In trying to come up with at least a temporary name for this Blog, I decided to give the call for my favorite running play from my days as a “Pulling Guard” on the Wofford College Terriers football team. “Ten” was the name of a power play through the strong side tackle position while “two” was the count upon which the play usually commenced. I was called upon to pull out from my guard position and team with the other guard to lead the blocking for the Tailback!
Winning a Football Scholarship at Wofford, and my subsequent four years at that venerable seat of learning were “Quintessential” events of my young manhood.
At Wofford, I enjoyed success on the fields of athletic endeavor, as well as within the hall of academia. I gained confidence in my native abilities, found the “Love of My Life” and through my sweetheart, found my religion. These blessings have served as a foundation of my life and the development of my family - core elements of my existence!
The following essay, slightly edited, is published by the college in it’s Historical Anthology - “Wofford, Shining with Untarnished Honor 1854-2004, Pgs. 103-105.
The Phil Dickens Years - By One of His Boys Jim “Dasher” Ditty '54
On visits back to Wofford, I sometimes walk from "Old Main" along the familiar path to Andrews Field House. Tucked away at the northeast corner of that venerable building is the objective of my lone pilgrimage. A half century ago, in a pair of nondescript, connected rooms that once housed a coach’s office and more recently were used as a laundry, a young boy's life was forever changed. Standing in those tiny rooms, my mind drifts back to the way we were...
Rattles and creaking wood counter pointed the squeals of metal on metal as the tired old day coach swayed along uneven ribbons of steel. On curves the black steam locomotive was seen far ahead, belching smoke, drivers spinning, powering the long train through Appalachian highlands. Glued to the stained window was one wide eyed teen-aged boy. He watched in utter fascination at the rolling panorama of green mountains, rushing streams and rocky crags. Never before had he seen such a confusion of land and trees, water and sky; it was grand! A big city boy from Chicago, he had often wondered how mountains looked. Now he saw them, and was captivated.
I was that boy, embarked upon the grand adventure of my life. Trying for a football scholarship, my first stop was to be the University of South Carolina. But the true journey would be much longer, with many heights and valleys, rocky crags and swift rivers, even more grand and fascinating than those portrayed in my window that day.
In Columbia, there was disappointment. Carolina turned me down. But then, friendly students extolled the virtues of a small college in the Piedmont region of the state. So, on to Spartanburg!
At first, the city seemed less than impressive as my cab transited an impoverished section of town known as “Gas Bottom," along present-day Daniel Morgan Ave. But then, we passed under a railroad track, rounded a curve, and before my eyes rose one of the most beautiful campuses that I have ever seen, then or now! Set on a hill, graceful brick buildings, tree shaded lawns, gently curving streets, an ambiance of quiet learning amid robust camaraderie. Even today I get a thrill and a sense of belonging, just walking that campus and meeting other alumni, acknowledging that I too am a "Wofford Man.”
On the field I was given a welcome chance to show my stuff. The tryout went well, but trepidation reigned as other boys filed out of the coach's office, heads hanging. Then, it happened. Coach Phil Dickens stood framed in his doorway, grinned, and in his grand charismatic way, announced that my quest was over. "We'll give you a scholarship right here."
But it was tough! First, I had to pay my dues on Snyder Field. Those memories are perhaps most vivid. That hot Carolina sun! I lost 10 pounds at the first Two - a - Day practice. Sweaty pads, hitting, getting hit, hurting, bouncing back,” shaking it off" and going again. Roaring crowds, trying to catch my breath. Mostly winning, sometimes losing, but always “Full Speed.”
2 Over it all stood the tall figure of a man - Coach Dickens. As another Terrier once said, “A lot of men could have taught us about football, but Coach Dickens taught us about life.” “Winners do what losers won't do. They pay the price of victory." "If at first the breaks go against you, don't give up; put on more steam." These were not just words; rather they were our way of life.
My favorite photo of Coach Dickens leads off the athletics section of the 1952 Bohemian. Bundled in overcoat and wide brimmed hat, his visage looms over Snyder Field. Ever present - overseeing his boys, teaching, encouraging, cajoling, at times correcting with sharpness. But not any sort of cruel despot some coaches are colored in later years. We always knew that Coach Dickens cared about more than winning football games. He was building men!
My freshman year, one incident indelibly taught the meaning of discipline and honor. Some players began testing training rules that forbade eating between meals, or even frequenting hamburger stands. In mid-season, seven players were suspended before the game with a traditional rival, Presbyterian College. Those seven, included four starters and all three tailbacks on the team. (In our single wing, this group represented the entire corps of passers and primary running backs, including one whom Coach Dickens years later described as the best natural athlete he ever coached) PC had been favored anyway, and now the Terriers were given little chance. But the coaches cobbled together an offense. Other players stepped up, and you know what, Wofford won that game! The next week, seven well chastened players rejoined the team.
In Wofford's classrooms, similar values were absorbed by budding "student- athletes." Here were great challenges of the intellect. But while I was struggling to survive academically, a funny thing happened. I found that not only could I learn, but that it was really great fun! Thus, from the twin venues of athletics and academics was born a lifelong respect for excellence and a mighty thirst for knowledge.
More value came from dormitory living, new friends, twice-weekly chapel sessions, visiting various Spartanburg churches, social events dates, etc. Of course, not all of it was golden for this "Yankee" from the industrial north. New cultural and religious currents presented formidable social barriers and very difficult personal adjustments, not always well handled. Still, on balance, I made good friends and experienced much personal growth.
This was the heyday of the segregationist "Jim Crow" laws. A remembered bright spot was an incident wherein my Southern teammates were visibly upset because two black athletes of the Fort Jackson team were not allowed to participate in a scrimmage against us. One teammate, from North Carolina gave it voice, stating, "If they are good enough to play for Fort Jackson, they are good enough to play against me." Incidentally, Fort Jackson was loaded with college and NFL stars drafted into the Army during the Korean War. They pretty well "turned us every way but loose."
3 These days, I treasure misty images of days gone by. The green, tree shaded campus, musty classrooms, camaraderie with hearty young men just tasting life. Minds being opened to vistas of knowledge in art, music, literature, history and the wonders of science. Dormitory bull sessions, where we came to understand one another’s views on life and hopes for the future. Smiling girls from town, woman’s colleges and nursing schools, dances, parties, dates - and finally, a dark haired beauty, - my "Soul Mate"-The Girl!
For this Wofford Terrier, Homecomings have been an odyssey of renewal and affirmation of roots. Old memories and strong feelings come flooding back. Faces from long ago appear with firm handshakes and warm welcomes. And this is good, for we share strong bonds from our young manhood in a sort of Camelot that was Wofford College in those days. My friends have done well; strong men who married well, raised sound families. They have made significant contributions to their communities and our nation. I am reminded of General MacArther's quote placed on the athletic building at West Point: “On the fields of friendly strife, are sown the seeds that on other fields, in other days, bring forth the fruits of victory.”
So, what does Wofford mean to me? It was only four years! Many other experiences have shaped my life! Even most of my knowledge has been gained elsewhere! But without Wofford, for better or worse, I would not be the man that I am. It was there that I found the destiny that shaped the course of my life. At Wofford I learned to pay the price of victory, not only on the football field but also in the classroom, in my personal, family, religious, and professional life. I gained confidence in myself, and came to treasure the excitement and joy of learning. Finally, it was in Spartanburg that I courted and married my eternal companion, and through her, investigated and found my religion. And there is a family legacy. Both of my sons were dedicated Football Players. This past season, five grandsons were found playing the game - and playing it well, I might brag...
Half a century has now passed since last we ran onto Snyder Field, the cool night air on our faces and the roar of the crowd in our ears - or since we answered the peal of the tower bell, to climb stairs of "Old Main" as "Young Gentlemen," partakers of "Ben I ficent" wisdom in class and chapel. Ethereal scenes now in the far reaches of our distant memory; another Time - another life... Yet, these values endure! Dedication to excellence, a love of learning, and a determination to live our lives honorably, to always be counted among those who will "Get the Job Done."
So, Go Terriers And when the going gets tough, and we need a few yards Run - "Ten on Two"
I was born and raised in Chicago. After High School this yankee headed south to attend Wofford College on a football scholarship. There I met a beautiful student nurse. We were married April 4, 1954. It's been a grand adventure ever since. We have 5 children, 18 grandchildren, and so far, 5 great grandchildren. I'm a retired educator, but I keep busy with many projects and activities.