By Dave Ongie, News Editor
A lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge since four coaches taught a group of young junior high school kids the finer points of football in the early 1960s.
But when the men who played for Bob May, Keith Lyle, Emory Hale and Paul Brewster reunited with their former coaches last Thursday evening, the memories of those days flowed crystal clear.
“I can remember almost every game,” said Glen Altman, who went on to succeed Steve Spurrier as Science Hill’s starting quarterback. “I can remember almost all the scores, and how they were scored.”
Last Thursday’s reunion was a chance for the men who played for May, Lyle, Hale and Brewster in junior high to catch up with each other and their coaches. Stories flew fast and furious, and laughter echoed off the walls inside the field house overlooking Science Hill’s Kermit Tipton Stadium.
Lyle, who got his start coaching in the junior high ranks at the age of 22, said the ties that bound the players and coaches together
“For all these years, they’ve never forgot the relationship we had,” Lyle said. “It’s been a lifelong thing, really. That’s the thing about football; the team is a lifelong thing. Teammates are teammates forever, and coaches are a part of that.
“A player-coach relationship – it lasts forever.”
Lyle said he was brought into the coaching ranks by May and Hale and credits them for teaching him most of the football he knows. For Hale, it was legendary Science Hill football coach Kermit Tipton who stoked his love of football and his deep admiration for what it means to be a Hilltopper.
“Dealing with him, he was a quiet man, a reserved man, a man that cared for the players.” Hale said. “He guided me all the way up.
“For me, it was my dream to be a Hilltopper, to be something special.”
After serving as an assistant coach under Tipton at Science Hill, Hale went on to take the head coaching job at Oak Ridge High School where he won three state championships with Brewster serving as his assistant. From there, Hale took the head-coaching job at Austin Peay State University with Brewster on the coaching staff. Brewster went on to become the head coach at Austin Peay.
Lyle put down roots in Johnson City, where he served as the offensive coordinator at Science Hill for Bob “Snake” Evans, Tommy Hundley and May. For his part, May enjoyed a successful tenure as Science Hill’s head coach before going on to serve as the mayor of Johnson City.
But for all four men, those respective journeys started in the junior high ranks, teaching their players lasting lessons through the game of football. Those players returned last Thursday as accomplished men, and May believes learning the value of hard work at a young age helped his former players succeed in life.
“It’s just a bunch of guys that were willing to work, and do what you asked them to do,” May said. “I never had very many say ‘I’m not going to do that, coach.’ I think that was the secret to it, was to get the kids to do what should be done if you’re going to be an athlete.”