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25 June 2007
Memorable Moments
from the Calhoun County
Sports Hall of Fame Induction

By Joe Medley
Star Sports Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Joe Medley: At long last, an answer — After 34 years, Bolton reveals he voted Callahan for Heisman

Inducted into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night were, from left, Willie Pless, Bill Farrell, Clyde Bolton, Gary O'Steen, Sandy Hunter and Boyce Callahan. Bolton revealed publicly for the first time that he gave a Heisman Trophy vote to Callahan in 1973. Photo: courtesy of Ken Grissom

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 it.

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 writing.

“You hear a guy with his kind of honors and his abilities, it's just great,” Callahan said.

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 children.'

“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.

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