My Life in the 50 States is the book I recently published. I want to give YOU an inside look at one of the states! Here you will read about the state of North Carolina and how one life changing moment almost didn't happen!
I HAD SOME AMAZING EXPERIENCES in the state of North Carolina. I went to my first ever concert, which happened to be Tina Turner. My dad worked for Sara Lee and she was doing a special concert for all their employees. I was able to get tickets to the Wake Forest vs. Duke men’s basketball game. Getting to see my best friend, Gigi (Miller) Johnson, compete at the NCAA Outdoor National Track Championships in Durham was special. She placed second in the heptathlon. Yes, she was a beast. But the one thing that had the biggest impact on my life almost didn’t happen.
After that long road trip with my suitemate, Natalie, I had to keep going to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where my parents lived. Technically they lived in Rural Hall, which is a small community just north of the city. I had an eight-hour drive from Montgomery, and for some reason, I didn’t leave Alabama until late. This meant I was getting to my parent’s house late.
My dad worked for Sara Lee, and as they did for the Olympics, which I detailed in Georgia, they were sponsors for The Crosby. The Crosby was a huge celebrity golf tournament that was started NORTH CAROLINA 118 by Bing Crosby and continued on by his widow, Katherine Crosby. All of the big names in sports and entertainment were at this tournament.
My parents were volunteering, and my dad had a pass for me to watch all the celebrities roll through. The only catch ... I had to wake up and leave with them at 4:00 a.m. I am not a morning person AT ALL! I debated the entire drive home from Alabama if I was still going to go. My mom came into my room at about 3:15 a.m. to wake me up and I told her I didn’t want to go. She really had no idea what she was saying when she told me, “If you don’t go, you are going to regret it.”
I managed to get myself showered, teeth brushed and out the door with them. My plan was to sit at the first tee and just watch everyone tee off. I did this for the first couple of groups, one that included Julius Erving, or Dr. J, as everyone in the basketball world knows him. The third group pulled up and there was a man who looked very familiar to me, but between how early it was and how little sleep I had, I couldn’t figure it out. He pulled up to where I was standing, said hello and remarked how surprising it was to see people out that early. I was polite, smiled and agreed that is was really early to be out there, but it was worth it.
I was racking my brain as to who this man was. He reminded me of my maternal grandfather with his stature and slight limp. I knew once they announced his name when he teed off, I would feel like an idiot for not realizing it. The announcer started to list off all of the accomplishments of this man. He played for Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins at UTEP. His is the only coach to win a NJCAA, NIT and NCAA title. He led the 1994 Arkansas Razorbacks to their only men’s basketball national championship. He is Nolan Richardson. I face palmed MY LIFE IN THE 50 STATES 119 my forehead and laughed at myself. How did I not recognize Nolan Richardson? I blamed it on the lack of sleep and how early it was.
After Coach Richardson teed off, I waited to get his autograph. For some odd reason, I decided to blurt out that I had played my freshman year at a junior college in Texas. He looked up from signing my autograph with disbelief and asked me where I played. I told him Odessa College. He chuckled a bit and told me he started his college coaching career at Western Texas, which was in the same conference as Odessa. We both laughed, he thanked everyone there who came out and the group he was with moved on.
As I said before, my plan was to stay and watch everyone tee off. Another group passed and I was already bored. I decided I was going to catch up to Coach Richardson and walk with his group for a few holes. I searched out the concession trailer where my parents were working to let them know I would be walking around.
I found the group that Coach was walking with, but didn’t say anything. I didn’t want him to think I was following him, although that is exactly what I was doing. He spotted me pretty quickly and struck up conversation. I only intended to walk a couple of holes with them. We started talking. Well, he started asking me all kinds of questions and I answered. He asked me everything about my family, where I was from, what I planned to do in college, after college.
At the time, I was planning to go to Southwest Texas (now known as Texas State) in San Marcos. He told me stories about opening up the Chaparral Center on the campus of Midland College and traveling around the conference we played in.
Before I realized it, I had walked all 18 holes with him. Right NORTH CAROLINA 120 before he went back into the clubhouse, Coach gave me a big hug and told me to let him know what I ended up doing after Odessa. He may not have meant it, but I took it to heart.
Later that evening, I told my parents about my time with Coach Richardson. My dad suggested to me that I write him to see if he could help me somehow become an athletic trainer at Arkansas. Not too sure how serious my dad was about this either, but again, I took it to heart. I wrote a letter to Coach to see if he could talk with the head trainer at Arkansas and I could somehow get in. And when I say write, I mean snail mail. Email was fairly new, and I was still used to sending handwritten letters.
After a couple of months, I still didn’t get a response. I am not sure exactly what type of response I thought I was going to get. I ended up looking up the phone number to the basketball office, held my breath and dialed the number.
Another thing most people cannot believe about me is that I despise having to call someone that I do not know. Terry Mercer, the secretary at the time and still to this day, answered the phone and first told me that Coach was going into a meeting. Now I know that is an easy excuse for deterring random phone calls from anyone claiming to have met a Hall of Fame coach at a golf tournament in North Carolina three months prior.
After a short hold, Coach Richardson got on the phone and we exchanged pleasantries. He knew I was calling in regard to the letter I sent him. He promised he would pass along my name to Dave England, the long-time athletic trainer for men’s basketball at the University of Arkansas. I honestly had no idea how this phone call was going to go, but by the time it was all said and done, I was to be expecting a phone call from Dave in the near future.
Two weeks later, I received that phone call and Dave was able to offer me a small amount of money as a scholarship. I was ecstatic! I told my parents just knowing they were going be as excited as I was and say yes.
Since I had graduated from a Texas high school and my dad paid taxes in North Carolina, I had two states I could choose to go to college. Then I pulled Arkansas out of a hat.
My dad said it would be tough, gave me a short lecture that I don’t remember any of except that if I could find X amount more dollars, they would try to make it work. I found X amount more dollars and off I was to attend the University of Arkansas. My experience there shaped me into the coach and person I am today. And to think, I wanted to sleep in that morning. Thank goodness I listened to my mom.
Can you believe I almost missed that? When I think about it today I shake my head in disbelief because I would have missed out on so much! You can read more about my journey through the 50 states by purchasing my book at www.mylifeinthe50states.com