Hall-of-fame inductions bring out tales oft-told and untold, and Clyde Bolton
solved a mystery for Boyce Callahan on Saturday.
That one Heisman Trophy vote Callahan received after finishing his football
career as Jacksonville State University's all-time rushing leader?
Bolton, the long-time and much-decorated sports writer from Alexandria, cast
Both men were inducted into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame on
Saturday, joining the rest of their six-person class in an emotional and often
hilarious banquet in Anniston's City Meeting Center.
What better occasion for Bolton to share how much he thought of a 150-pound
running back from Saks High School who ran his way to Little All-America status
at JSU in 1973.
“He said, 'Do you remember that you got a Heisman vote?'” Callahan said. “…
Then he told me, 'I see the world from a different color. You don't have to be
on a big team to be a big player.'”
Bolton proved that more than once during his 46-year career in newspapers,
which started at The Anniston Star. He once gave a Heisman vote to Auburn
defensive tackle Jimmy Brumbaugh, a more-gutsy-than-talented player who suffered
a catastrophic knee injury in 1997, sat out the next year and had a productive
senior year in 1999.
Callahan was the undersized back no major college wanted. Even then-JSU
running backs coach Clarkie Mayfield told head coach Charley Pell that signing
Callahan would mean a wasted scholarship.
Four years and more than 4,000 yards later, Callahan had converted Mayfield,
not to mention a few famous writers. Even best-selling author Rick Bragg has
opined about Callahan.
Bolton watched Callahan run and saw that different color.
“My feeling on the Heisman has always been, it's not just one guy who's
greater than everybody else,” Bolton said. “There's a plateau of people who are
up there on the same level. I thought that Boyce was on that level, so I voted
for him for Heisman.
“Why not vote for a good old Jacksonville boy?”
Then, Bolton joked, “Did he win it that year?”
That was the year the college football world cheered Penn State running back
John Cappelletti, who gave his trophy to his dying little brother and inspired
the 1977 television movie Something for Joey.
As for Callahan, he said he didn't hear until well after votes were cast that
he'd received one. He wasn't sure how to feel about it.
“Well, I didn't really know who it was,” he said. “All the time, you think,
who would think enough of you to actually think that you would make it? That's
almost a wasted vote.
“Then you think, maybe not, because what a great gesture.”
Callahan went on to become a chiropractor in Anniston. Bolton went on to earn
the All-American Football Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award in sports
“You hear a guy with his kind of honors and his abilities, it's just great,”
Bolton's revelation to Callahan was an off-stage moment at a banquet that
offered on-stage gems.
Bolton joked about growing up in the small Wellington community, saying he
could only muster two imaginary friends.
“They only played with each other,” he said.
Bill Farrell, the 82-year-old former football coach at Ohatchee, Piedmont and
Anniston high schools, drew laughs with a quip about his age.
“I'd like to thank everybody here for being present, especially me,” he said.
Sandy Hunter, who coached Pleasant Valley High School softball and volleyball
teams and the Weaver track team to a combined 13 state championships, read a
poem about how she measured her career, entitled “Coaches Never Lose.”
“For a coach, the final score doesn't read so many points for my team, so
many points for theirs,” she read to a near-capacity crowd that included tables
full of her former players. “Instead, it reads, 'So many adults out of so many
“This is a score that's never published. This is a score that a coach reads
to himself, in which the coach finds the real joy when the last game is over.”
Gary O'Steen, who starred in football at Anniston and with Bear Bryant's
first Alabama teams, made his way to the podium with the aid of a walker. He
pierced the silence with humor.
“Believe it or not, I used to be fast,” he said.
He joked about his “new set of wheels,” which he said he got after breaking
his leg while trying the 100-yard dash recently … just to see how much his time
had fallen off.
“That's my story,” he said, “and I'm sticking to it.”
Willie Pless, the former linebacker for Anniston High, the University of
Kansas and four teams in the Canadian Football League, clowned when posing for
pictures with his plaque. He told of how his three daughters have rendered him
an emotional goo of a dad who “cries watching commercials.”
Then Pless choked up when talking about his late mother, Mary Rudolph.
“I really wish that my mother was here to see what her baby boy, her baby
son, has accomplished,” he said.
About Joe Medley
Joe Medley covers Auburn University sports teams and
participatory sports for The Anniston Star.
See story at The Anniston Star's website: