A Tale of Four Quarterbacks

26 Aug

This week marks the beginning of college football season, which means that I will be driving to Knoxville for another opening game for the University of Tennessee. This made me think about past seasons and other opening games. Then, I realized that it was 20 years ago that the Volunteers had one of their most interesting starts.

In 1994, Larry and I flew to Pasadena, California to watch the Big Orange play UCLA at the Rose Bowl. A few things about that trip stand out.

Our room overlooked Colorado Boulevard, the main route of the Rose Bowl Parade. It is too bad that we were there in September.

The temperature was super hot. It felt more like Tennessee temperatures than what you would find in southern California.

A man and his son brought their luggage to the game. Apparently, they did not have time to go to the hotel. They came to the stadium straight from the airport. Can you imagine someone trying to bring suitcases into a stadium during these times?

Larry upset one of the concession stand workers. We tried to get a cup of ice, and the guy said that it would be $10 or some other outrageous amount. That is when Larry said, “Damn, Jesse James carried a gun when he robbed people.” Apparently, the guy did not like the Jesse James reference.

There is something else I remember. Those were good times to be a fan of the University of Tennessee. Although we had lost Heath Shuler, who had finished second for the Heisman Trophy, we had a senior quarterback ready to take the helm. Jerry Colquitt had patiently waited his turn, and it was his time to shine.

Another upper classman, Todd Helton, was the backup. Everyone knew he would be drafted into the Major Leagues and had a bright future in baseball. He did not expect to play that often, but the team needed someone with experience because the other two quarterbacks were freshmen. They were also highly recruited.

One was Branndon Stewart, a son of Texas who came from the Heath Shuler mold. He could make things happen with his arm and his legs. The other was Peyton Manning, the son of a southern legend who played more traditionally. Everyone knew that there would be a quarterback battle in the future, but that was a year away.Quarterbacks

At least, everyone assumed it would be a year away. On the seventh play of the game, Colquitt injured his knee and was out for the season. Suddenly, Tennessee was down to a baseball player and two talented freshmen. Before the game was over, all of the quarterbacks would take snaps, and Tennessee would lose 25-23.

Helton became the reluctant starter and led the Volunteers to a big win over Georgia. However, he was injured in another game, and no one wanted to ruin his chances at baseball. He stayed on the team, but the freshman quarterback battle was at full force.

Stewart and Manning split playing time, and the fans were split, as well. Remembering Shuler, some fans wanted Stewart. Seeing a pro typical quarterback, other fans wanted Manning. Eventually, the coaches settle on Manning.

Stewart, seeing the writing on the wall, transferred to Texas A&M and led them to the 1998 Big 12 championship. In the title game, they beat Kansas State, which insured that Tennessee would go to the first BCS Title Game. The Vols won the National Championship, and, ironically, Stewart helped them do that.

Helton was drafted by the Colorado Rockies and recently retired after playing for them his entire career. Not long ago, they also retired his number.

Despite his injury, Colquitt by drafted into the NFL, but his playing career did not last long. He got into coaching and made it onto the staff of the Seattle Seahawks.

Manning is, well, Peyton Manning and is considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Like Shuler before him, he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, which is one of the greatest travesties in that award’s history. Then, he was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Now, he plays for the Denver Broncos.

Thinking about the opening game of 1994 made me wonder about how lives were changed by one injury on one play. What would have happened if that injury had not taken place? Would Colquitt have gone on to a more promising NFL career? Would Helton have come in during a later game and gotten hurt more seriously? Would another year allowed Stewart to beat out Manning for the starting job? Would Manning have transferred? Would Tennessee have won the National Championship in 1998?

I have no idea, but I know what we were thinking when that injury took place. Holy crap, what are we going to do now?

Finding Bobby Doyle

25 Aug

A few years ago, I saw a documentary about Hugh Hefner and was stunned by a man singing the best rendition of “Blowin’ in the Wind” that I have ever heard. Immediately, I went searching for that song to download on my iPod. I could not find the song, but, more strikingly, I could not find anything about the man, Bobby Doyle.

This sent me on an Internet search to find all I could about him. I wrote about it in a post called “Searching for Bobby Doyle” and hoped that some day his music would become available. Apparently, I was not the only one because comments began to appear from people who were also searching for him. They had also seen the documentary and were trying to find out about the man with the haunting voice.

It was good to know that other people were interested in Bobby’s music, but I was stunned when an old friend and band mate of his left a comment. Through emails, he has told me about Bobby and his life singing in the bars of Austin, Texas. He has told me stories about the struggles of being a musician who was good enough to make it big but never got that big chance. Through his emails, I have learned more about Bobby than I could ever imagine. I have learned a lot, but there is one thing that I know for sure. I wish I could have sat in an Austin bar and listened to Bobby perform. If I was lucky, then he would come over after his set and tell stories about his life and times.

Through Bobby’s friend, I found out that a writer was doing a story on Bobby. When the story was published, the writer sent a link to me, and it is exactly what I was looking for from the beginning. It is a great story that chronicles to life of a man who I wish I could have met. I urge you to read it.

Bobby’s friend also told me about something that was happening close to my home. The Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Kenny Rogers in its latest class and planned an exhibit in his honor. I knew from my early research that Kenny Rogers got his start in the Bobby Doyle Three. Apparently, his time with the trio would be part of the exhibit.

This morning, my wife and I had brunch in Nashville and went to the exhibit. As soon as we entered the room, there was a wall dedicated to the Bobby Doyle Three.image

As I read the information and looked at the pictures, a knot formed in my throat. It may sound strange, but I was getting emotional. A man who played in bars throughout Austin and never made it big was being introduced to people at the Country Music Hall of Fame.image-6

As we went through the rest of the exhibit, I kept looking to see if people were reading about Bobby. They were doing more than that. They were checking out his pictures and his album covers.image-4 Hopefully, some of them will walk out and look for his music.

Unfortunately, Bobby’s music remains a rare find. A couple of songs are on iTunes, but most of it cannot be easily found. Today, I am more convinced than ever that his music needs to be out there for people to hear. If nothing else, then his version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” should be available. I promise that it is the best rendition that you will ever hear.

As we walked out of the exhibit, I glanced one more time at Bobby’s wall and thought, “Bobby, you finally made it.” I wish I had known him. I wish that I had heard him live. I wish he was still here to know that people are finding him.

Northwest Trek: Heading Home and Looking Back

22 Aug

We came to the end of our trip, which meant a long flight back home. It was nothing like the return trip of Lewis and Clark, but it still took a while. We had a layover in Los Angeles that brought to mind the old Susan Raye song, “L.A. International Airport.” Unfortunately, that was the only thing pleasant about the experience.

One would think that the second largest city in the United States would have a decent airport. One would be wrong. We landed in one terminal and were told that our connecting flight in another terminal. No big deal. We could just catch the tram to the other building. That is when we found out that the Los Angeles International Airport does not have a tram, or a train, or a monorail. It has a bus that takes you on the tarmac. That is the same tarmac where planes taxi to the runway. In short, the airport is a disaster.

Despite the airport craziness, we made our connection and got back to Tennessee. In the days following, I looked back upon the trip and thought about everything that we did and saw. Overall, it was a good trip. We spent time cutting up and laughing and having fun. We also saw some things that we had never seen before.

Although we had been to Oregon and Washington, it was only long enough to say that we had been there. This time, we saw some stuff.

Looking back, I think we should have spent more time in Washington and driven into the eastern part of that state. Oregon has some great things, but there was not enough in between to justify the drive. Washington is a smaller state and, looking at the map, may have a few more places to see.

Despite that bit of hindsight, I am glad that we made the journey into the Northwest. It gave us the opportunity to spend time together, and it allowed us to explore some territory that we knew little about.

With that being said, I will end this series with a picture of my dad and my brother. I hope you can make them out.IMG_2691

I hope everyone enjoyed reading about our trip. The next post will be about the regular goofy stuff.

Northwest Trek – The Fate of a Man and a Mountain

21 Aug

Before the trip began, my brother said over and over that Mount St. Helens was the one thing he definitely wanted to see. It did not matter where else we went as long as we went there. He remembered watching the weeks of television coverage as the volcano built towards a massive eruption. Although I am younger, I also remember the images of the mudslides and ash. After visiting the mountain, I know that television did not portray the impact and destruction.

There is only one road to Mount St Helens, but there are a few places to stop along the way. The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center sits a few miles off the interstate and provides a good introduction into the events of 1980. My nephews did not know much about what happened, but they knew a little more after watching a movie about it. Obviously, the film was about the volcano, but it was also about the people who were affected by it. This included a man who I still remember seeing on television.

Harry Truman was in his 80s and had lived in the shadows of Mt. St. Helens for 50 years. As law enforcement evacuated people who lived in the area, Harry was determined that he was not going anywhere. He became a celebrity as reporters flocked to interview him. He was full of quips and quotes and became the face of the people of the area. Harry disappeared in the eruption. It is assumed that he was buried under the boiling mud that slid off the mountain.

As we walked out of the movie, I made the comment that I would have never stayed around to die in a volcano. However, my nephew had another view. Here was a man who had lived his life, and he did not want to leave his home. By staying near the mountain, he lives on in memory rather than fading from our minds.

I am not sure I agree with that, but it is true that Harry has not been forgotten.

We drove to the end of the road and the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. There sits the Johnston Ridge Observatory, named after a scientist who was also killed in the eruption. It is an impressive building that provides an excellent view of the north side of Mount St. Helens. In other words, it is in the blast zone.

There a televisions in one part of the observatory that show news footage from the time. There are interviews with a lot of people, and there are interviews with Harry saying that he will never leave the mountain. When the televisions go dark, doors open into a theater where we learn about the explosion. The cause. The destruction. The environmental impact. When the movie ends, the screen rises and a huge window appears. Outside sits Mount St. Helens. It is an awesome thing to see.IMG_2917

On the observation deck, park rangers explain the event in detail. The mudslide was the largest in recorded history and traveled at 150 miles per hour. What impressed me the most? The entrance to the Columbia River went from a depth of 40 feet to a depth of 9 feet.

The ash cloud traveled at a speed of 300 miles per hour and circled the globe in two weeks. There is no way to describe the destruction in a blog post, but it was total and absolute. The national park service has preserved the land in its ruined state and is studying the environment as it recovers.

Driving back to the interstate, we stopped at a restaurant called Patty’s Place at 19 Mile House. It was a good meal, but it is not the food that stood out. As we walked out, there was a picture hanging of Harry Truman. He was right when he said that he would never leave the mountain, and my nephew was right when he said that Harry is still remembered. Mount St. Helens and Harry Truman are intertwined.

Northwest Trek – A Great Debate and a Great Big Rock

20 Aug

We spent quite a bit of time debating what to do next. My nephew wanted to see Olympic National Park, but, while it would have been cool, I felt that it was too far. Instead, I thought we should see Mt. Rainier. We made our points before he got to the crux of the matter. He was afraid that we would look at the mountain; say something about it being a big rock; and drive on down the road. He had reason to worry because we are prone to do that. Patience is not our virtue.

I promised him that we would stop anywhere that he wanted to stop. If he saw a trail that he wanted to walk, then we would walk it. On top of that, we would not complain about it. He was not convinced.

Honestly, I think going to Olympic would have been cool, but we were not set up for it. If I had it to do over, then we would have spent all of our time in Washington. That way we could have done both. Crater Lake was interesting, but we spent a lot of time just to see one thing.

With the debate behind us, we set out for Mt. Rainier. Along the way, we went through several towns where logging was the major industry. I always think it is interesting to drive through towns. As Del Gue says in Jeremiah Johnson, “Here’s where the people is.” I wonder if Jeremiah, Del Gue and Bear Claw ever made it up to Mt. Rainier.

Anyway, we drove the high road to the mountain, and Mt. Rainier is truly an impressive thing to see.DSC00358

However, it is still a big rock, and I do not have much to write about it.

On the way down from the mountain, we stopped by a mountain stream that was interesting. My nephews and I took the trail and crossed a small bridge to the other side. There were a lot of rocks and a little water, but there are probably times when the water is pouring down.IMG_2888

There is a funny story about my youngest nephew losing his footing on the trail, but I will spare him the embarrassment of putting it out here for everyone to read.

After all of this, we stopped in Longmire, Washington for lunch at the National Park Inn. We had thought about eating at the lodge in the middle of the park, but this turned out to be a better decision. Besides, my dad’s favorite show is Longmire, which made this a fitting place to spend some time.

We made our way back to Longview, Washington and more pie at Shari’s. This time, I skipped Marionberry and went with Pecan. It tastes more like home.

Northwest Trek – Lewis, Clark and Kites

19 Aug

After a day of many miles and little sightseeing, we were determined to spend the next day doing the opposite. We wanted to see some stuff and do it in as few miles as possible. That meant hopping over to the Oregon side of the Columbia River and driving to Astoria, the town that served as the base for John Jacob Astor’s fur company.

As a historian of the American West, this is a place that I have talked about in class and a place that I wanted to visit. Astor’s company was the first in the United States to be worth a million dollars and served as the basis for investment in New York City real estate.

The Astoria Column sits on the highest point in the town and was built by the Astor’s to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of their business.DSC00340

My nephews and I climbed the tower and saw stunning vistas.DSC00337

It also gave them the opportunity to make fun of my discomfort with heights.

After the climb, we drove to Fort Clatsop. It is a place that few people know about but that played an important role in one of this country’s pivotal events, the journey of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the men who traveled with them. They built a fort to spend a few months on the coast before making their way back home. There is a reproduction of the fort that provides an idea of what it may have been like in the early years of the 1800s.IMG_2701

As we walked around, I thought about the location. The Louisiana Territory did not reach to the Pacific Ocean. During their time at Fort Clatsop, the expedition was trespassing. Obviously, it had long been the domain of Native Americans, but a couple of European powers claimed it before the United States.

I also realized that, through our travels, we have covered a lot of the trail that Lewis and Clark traveled.

Lewis and Clark went east when they left the fort. We went south toward Seaside, Oregon to a famous formation called Haystack Rock.IMG_2741

It was cool, but there was another place that we needed to visit.

While studying the map, my younger nephew and I saw the World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame. He was determined to go, and we were determined to get him there. After crossing the river in Washington, we made our way to Long Beach and a building full of kites. It was corny, but we learned about the important role that kites played in World War II. Also, the first floor had a wall filled with people who had been inducted in the Hall of Fame. I read each one of them. Hey, if you are going to be in a hall of fame, then someone should read your name.

You may have heard of a few of them.

Charlie Brown

Wilber and Orville Wright

Benjamin Franklin

Alexander Graham Bell

It is an impressive list.

We asked the lady at the desk for a food recommendation. She sent us up the road to a seafood place that fried everything. We wanted seafood, but something grilled would have been nice. Honestly, it was not any better than Captain D’s. Its only redeeming quality was the city park across the street. When we walked out, a band was playing a music filled the air. They were called Jawbone Flats, and I would have listened for a while. However, everyone was ready to leave.

Hey, look over there. It is a road that goes to the beach. When I say the road goes to the beach, I really mean that it goes onto the beach. Cars are allowed on Long Beach, the longest beach in the world.DSC00348

Honestly, we all thought that Daytona Beach was the only one that you could drive on.

With daylight burning, there was one more stop to make. An old lighthouse sits on the edge of Cape Disappointment.IMG_2774

My brother and nephews climbed to the top while I talked to the man at the entrance. They learned all about the operation of lighthouses while I learned that men were stationed there during World War II. After all, they never knew when the Japanese my attack the Columbia River.

We returned to the hotel with our mission accomplished. We did not go far and saw a lot of stuff. We old folks went to bed while my nephews went to Shari’s to get more pie.

Northwest Trek – These Are The Times That Try Men’s Souls

17 Aug

We spent an uncertain night in Redmond, Oregon because we did not know which way to progress. Do we go northeast toward Idaho? Do we go north before deciding our next direction? This uncertainty is strange for us because we usually have a plan of roads to take and sights to see. However, we were not familiar with the territory. Finally, we decided to drive north towards The Dalles and turn eastward through the Columbia River Gorge. We had been told that this was something that had to be seen.

Through the years, we have driven through some desolate regions. There are parts of Montana and North Dakota where you will not pass another car for a while. However, we all agreed that nothing was as desolate as the road we took. The road was empty. The land was rough. I was driving and began to worry about the fact that we did not fill up with fuel before hitting the trail.

At one point, we pulled over to take a “break” and saw this guy riding along in the middle of nowhere.DSC00331

This brings me to a couple of other points about the trip. First, there are tons of cyclists in the northwest. They were on every road. Sometimes, they rode alone. Sometimes, they rode in pairs. Other times, they rode in groups with all of them wearing the same jerseys. I assume they were cycling clubs.

Second, the guy on the bike never acknowledged our existence. He rode by slowly as we stood along the side of the road. In these parts, we would have waved or nodded our heads. In some parts of the country, a cyclist may have yelled at us for being in the way. That did not happen on the side of a desolate road, and it did not happen on any other part of the trip. The people of the northwest were nice enough, but it was like they did not care if we were around. There was no reaction.

That could be that they are more mellow than the rest of the country. It could be that the zombie apocalypse has started in the northwest, and no one has realized it. Whatever the reason, most of the people we ran into seemed to be floating through the day. Heck, they did not even ask us where we were from. Usually, our southern accents elicit that question but not this time.

Anyway, we made it to the edge of the Gorge and filled up with gasoline. For those who do not know, Oregon has a law that says you cannot pump your own gas. They have attendants that do it for you. Of course, you have to get out of the car to insert the credit card and clean the windows.

We drove through the Columbia River Gorge on the scenic side and were disappointed. It simply was not as scenic as people made out. If someone thinks this is the most beautiful place they have been, then they have not been many places. It is not a terrible place, but there are better drives throughout the nation.IMG_2528

On top of that, we ended up eating at Burger King. We expected little towns with cool local eateries. There were little towns but not many choices in dining. However, Burger King provided the opportunity to break out the map and find our destination. It turned out to be Longview, Washington, a place that set us up for the next day.

We made it to Longview in time to do a couple of things. One was to find a place to fix my nephew’s GoPro camera. The other was to find something to eat. It took a couple of stops for the camera, and my nephew ended up fixing it with glue and rope. While he was looking for that, we were on our phones looking for restaurants.

My nephew and I found a steakhouse a few blocks away. There were some other places, but the pickings were slim. My brother said that he found something great – a smokehouse with brisket, barbecue and all sorts of stuff. We could not find it on our phones, but he was determined that we were going there. It turned out that he was looking for restaurants in Longview, Texas.

We had dinner at Applebee’s. It was not as good as our local Applebee’s because this one has my picture on the wall.

On the way back to the hotel, we ran into Shari’s, the place with the pie. We had to top off a long day with something good. For me, that was another piece of Marionberry Pie. It was a wasted day. We did not see anything. We did not have a decent meal. However, we got some pie.

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