One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for September 12, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
Tonight I am going to travel to Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, NC to watch the Two Rivers Classic. I was flattered when a good friend and the new athletic director at FSU called me and invited me to the game. I am looking forward to seeing Anthony Bennett and hearing about how his first few days as an athletic director are going.
The First Two Rivers Classic which was held in 2009 is still the best college football game I have ever seen in person. UNC Pembroke’s Jamal Williams pulled in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Cory Smith to go up 41-34 in double-overtime Two Rivers Classic. The Broncos, facing fourth down and 17 yards to go and its final chance at second tie or victory, scrambled all receivers from the 19-yard line and held its breath as Benjamin Williams escaped a collapsing pocket and threw a dart toward the right side of the field. FSU was hosting a homecoming-like capacity of 8,321 fans, Luther “Nick” Jeralds Stadium erupted with cheers and distress as UNCP Terrel Partlow tackled Williams on UNCP’s 7-yard line to end the game.
That game reminded me of the great games I got to watch on the visitor sidelines at Western Carolina University. As an assistant basketball coach at WCU I was assigned home football game duties. My assignment was greeting the visiting team and being on their sidelines.
Our Athletic Director at WCU was also the football coach and he was a great man and friend. His name was Bob Waters. Bob coached football at Western Carolina football for nearly 20 years from 1969 through 1988.
He grew up in the small farming town of Sylvania in south Georgia and, despite physical frailties, earned 11 athletic letters in three sports. During the spring of his senior year at Screven County High School, he traveled to South Georgia College for a tryout and suffered a broken leg the first day and was not offered a scholarship.
He landed on his feet five months later at Stetson University in Deland, Fla., as a freshman quarterback and defensive back. Waters must have wondered if someone was trying to tell him something when Stetson officials decided to drop the school’s football program at the end of that season.
Not to be discouraged, in his efforts to play football, Waters took his talents to Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., where he spent the next three years as a quarterback, defensive back and an outstanding student. He led Presbyterian to the 1960 Tangerine Bowl and was named the game’s most outstanding player despite his team’s loss.
His performance in the Tangerine Bowl gave cause for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and AFL’s San Diego Chargers to draft Waters in 1960. He signed with the 49ers, bought a Corvette, grabbed headlines in his first season when he threw three touchdown passes in an upset of the Baltimore Colts, and soon thereafter, met and married Sherine “Sherri” Gidney.
The injuries mounted over five years in the NFL and Waters opted for a career change in 1965 as he hung up his cleats and enrolled in graduate school with a coaching career in mind. His alma mater offered the opportunity and he returned as an assistant coach at Presbyterian in 1966. After two seasons, he left Clinton to return to the west coast as the wide receivers coach at Stanford University for the 1968 season.
Western Carolina officials gambled and hired Waters, whose coaching experience was limited to those three seasons as an assistant, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions made in the University’s history.
He served notice of things to come by leading his first team — the 1969 Catamounts — to a 9-1 record with an exciting pass oriented offense. A national ranking followed at the end of the 1972 season and in 1974, when WCU advanced to its first NCAA playoff appearance. His 1983 team will go down as one of the school’s best, reaching the NCAA I-AA championship game.
In 20 seasons at the helm of the football program, he guided the Catamounts to 116 victories, produced 13 All-Americans, 54 first-team All-Southern Conference selections and brought the University more positive publicity than could ever be measured in monetary terms. Prior to his arrival, WCU had posted only five winning football records in 20 seasons, while 13 of Waters’ 20 teams turned in winning ledgers.
In 15 years (1971-86) as athletics director, Waters led the growth and played a key part in the school’s membership in the Southern Conference. He cultivated and rallied support for a new football stadium, which became a reality in 1974, and an impressive basketball arena as part of a multipurpose Ramsey Center, which was completed in 1986.
His coaching and administrative successes as well as his courage in his fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) were recognized throughout the country as his story was chronicled by every major print and electronic media outlet in the nation. Waters has additionally been inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the Florida Citrus Bowl Hall of Fame and the Western Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
He was forced to step down as head football coach in March of 1989 and died less than three months later (May 29, 1989) at the age of 50.
During his time at Western Carolina he became friends with a number of coaches including Dick Sheridan.
The Friend-BOB WATERS
The Friend of the Friend-DICK SHERIDAN
Two SoCon Coaching Legends
The Southern Conference has a lot of excellent football coaches but two at the top of the list would have to be Dick Sheridan and Bob Waters.
A 1959 graduate of North Augusta High School in SC, Dick Sheridan earned his education degree at the University of South Carolina. He immediately began his stellar career at Eau Claire High School as assistant football and head basketball coach. His basketball team reached the AAAA Final Four in 1967 and finished state runner-up in 1969. Moving to Orangeburg High School, he won the 1971 State AAAA Football Championship going 13-0 following a 10-1 season in 1970. He left Orangeburg for one season at Airport High to lead them to their first playoff appearance in school history with a 9-2 record.
The college ranks came calling in 1973 when he accepted an assistant football coach position at Furman University and was named Head Coach in 1978. He stayed at Furman through 1985, serving three years as Athletic Director. His 1`978 squad won the Southern Conference Championship for the first time in school history. Coach Sheridan was also selected Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 1978, 1980 and 1982. His .744 winning percentage ranked first among active 1-AA. Furman was ranked number one in the nation in 1985, where they finished runner-up in the National Championship game.
1986 brought a new opportunity when Dick was selected as Head Football Coach for North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. Leading the Wolfpack to six bowl games in seven years, he continued to gain recognition as ACC Coach of the Year and 1986 National Coach of the Year.
He completed his tenure at NC State with a record of 121-52-5 ranking him 6th among active college coaches with a .694 winning percentage. He was selected to coach in the 1993 East-West All Star Shrine Bowl and served on the American Football Coaches Association Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1993.
Dick Sheridan at the age of 51 announced his retirement from NC State in 1993. I would have liked to have seen both Dick and Bob coach longer but it didn’t happen. They both gave me great memoires watching and learning from them about leadership and coaching.