had made from the first run only to find out that UT came out with free care packages for all the students. I thought he would never finish eating all that peanut butter Then there was the time that Steve and Bob Dickson got on his scooter (top speed about 3 mph) with a huge load of dirty clothes in a bed sheet and headed to the cleaners down on Cumberland. Well, about half way there something happened and the scooter tipped over. Steve, Bob and the laundry went everywhere. No injuries, just fun looks and laughter from those on the sidewalk Too make matters worse, when they were picking up all their underwear a car came by and ran over all their stuff Finally, there was the time he hitchhiked to NC because of a girl he had been introduced to at UT that went Wake Forest, and he was ready for a big weekend! Late that Sunday night he came staggering into the room. He looked like something the cat brought in. He had run out of money, never could find the girl, and got caught in several rain storms coming through the mountains. His shoes were bleached out and curled up like elf boots We got together with other teammates and treated him to dinner. I think he slept for the next couple of days
Not only was Steve Keltner a great athlete and teammate, he was also a pretty good at entertaining. A few examples (and there were lots) when he climbed the almost finished smokestack (now gone) at the UT power plant for money. Then there was his constant practice (never played) on the harmonica while we were on the bus (usually got good late at night). Steve slept in a wool cap to make sure he had a good hair day, kept his fraternity pin stuck on the chest of a playboy foldout and he kissed her as he left for class each day. I could go on with stories about his scooter, his sports car and his green tennis shoes better known as the “green humpers”. Steve was loved by all. A few years ago a group of his teammates (Tom Fisher, Butch Stewart, Bill Cameron and I) went over to see him and celebrate his birthday. We had a great time being young again and telling track stories.