Who was your childhood hero?
I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about that lately.
If you don’t count people that I’ve actually met—and Popeye—I guess my first hero was Jake Scott. He played safety for the Georgia Bulldogs when I was in the third and fourth grades. He wore number 13 at a time when nobody made jerseys with that unlucky number.
He set the school record for career interceptions that was not matched until Bacarri Rambo equaled it this season. Jake Scott still holds the single-season interception record at Georgia.
I remember him returning punts for touchdowns. He was fast—he told the newspapers it was because he was losing his hair. In the third grade I thought that was hilarious.
In 1968, as a junior, he led the Bulldogs to an undefeated season and a Southeastern Conference championship. I couldn’t wait for his senior year.
Then, while Mama and I were approaching the intersection of Highways 54 and 85 on the square in Fayetteville a news flash over the radio broke my heart. Jake Scott was skipping his last year and turning pro. He was going to the Canadian Football League, of all things!
After a few months I forgave him. I even became a Miami Dolphins fan when he signed with them. He starred for the Dolphins when they went undefeated in 1972. The NFL gave him a sports car when he was named Most Valuable Player in the Super Bowl.
As the years passed I found other heroes. Hank Aaron. Billy Graham. Stonewall Jackson. Herschel Walker. The Apostle Peter. King David. Larry Munson (don’t tell me you don’t know who he is—the greatest radio football announcer of all time). Ronald Reagan. I admire all of them for different qualities.
Where, you may ask, have all the heroes gone? Won’t somebody step up to the plate?
Well, they are everywhere. Some wear badges and others ride in ambulances. Some have stethoscopes and others teach school. They are parents, and mill workers, and salespeople. Thousands wear camouflage and helmets and hiking boots.
They call 911 when they see you stranded by the road. They pick up trash along the highway. They volunteer at nursing homes. They serve on the PTO. They help with the Special Olympics. They ring a bell as they collect for the Salvation Army.
These are the best kind of heroes. Unsung heroes.
And I wouldn’t trade them for anybody carved on Mount Rushmore.
Or even for Jake Scott.