In Haynesville, there's a name that gets mentioned quite often when folks discuss the sport of football. That name is Franklin, as in Red Franklin and his son David. Both men have earned countless state titles during their respective tenures roaming the sidelines of Memorial Stadium in that small community five miles from the Arkansas state line.
But there is another that is also synonymous with the cool fall mornings, hot summer practices and raucous Friday nights under the lights. That name is Reeder, as in Tommy Reeder, a coach who has spent more than forty years calling plays and teaching young men both on and off the field.
Coach Reeder is no longer on that proverbial field of battle, the one lined with chalk and overflowing with a grass so green that the groundskeepers at the Augusta National Golf Club would be envious. The man who called the plays for about 10 state championship football teams (give or take a few) is facing a much tougher challenge, a greater battle.
Cancer. Multiple Myeloma to be specific. (Read the sidebar for details of how you can help the coach in his battle against this dreaded disease.)
Channel 3 in Shreveport put together a nice piece on the coach this past Thursday morning. Rick Rowe always weaves a sublime tale in his stories on the people of our hometowns. But it wasn't the words of the narrator that made Thursday's story so compelling. It was the memories and testimonies of Coach Reeder's closest friends that gave insight into the man.
There were two common themes in their words: commitment to winning and commitment to molding impressionable boys into responsible young men.
I was one of those young men. From 1993 to 1997, Tommy Reeder was my coach, and he taught me a lot about hard work, perseverance, dedication and accounting. A lot of that was learned on the football field. The accounting was in the classroom.
He was a stern man. He didn't subscribe to the "everyone's a winner no matter what" mantra that pervades many prep sports of today. He wouldn't have suffered the Facebook and Twitter generation of footballers very well. He taught his players that life doesn't hand out trophies, no matter how hard you work. But that if you DO work your tail off, bust your hump, put your nose to the grindstone (and about a dozen other clichés) then maybe, just maybe, you will be rewarded with a "trophy" in football and additional ones later on in life.
But even if those rewards didn't come, the character you build going through all the pains would make you a better man.
He helped make me the man I am today. I am thankful for all of those hot days on the practice field and cold nights under the lights. He was a constant in my life for several years, and I still remember him on those sidelines, a slim and tall figure, clad in khaki pants and a black polo, a play card in his hand and a headset around his ears.
What I wouldn't give to run one more Fullback Trap, signaled in by Tommy Reeder.
Josh Beavers is the publisher of the Minden Press-Herald.