A favorite photo, taken 35 years ago

Neighbor Grover sez he wonders how people know when they run out of invisible ink. F unny, I don’t feel old. But there are more and more occasions when I realize that I am old.

The Rockdale Sports Hall of Honor program Friday was one of them. Part of that program was dedicated to the 1976 state championship football team.

That was a glorious season and a great experience for The Reporter to cover. I was 40 years old that fall and had, just two years earlier, turned over the sports writing duties to new reporter Mike Brown.

Actually, I sorta’ pulled rank. I loved being on the sidelines, up close and personal with the excitement, taking photos. So rookie Mike was dispatched to the pressbox, along with statistician Henry Tyler. In 1976, Tom Brown succeeded Henry as statistician.

The thrill of victory shines from this 1976 photo. In 53 years (and counting) of shooting photos, I’m as proud of this as any. The thrill of victory shines from this 1976 photo. In 53 years (and counting) of shooting photos, I’m as proud of this as any. That playoff run of 1976 sent Mike and Tom to the comforts of pressbox duty in Texas A&M’s Kyle Field, Baylor’s Floyd Casey Stadium, UT’s Memorial Stadium, and finally the Cowboys’ Texas Stadium in Irving where the Tigers beat Childress going away, 23-6, for the title.

The Brown boys produced a lot of wonderful prose and recorded a lot of remarkable stats. And I got some good photos too, taking advantage of the wonderful lighting in those playoff palaces.

But the photo at right, taken at Tiger Field as the Tigers scored a clinching touchdown over Taylor’s Ducks, is my all-time favorite. It not only captures the emotion of the moment, it captures the personality of three great coaches.

Head Coach Fred Johnson is already signaling “1” as in kick the extra point as opposed to trying a 2-point conversion.

I didn’t know that at the time and the caption in next week’s paper said Fred was signaling “We’re No. 1!”

“Not so,” he corrected me later, and explained what he was doing. I should’ve known better anyway, because Fred would never have hot-dogged a “We’re No. 1!” He was all business and usually a play ahead of everyone.

Line Coach Dick Wiegand (center) and Backfield Coach Lew Simmonds are celebrating a perfectly executed play, with the knowledge that, as the old saying goes, success is preparation meeting opportunity. These guys so had it together, and their team so had it together.

And then there’s Martin Juarez (62) at right. He’s the only identifiable Tiger in the photo, and it’s just as well, because his big grin says what every player felt.

Now, back to realizing my age. These Tigers who were 16, 17 and 18 years old in 1976 are now 51, 52 and 53. Many of them are grandparents.

The Reporter’s publisher, Kathy Cooke Martin, was an RHS junior and a varsity cheerleader that season, which is pretty good casting if you know Kathy’s personality. Oh yes, she’s a grandmother.

That makes me a great-grandpa. As in old.

Thanks for indulging these recollections. And to those coaches and players, thanks for the memories.

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