Last Friday, I had the honor of being the guest of Jimmy Rane and James Riley (Great Southern Wood) for the premier of “Mighty: The Life and Legacy of Pat Dye” and all the festivities prior to the showing.
Almost 15 years ago, my close friend Bub Langford asked Dye if he would be willing to talk with me about a health issue we had in common.
Dye agreed and called me on the phone to discuss one afternoon. The two of us talked on the phone for almost an hour.
Dye was diagnosed with a particular health issue many years before I was diagnosed.
That phone call led to a friendship that lasted until Dye passed away.
A few months after our first conversation, Dye agreed to be a weekly guest on my radio show, Mondays at 7 a.m. Six months later, Dye asked if I would like to have former Alabama coach Gene Stallings on the show once a week.
The next thing I know, Great Southern Wood agrees to sponsor both segments. Over time, I developed a friendship with the folks at Great Southern Wood, including James Riley (vice president/chief communication officer).
Several weeks ago, Riley invited me and Stallings to be their guest at the premier of Dye’s documentary. The schedule started with me meeting Kevin, a member of Great Southern Wood’s security team, at the AU Hotel and Dixon Conference Center at 1:30 p.m. We drove to the AO Airport to pick up coach Stallings, who flew in on Rane’s jet.
Great Southern Wood treated us to lunch, a tour of the new Laurel Hotel and a visit to Rane’s library in his top floor apartment.
After visiting with other guests for an hour, the security team gathered the guests into several SUVs for the trip to the Gouge Performing Arts Center.
The entourage pulled up to the back, where our group entered through the staff entrance. Stallings and I followed the group to the “green” room. Several guests in attendance included Vince Dooley, Bo Jackson, David Housel, AU President Chris Roberts, Tigers Unlimited’s Tim Jackson and many others.
Pat Dye Jr. walked in and made his way around the room to speak to everyone.
When he saw Stallings, Pat Jr. burst into tears while explaining how much his father loved Stallings and that he was so proud the coach was in attendance.
We were escorted into the packed theatre at 7 p.m. Jackson, Rane and Pat Jr. welcomed everyone and made comments about the tribute to Dye. Pat Jr. spoke to the audience about his father and thanked the Auburn family. He talked about what it meant to see Stallings in Auburn, paying respects to Dye. Needless to say, the documentary was a classic and is sure to be a fan favorite.
I grew up an Alabama fan because my father (John L.) was a fan. Growing up in Opelika, working in sports media and being co-chair of the AHSAA Super 7 has allowed me to meet and get to know Auburn coaches, administrators, staff, members of the board of trustees and members of the athletic department. It’s hard not to pull for people you know and like.
Having said that, I wanted to express my appreciation to Auburn University and the AU people for treating Stallings with respect and class. No matter where we were, folks spoke to Stallings and asked for photos. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, Roberts, Housel and many people stopped us to speak.
I am proud of how Auburn people treated a former Crimson Tide coach behind enemy lines. There were no enemies Friday; everyone was there to pay tribute to Dye — the ol’ ball coach.
Opelika High’s varsity football team (3-0, R 2-0) defeated Lee, 29-7, at Montgomery’s Crampton bowl last Friday night.
The Bulldogs face their biggest test this Friday when they welcome undefeated Central High School (3-0, R 2-0). The Red Devils will invade the friendly confines of Bulldog Stadium for a huge 7A Region 2 matchup.
After two weeks of region games, Central, Auburn and Opelika are the only unbeaten teams with records of at least 2-0. The Red Devils beat Hewitt-Trussville, 37-21, in the home opener, shut out Smiths Station, 38-0, the next week and beat Enterprise, 27-7, last Friday.
CHS leads the all-time series, 47-32, including winning six in a row and seven out of the last eight games against OHS. This is the first time the two schools have played each other in the same region since 2013.
The winner of this game will join AHS as the front runners to win the region.
Fans can purchase tickets online at gofan.co or at Bubba’s Medicine Shop and Victory Design. The OHS ticket office opens at 5:30 p.m.
Fans can also listen to the Central vs. Opelika football game on WKKR 97.7 Kicker FM, on the iHeartRadio App and online at kickerfm.com. Van Riggs starts the pre-game show at 6:30 p.m.
The Opelika freshman football team lost the season opener in LaGrange, 20-8, last week. Ja’Lynn Washington caught a TD pass from Louis Merly for 70 yards. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs could not mange any more points.
The freshman team will play at Prattville, Sept. 12.
D. Mark Mitchell is the sports director at iHeartMedia, host of “On the Mark” Fox Sports the Game 910-1310, co-chair of the Auburn-Opelika Sports Council, chairman of the Super 7 and Dixie Boys Baseball state director.