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Write Again…More than a football story

As a lad in my growing up days here in our Little Washington, I was truly enamored of sports.

Oh yes, I loved athletics, as a participant, as a spectator and as one who followed sports news, especially in the Raleigh News & Observer.

When it came to the collegiate sports arena, my favorite team, hands down, was Duke. The Blue Devils. Actually attending a Duke football or basketball game was as good as it could get. I have such special memories of those times in my life. Very special.

So…you can imagine how pleased I was recently, when perusing the book offerings at the Senior Center, when I ‘discovered’ a real treasure: “A Story of Glory – Duke University Football.” 

Published in 1985, this wonderful book chronicles the true glory days of Duke football. For those too young to remember or who have never read about those days in the 30s, 40s and 50s, believe me, they really were “glory days” as Duke enjoyed a national reputation as one of the gridiron elites.

The book begins with the story of the 1938 team that was unbeaten, untied, and unscored upon. Ponder that. Such an accomplishment over an entire season seems hardly possible. 

Then, in the 1939 Rose Bowl, the Southern Cal Trojans battled back from a 3-0 deficit to score on a pass play from their number four quarterback, Doyle Nave, to Al Krueger, their number two left end, with forty seconds to play.

Even so, the Blue Devils fought back valiantly, quickly advancing the ball down field, but they ran out of time in Trojan territory. 

Among the many outstanding players for Duke was an exceptional athlete named Eric Tipton. He could run, pass, punt, and was also an excellent defensive player. When the names of the best ever Blue Devils players are mentioned, his name is always among the very top three or four. Always. He is a bona fide “Hall of Fame” athlete.

So now, let me ask you to come with me to the 21st century, around the middle of the first decade.

Our barbershop quartet was practicing one day, and somehow the conversation must have gotten to some point where Larry, our wonderful bass singer, told us where he was originally from, which was Ohio. 

Larry was quick to add that he married a Southern girl, though, and that her father had played football at Duke. 

And what was her father’s name, one of us asked. 

“Eric Tipton.”

One member of our quartet at that time, who was a bit older than I, and who grew up in Durham, and whose father had taught at Duke, looked almost stricken with surprise and amazement. 

Jim’s response, when Larry had said “Eric Tipton” was “Holy – !” 

Even though this book begins with the ’39 Rose Bowl game, it actually takes the reader back to the very beginning of Duke football, even to the days of Trinity College, from which Duke evolved. Now, that was a long, long time ago. One of their victories of that era was a 16-0 win over North Carolina on Thanksgiving Day, 1888. That was a really big deal.

“A Story of Glory.” I plan to mail this book to Carole Tipton Ahlman, who now lives in Wake Forest, near one of their daughters. 

Larry, one of the nicest and most talented people I’ve ever known, now struggles with the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s. May God’s mercy be with and upon him and his family.

And with all of us.