It is normal for football fans to keep up with the action on the field and not give much notice to what goes on elsewhere. Most of the other “stuff” is not very interesting and gets very little attention although it is very important. One of those unnoticed jobs is a trainer.
A trainer is sometimes confused with a manager. A trainer is a step or two above a manager and has a totally different responsibility. A manager may be responsible for keeping up with equipment, uniforms, and other items, while a trainer may tape ankles, knees or wrists; take care of cuts, scrapes, sprains, and bruises, etc.; and even help to diagnose injuries in some cases.
From the very early 1960s through the mid-1970s, R. E. Lee could have been considered a “Trainer Factory.” During that period the Rebels produced seven trainers who received scholarships to either Georgia Tech or Georgia and went on to do a great job at the college level. That’s quite a record and I’d like to know if any other school can march that record.
One of those outstanding trainers, Chris Greer, passed away in early April while on a trip to Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Chris, a 1963 graduate at Lee, was the first in this line of seven to receive a scholarship as he went to Georgia Tech. Chris lettered for the Yellow Jackets in 1965 and 1966. Chris also worked with the Lee basketball team in my first year at Lee in 1963 and he was a fun guy to be around. He became a good friend and I am saddened by his passing.
Next in line came Samuel F. “Bo” Burke. Bo graduated from Lee in 1964 and was a talented trainer. He worked with the football team and the basketball team and was the kind of guy who could run the entire department. He went on to Tech and lettered for four years, 1965-68. Bo is a member of the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame, which is a distinct honor for a trainer. That gives some indication of the respect that Tech had for Bo. Bo passed away a few years ago in Louisiana after a distinguished career as a physician.
Then came Bob Jones. Bob is a close friend and we played baseball and basketball with and against each other throughout our younger years. He graduated from Lee in 1965 and received a scholarship to Georgia where he lettered in 1967 and 1968. While working as a football trainer at Lee, he also played on the basketball and baseball teams. He was a good athlete as well as a quality trainer. Bob is now retired and living in North Carolina.
Jeff McDonald graduated from Lee in 1970 and was called by Coach Jim Cavan “the best finest trainer I’ve ever had the privilege of being with in all my 30 years of coaching.” That’s high praise and put McDonald in line to grab a scholarship to Georgia, where he lettered in 1973.
Stan Clark graduated from Lee in 1972. He did an outstanding for job for the Rebels and received a scholarship to Georgia where he was a three-year letterman in 1974,75,76. His title was head trainer during his senior year with the Bulldogs and he received an honor that few trainers ever dream of. In Georgia’s 1976 game with Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium, he was named one of Georgia’s game captains. After Georgia’s win, which assured the Bulldogs a spot in the Sugar Bowl, Clark was awarded the game ball. I’ve never heard of this happening before and it surely indicates the respect and admiration that the Georgia team and staff had for Clark. He was as good as there was!
Next in the line of scholarship winners was Fred Pitts who graduated from Lee in 1974. He was a top-notch trainer and received a scholarship to Georgia Tech where he lettered in 1975 and 1976. Fred is now a minister in the Atlanta area.
The last in this long line of great trainers was Chuck Orrick. He graduated from Lee in 1977 and did a quality job for Coach Tommy Perdue. He received a grant-in-aid to Georgia where he lettered in 1979.
I don’t mean to say that these were the only outstanding trainers that worked with athletics at R. E. Lee. I remember other good ones like Mike Jones, David Daniel, Russ McGee. Lance Deloach, Jimmy Reddick, Dwayne Orrick, Andy Grier, Neal Sanders, and others who did a good job for the Rebels.
The man in charge of the Lee training department during these years was Burns Pruett. Burns did a great job of training these guys and developing them into outstanding trainers. He made it clear what he expected and provided opportunities for them to attend seminars to expand their abilities. All of these fellows owe Burns a great deal for helping them develop into trainers that Tech and Georgia considered college-level talent.
So next time you attend a local football game, take a look at the sidelines and check out the students working to make sure that the players have everything they need to perform at the highest level. They are important too!