In 1980, Jerry Stovall was named head football coach at LSU.
I made it a point to drive down to Baton Rouge and show off one of my prized possessions.
I walked into Stovall’s office and told the secretary I was there to see Coach Stovall.
Less than five minutes later he walked out.
Let’s see Nick Saban do that.
Growing up I loved writing athletes for autographs.
It was a hit or miss deal.
I wrote Rudy Macklin at LSU and Dale Brown sent back an LSU media guide. Under Macklin’s biography was his autograph.
My favorite quarterback was Dan Pastorini of the Houston Oilers. I sent him a black and white photo, which he sent back autographed.
I don’t know if athletes realize the meaning of such an act.
I wasn’t able to get Pete Maravich’s autograph at a New Orleans Jazz basketball game. My cousin, Frank, used our grandmother, Delia, to stand in the walkway to the dressing room at LSU with a book on Pete and ask for his autograph. Pete could not turn down an elderly lady.
Especially one like Dede who was as big a sports fan and LSU fan as anyone around.
I stood near where the Jazz came out, but Pete just walked by, paying little heed to the arms dangling with paper and pen.
Jazz announcer “Hot Rod” Hundley came out. I gave him a pen and paper and he signed, saying, that and 25 cents will get you a cup of coffee. This was back in the 1970s. Hundley was a teammate of Elgin Baylor when Baylor scored 71 points in one game. Hundley scored two points. He liked to say that he and Baylor combined for 73 points in one game.
The Jazz were playing the Seattle SuperSonics.
There was a Seattle player warming up by himself very early, so I walked over and asked for his autograph. He signed for me.
I got back to my seat next to Mike Bowlin. We both looked at the name and shrugged our shoulders. It was Jack Sikma.
This was before Sikma became a seven-time NBA All-Star. Which was after I lost the autograph.
But that wasn’t as bad as my older brother, Johnny. In 1966, we went to watch the Houston Astros play St. Louis in the Astrodome. Johnny went down and got an autograph from a Cardinal pitcher. It was Steve Carlton. This was before Carlton became a household name. And before he basically stopped signing autographs. You guessed it. That autograph went the way of one of a pair of socks when it goes into the dryer.
Getting back to Stovall. Back in 1971, I wrote to Jerry Stovall when he was an All-Pro cornerback with the St. Louis Cardinals.
A few weeks later I received a postcard with a picture of a crew-cut Stovall. On the reverse said were the words, “Dear Joey, Best of luck always. May you have all the success you dream of. Play to win. Jerry Stovall.”
So when Stovall was named head football coach, I drove to his office to show him the picture in 1980.
Stovall looked at the picture, had a big laugh, then showed his secretary.
He graciously signed it again — “Hi Joey, Best Wishes, Coach Stovall LSU above his original signing.
I did get Saban’s autograph thanks to my good friends Barry and Josh Loy at a breakfast sponsored by one of the company they supply at the Markets.
My son Jake also got a small football photo signed by Saban.
We were walking out when a TV sports reporter stopped Saban to talk. The irritation was written all over Saban. Jake walked up to Saban with his SEC Championship cap and asked Saban to sign it. He did. Let’s just say it’s not something Jake would do today. And not just because as a sports reporter he doesn’t think it’s proper. He cringed the time I raised my hand to ask Saban a question at SEC Media Days a while back. “He’s going to eat you up,” Jake said.
It ended peacefully.
By the way, this is about the part where I will get a call from Daryl Daye saying, “You never asked for my autograph.”
Have you ever heard saving the best for last, Daryl.
Anyway, so it was with absolute delight when I heard Stovall is going to have his No. 21 jersey retired this year at an LSU game.
Stovall, 77, who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010, was a unanimous All-America selection in 1962. In his three varsity seasons at LSU from from 1960 to 1962, he played halfback, defensive back, kick returner and punter.
The No. 21 worn by Stovall will join the No. 20 worn by Billy Cannon and the No. 37 worn by Tommy Casanova as retired jerseys in the LSU football program.
Stovall is the 13th LSU athlete or coach to have his/her jersey retired, joining Cannon and Casanova; women’s basketball players Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles; men’s basketball players Bob Pettit, Pete Maravich, Rudy Macklin and Shaquille O’Neal; baseball coach Skip Bertman and baseball players Ben McDonald, Eddy Furniss and Todd Walker.
Congratulations to a great player and even better person.
Now if we can just get Johnny Robinson in the NFL Hall of Fame and Max Fugler in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Some things are just hard to attain.
Take it from an avid autograph seeker.