Reconnecting With A Longtime Razorback Fan
Two college buddies of mine probably had more to do with me ending up covering the Razorbacks for almost four decades than any other single factor.
I’ve known Eddy Lyon since the 4th grade. Even back then he was the biggest (and probably the only) Razorback football fan in my hometown. Mondays at school during football season consisted of him telling me about virtually every play in the Hogs game from the previous Saturday.
Years later he was my college roommate at North Texas State. I will never forget the day he introduced me to a new classmate. His name was Roland Murray. It turned out that both of us had played high school football against Roland who had been a running back at Abernathy, Texas High school.
It just so happened that Roland, like Eddy, was hogwild when it came to Razorback football. Quickly the two became almost inseparable. On fall weekends in the late 60’s when the Razorbacks came to Texas Roland and Eddy would hightail it out of Denton and head for places like Dallas, Ft. Worth, Waco, Austin and College Station.
They would always come back raving about the Hog fans they had met. A story about a particular trip to TCU sticks out in my mind. Some farmer from Ashdown had shared a flask of whiskey with them on a blustery evening at Amon Carter Stadium. After the game the man showed off his RV complete with an 8 track sound system and large horn-type speakers on the roof. The 8 track continuously played a popular song of the day among Razorback fans. Short Squashed Texan. They thought it was hilarious.
Several years later after serving a stint in the US Army for Uncle Sam I was working at a television station in East Texas looking for job covering college sports, preferably a Southwest Conference team. My boss announced one day that he had been hired as the new General Manager at KFSM-TV in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. I immediately thought of my old college pals. Covering the Razorbacks. Humm. That had to be the place for me. Right?
So I hit my boss up for a job and that is how I ended up in Fayetteville in the spring of 1975.
The Razorbacks won the SWC that season and ended up in the Cotton Bowl against Georgia. I invited both Roland and Eddy to go with me. I would be shooting on the field and I needed some help carrying equipment around. Eddy’s wife informed him that they had other plans for New Year’s Day but Roland showed up with a big smile on his face. He had a great time that day especially when the Hogs throttled the Bulldogs.
After some brief instructions he ran the camera as I interviewed Frank Broyles after the game. He told me it was the thrill of a lifetime just to get to meet Coach Broyles.
I could not know it at the time but I would not see Roland again for 36 years.
Over the years I kept up with Eddy but I lost track of Roland. A few weeks ago, after returning from covering my seventh Cotton Bowl game, I called Eddy. In the course of the conversation I mentioned Roland and how he was there when I covered my first Cotton Bowl game. It was time, I said, to find him.
It didn’t take long. The Internet can be a marvelous tool. Eddy had seen Roland’s ex-wife ten or twelve years ago. At the time he was coaching high school football and living in San Antonio, she told him. A quick check of the Online phone book for San Antonio produced his phone number.
I called several times but got no answer. Finally I wrote him a letter. A week later I had just about given up. Maybe I did something to offend him years ago, I thought. Maybe that’s why I had lost track of him.
Then one day he called. Thirty-six years of not hearing from him melted away. He sounded just the same. The same old Roland. He could not believe I was still living in Fayetteville. “It’s your fault,” I joked. “You kept telling me about how great these Razorback fans were so I decided to find out for myself. You weren’t wrong.”
It turned out that Roland is retired from coaching. He now works for the company that made the artificial surfaces at Cowboys Stadium, both the pro and college fields. In the small world department he has been to Jerryworld countless times and will be there for sure this fall when the Razorbacks return there.
There’s another twist to this story. One of Roland’s old high school teammates and a former college roommate of mine is the great uncle of Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannyhill. Mike Tannyhill, who is also a retired high school coach, has been to all three Arkansas-Texas A&M games played in Cowboys Stadium. We had been right there in the same stadium for each of those games and didn’t know it.
So all of us will be getting together over the summer. Eddy, Roland, Mike Tannyhill and a couple of other ex-Abernathy guys we knew from our college days.
I know we’ll have a great time but one thing in particular will have changed from the old days. I will be telling more Razorback stories than Roland and Eddy.
A lot more.