Some of you that were around the last couple of years may recall my sentimental support of Air Force football. The reason for that was a player that I watched grow up playing football in the little town of Clayton, NC. His father is the football coach at Clayton HS and my mother and I have attended games there for years and are close with the family.
Anyway, Coach Fowler was selected this year to be the coach of the North Carolina team in the Shrine Bowl, an all-star game played every December between North Carolina and South Carolina.
I thought I'd share this story with you:
A player brings a smile
Tim Stevens, Staff Writer
Gary Fowler, the football coach at Clayton and the head coach of the North Carolina team in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, got an unexpected call last spring.
A young man wanted to thank Fowler for inviting him to one of the combines the Shrine Bowl staff conducted in the spring.
"He seemed sincere," Fowler said. "I didn't think he was trying to finagle his way onto the team.
"He seemed to be one of those boys who was brought up right and believed in thanking people."
The call brightened Fowler's days, and the next week he received this letter:
"Hey Coach Fowler,
"First, I would like to thank you for giving me the chance to participate in these tryouts to become a part of the 2008 N.C. Shrine Bowl team. It has really been a blessing for me as well as my family.
"Secondly, I feel like I can contribute more than 100 percent to the team. This means practicing like I play, being on time and doing everything full speed ...
"While we are down there I plan for us to have the most fun eight days I have ever had.
"No big egos or so-called 'Supermen' down there. Just us, as a team, going down to make sure we enjoy ourselves as well as get the job done.
"This game not only means a lot to me, but it means more to my family, my friends and my community.
"My family has not had anybody go to school on a scholarship so everybody is very excited for me.
"This game would be a great opportunity for all of them to come together, enjoy the game and see what I love doing best and that's playing football.
"I am looking forward to hopefully being able to play alongside of you and the rest of the team in December and for us to get to know each other better.
"Have a good season and we will keep in touch."
Fowler never received another letter or telephone call from Cameron "Scotty" Wayne, but Fowler thought of Wayne occasionally.
Wayne had looked good in the combines, and Fowler learned Wayne had committed to East Carolina.
Wayne, a 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior at Southern Guilford, could run 40 yards in 4.4 seconds, could play linebacker, safety, wide receiver or running back. He could even punt. And he seemed willing to play any role.
The letter addressed some things that had been on Fowler's mind.
The coach is going to spend eight days with the players, and Fowler is not interested in dealing with players who think they are doing him or the annual all-star game a favor by being on the squad.
Mentally, Fowler had Wayne near the top of his list going into the meeting with his staff to pick the team.
"He is the type of guy I was looking for," Fowler said.
But on selection day, Fowler learned Wayne had died in an automobile accident on Interstate 85 near Lexington on Oct. 4.
"I'll never get to coach him," Fowler said. "But I don't think I will ever forget him."
The North Carolina team is expected to wear some designation on its jerseys in honor of Wayne in the game.
Wayne's friends say he had a smile that could brighten the darkest day.
Fowler will tell you that Wayne's letters could do the same thing.