In my early teens, I was diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever. There was to be no sports and no hard work. There were moments when I could not move my body.
I lived on a farm so I had to work. I worked and got strong. I had a physical that allowed me basketball, football, and baseball. I played point guard in basketball, tight end in football, and third base in baseball.
During summer after my junior year, a drunk driver almost ended my life and did end my high school basketball career. While in physical therapy at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee; I asked for a basketball. When I touched it, I passed out overwhelmed with a future that would not be. I had been in Nashville just the week before to secure a collage scholarship to play basketball for David Lipscomb College, now Lipscomb University.
My senior year was very different than I had planned. I did manage to learn to walk again and then to run. I would play no more basketball until my first year in college.
I was point guard again for my dorm, Weldon Hall, in the intramural league. Pre – season, our dorm was the laughing stock of the campus. We were pretty nerdy for college freshman but they did not know what I knew. I was ready to play again.
I organized our team and we set out with one goal to win the league. No one gave us a chance. Then they had to play us and one by one we sent them all back to their respective dorms with their heads between their legs.
As a team of Davids, there was one Goliath in our path. His name was Jim K. He had been an all star player from another school he had been asked not to return to and he was not allowed to play ball for our college team because of past behavior.
Jim K. was not just good. He was a super star. I told my team that I would handle him. I would out play and outscore him.
On game day, the gymnasium was packed as if the college team was playing a rival. This felt like the game I never got to play in high school. It was redemption time.
I have really already proved to myself that I can play again. I have the respect of my team and we are winning and people on campus have a different view of Weldon Hall.
From the tip, the game was hard and fast. We didn’t just stay up with Koontz’s team; we were never behind in the game. It was close and he gave me fits but I was determined that today he was shooting no 30 footers and getting nothing easy.
OK, so I had a busted lip and burns on my knees and elbows from sliding on the floor and Jim K. did not. When the final buzzer blew, I had something Jim Koontz did not have. My team and I had an undefeated season. Jim K. did not.
What I had learned is that neither Rheumatic Fever nor near fatal car accident that had me hospitalized for the summer of 1968 kept me down. I went on to serve my country in The United States Air Force during the Vietnam Era, earned Bachelor and Master Degree, marry, have children, grand children, and great grand children. Don’t ever give up.