Rohe Track Era All About Us!


 

From Coppley Vickers:

We were in a bus on our way to the Florida Relays. My Grandmother lived in Homerville, Georgia. I had not seen my Grandmother more than 4 or 5 times in my life (I grew up in Texas and the only time we went back to south Georgia was for a funeral). We passed a sign that said Homerville. I mentioned that my Grandmother lived there. He asked me when was the last time I had seen her. I told him about 10 years ago. Chuck stopped the bus.....turned it around......went to Homerville and found out where she lived. Pulled the bus up on a sandy dirt road-----and never will forget the look on my grandmother's face when she came out the door!

My wife had an economics degree from Mary Washington University in 1965. She worked at the World Bank in a fairly prestigious job....at least high paying. When we moved to Knoxville to go to law school she was having a hard time finding a job in Knoxville that related to her experience and education (over qualified and not much international commerce in Knoxville). Coach said let me see what I can do. He called Jim Cotham at the UT Business Research Center. She had a job in two days.


From Hardee McAlhaney:

My aunt and uncle, Bobby and Henry Rogers, were big Tennessee sports fans and lived in Crossville. I told Coach about my aunt and uncle planning to come to Knoxville for a football game even though my aunt was pregnant and close to delivery. The next day Coach handed me an elevator pass for them. To this day over 45 years later, my aunt always mentions Coach's thoughtfulness.


From Audry Hardy:

In 1967 at the State High School Championships, I anchored the mile relay for Booker T Washington High School, the 1967 State Champions. I received the baton in last place with no hope of winning the race so I had nothing to lose. I moved out to lane 2 and just started running. Pretty soon I was passing people like a car passes telephone poles. At the end of the race, I surprisingly found myself in first place. The kid from a Knoxville team nipped me at the tape as I did not see him and probably could have leaned him out. What happened next forever changed my life. Coach Rohe walked right by that kid (I believe from Knoxville), put his arms around my shoulders, and asked me this question: “How would you like to come to the University of Tennessee?” Considering that my high school had an unlined cider track, and only one pair of school issued size 12 spikes that I sometimes shared with our leadoff man on the mile relays….I looked around and said “What do I have to do coach?” Rohe said: “You take a test called the ACT and if you make a score, we can get you into UT! I took the test, “made a score” and the rest is history. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity Coach Rohe provided for me. You see, he did not recruit me, James Craig, and Lester McClain (Football) to make UT and SEC history with bringing the first black athletes to UT and the SEC. He simply wanted Competitors and Winners. For me…”What A Day!” From a high school State champion to becoming an All SEC College All American…thank you Coach.


From Bob Barber:

Our cross country team was in Chicago for the National USTFF meet. To save on our travel budget, a couple of teammates stayed at my parents home, and some stayed at Coach Rohe's mother's house. The following week, my mom is at work in her office, when a nice flower arrangement is delivered from Coach Rohe. The uniqueness of the story is that he found her place of employment and made my mom so proud in her office, rather than sending it to our home. From that day on she loved Coach Rohe.

Jerre Wilson - 1963

When Coach Rohe arrived at Tennessee and began his rigorous workouts most of the guys who had been on the track team under the previous coach decided they would rather spend their time doing other things. Only the super tough like Winston Russell, Hershel Bailey, Dick Evey, Jimmy Sullivan and a few others stuck it out. During the first few months Coach Rohe recruited 30 something freshmen and transfers who would form the nucleus of what would be the dominant track program in the SEC for years to come. But, NCAA rules at the time would not allow freshmen to compete in intercollegiate athletics. With only a handful of athletes available Coach reached out to the student body and I decided to give it a try. I ran the 60 yard dash and sprint relays during the 1963 indoor season. We had meets at VMI, Memphis and in the old tobacco warehouse in Knoxville. I did okay, but nothing to write home about. At the second meet in Memphis the outside temperature was hovering around zero and the inside temperature was only slightly higher. Right at the end of my leg of a sprint relay I tore the quadriceps in my right thigh and spent the remainder of my short track career in the training room with Mickey O’Brian. The amazing part of the story is how much a few short months can impact a life. The exposure to Coach Rohe’s discipline, integrity, and work ethic have had an impact on everything I have done since. I can only say thank you Coach Rohe and thank you UT for giving me the opportunity. Jerre Wilson – Submitted September 30, 2013


From Chris D'Orazio:

Coach Rohe was a fantastic recruiter. Coach did unbelievable research into the top national prep athletes through summaries of results in publications such as “Track and Field News” and had his staff contact the top performers with personal interest. In my case the first call was from Jeff Clark. After the best athletes were assembled in Knoxville, it was Coach Rohe's belief in.....”you have one horse you have a horse; you have many horses, you have a horse race.” This strategy led the inner-team competition that resulted in continual SEC championships. It was the many daily battles that ensued on the team that made outside competition second nature. I was at many points the latest school record holder at UT but Jeff Gabel was the greatest; competition like this among our teammates helped us perform our best. It was the competition created by the magic of Chuck that facilitated the process. The important thing ultimately, was the team winning and the role we had the opportunity to play.

Teaming the best athletes with great coaching was a winning formula....Ralph Boston as a specialist coach speaks to the quality of the coaching made available to us. We truly were “Birds of a Feather, Flocking Together.”

In Coach Rohe's system I learned humility (the hard way), team role playing, and developed a drive that resulted in future national competitions. These qualities lent themselves to making me a more enduring and successful U.S. Marine.

Coach Rohe was the reason for my opportunity, setting the pathway to a USMC commission. He actually sent me to Nashville to sign up for the PLC program.

Although, like most Medicare-age former student athletes, my former world is getting smaller in the rear view mirror as I move on down the road of life, one of the people that in my mind remains large is Chuck Rohe. One reason has been that no matter how busy he is, or has been, he has loyally remained in contact and has shown interest in the outcomes of my life. I am sure that I am one of many who can still say this.

Another more concrete example: Chuck's optimistic spirit of “It's a Great Day” has gotten me through many tough days. Coach Rohe's personal life example is one of resilience....no matter how many times life knocks you down you need to only get up one more time to stay in the race. So in fact, my time as a track and field athlete under Coach were a part of life's lesson in survival. I will always be thankful that I was able to play a minor role of the Rohe vision of UT's track & field future, which is now history.....yes, Coach was a visionary.


From Gerry Eddlemon (Tennessee 1965-1969):

Rather than remembering a few piddling disappointments], I do better to remember the resourcefulness, wit, and sound coaching of Coach Rohe; the thunder of pounding feet on the worn, uneven boards of the old tobacco warehouse (where else in the world could the feet of young men sound like the thrilling thunder of stallions’ pounding hooves?); slogging silently down Neyland Drive through a beautiful snow storm on a cold and utterly quiet winter’s night; sprinting though the long, dim, curving corridors of old Neyland Stadium; dashing through violent thunder storms on Cherokee Boulevard; the rumbling, gut-shaking, low growl of locomotives warming up along the grimy south of the campus as we trotted alongside on a wet and dreary early morning run; prancing up lovely mountain trails of a misty morning with my teammates (yes, for a couple miles at least one can really “prance” up a gentle hill!); shouts of sheer animal joy as we flew—flew—down a steep grassy slope under a bright, searing sun; and yes, the endless 440 and 220 intervals on that unforgiving track. Sometimes we ran like stallions....

We were stallions!

Summing up, I would have to say it was a great honor, and a real pleasure, to run and live with such an outstanding group of young men - the Tennessee Vols track and XC teams - and all under the tutelage and guidance of one of America’s greatest coaches, not only in track and field, but in Life itself, in helping to mold boys into real men—Coach Chuck Rohe.


From Bill Keel, student assistant coach, September 1964 – January 1966:

I was only a student assistant coach, not an athlete. I had pole vaulted for Coach Rohe at Furman. When I became disenchanted with the Sears management-training program I had entered, Coach Rohe asked if I wanted to come to Tennessee to work on a teaching certificate and coach the pole vaulters. I had never come up with a “yes” so quickly! It was life changing. I went on to teach and coach at the junior high level for 35 years. It was what I was born to do. I shall forever be indebted to coach for that offer to come to Tennessee. He literally made my life, and I am so grateful I have been able to tell him that. I am amazed there are so many others who share similar stories.

One little story I remember about coach. I was in the athletic office one day when I was coaching, talking to a secretary. She told me Coach Rohe had the ability to dictate letters maybe three or four times faster than the other coaches. As I recall, the letters were mostly to prospective athletes the university hoped to recruit. And how many of you remember where his filing cabinet was? In his shirt pocket, of course, on 3x5 cards! The card in front was of the highest priority. And the fun I had with Rohe on our Furman track bus trips is unsurpassed.



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