|The Toughest Coach There Ever Was by Frank Deford|
Page 15 of 20
Sylvester Harris wasn't just the first black player on the Scooba team; he was the first black to attend the college. In fact, East Mississippi had lost a lot of federal funds because President Harbour hadn't let in blacks. Sullivan's action made a good many people around Scooba mad; Kemper wasn't called Bloody Kemper for nothing. Not long before, when a company bought some timberland and began enforcing no hunting regulations, forest fires were set all through those lands. One day, one of the big shots in the county offered the coach $500 to run Harris off.
It would've been easy, too, because Harris wasn't all that good a player. But Bull Cyclone just told the man to clear out, and he went on treating Harris like any other player. Bull Cyclone once said to Tommy Atkins, a player who became a career Marine, "Tommy, there are two kinds of young men-those you have to kick in the pants to get their potential and those you have to pat on the back. If you, as a leader, make a mistake, you've done a great injustice. So be very careful and decide as accurately as you can whether to kick or to pat."
Away from the field Bull Cyclone could be a different character altogether. In his classroom, where he taught sociology and anthropology, he was, his students said, "like a Sunday school teacher." He got his master's in anthropology from Mississippi State in '66 and spent more and more time working in that discipline. He exchanged a lot of correspondence with Senator John Stennis, who came from down the road in DeKalb, about archeological work in Kemper. A 1968 photo shows Bull Cyclone with three of his students following a dig. In a caption he's quoted as saying, "The only significant find seemed to be a complex of single-shouldered projectile points, found in lower-strata kitter midden. The people who populated this site probably belonged to a Woodland Culture some 2,000 years ago."
Says Fleming, "Yeah, Bull had an old skeleton head and all." Otherwise, he devoted his spare time to studying the Good Book and watching football film. Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition.
At home, for relaxation, he loved to listen to Stardust. Bull Cyclone could never get enough of Stardust. His favorite acquisition in all his life was an album he chanced upon that was entirely Stardust -14 versions of Stardust. His other musical favorites included Harbor Lights, Somewhere My Love and Easter Parade, which he enjoyed 12 months a year. His daughters were musical, and often he would cry out, "You can be a second Lennon Sisters!" Then he would fall asleep while Bobbie played Stardust for him on the piano.
When he'd first get home from practice, "we'd just lay back for a while," Gael says. The family cat was used as litmus paper. If the cat spied Bull Cyclone and ducked away, the practice hadn't gone well. Sometimes he'd line the family up, as if he were back at Parris Island, and make them fall in and count off. But it was fun. Their favorite order was "Get in the car!" because nobody knew whether he was going to take them for a drive, flying off the bumps in the road, or just go around in little circles in the driveway. One time, when they came to a Howard Johnson's, he pulled in and ordered 28 scoops of ice cream, one of each flavor. "We thought everybody had a family like ours," Bobbie says, laughing. His kids still refer to him as Bull.
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 March 2008 )|
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