Rohe Track Era All About Us!

Compiled by Tom Scott

Steve Keltner

When I enrolled in the fall of 1965, I was about as wide-eyed as a freshman could be. I had received a dozen or more full ride offers, all orchestrated by my high school coach, Jerry Peters of Memphis University School. I had broken the Tennessee state record in the long jump by over a foot (23'6") and was favored to win high and low hurdles at state as well but blew it. He explained that I could choose to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. The difference was, at UT, I would have the opportunity to become my BEST, given the competitive level of the program. I was sold.

I want this to be a story about Chuck but much of this information is necessary for the set-up. Two months later, in October of '65, on a cloudy afternoon, our daily training work-out session was underway. It was cold and dark with a strong smell of tobacco. No...this was not the world class indoors training facility promised by Coach, but a tobacco barn somewhere in north Knoxville. Of course, a new facility was not even on the drafting table yet, but this barn stood in sharp contrast to the visions that Chuck had shared with each of us. Chuck had laid out a running oval that zig-zaged around support post and other obstructions. For me, there was an approach runway and a hole cut in the old warped oak floors for long jumping. One afternoon as I maxed out at full speed, bouncing up and down and side to side, my jumping foot collapsed, and my life came crashing down. I suffered a torn Achilles tendon, and it was almost Christmas before I dropped the crutches.

That was the end of my long jumping future, but, fortunately, not my hurdles. I recovered, but it was late spring before I was contributing to the team. Soon after the episode, Chuck called me into his office. He heard from the doctors and told me that my long term outlook was excellent. He said that I should expect an outstanding four year experience with the Big Orange. Since I would be out for a while...there would be no points from me in the track meets, however, Chuck, with his "leave no dollar behind programing," said there was something I could do for the team. Scholarship money was very tight, and he explained that since he understood that my family could afford to give me some financial support, he was looking under every stone for money to sign new athletes that were just waiting for Chuck to make that call. He asked if I could give up my monthly laundry money allowance. That was easy! Did I receive all those things over four years that he promised? Many times over!