Thirty years ago, Aubrey Lindsey, the freshly-appointed principal of the brand-new L.C. Bird High School, was summoned to the legendary Wilson Crump’s office. When Lindsey arrived, Crump handed him an envelope that contained a $30,000 check. A stunned Lindsey listened as Crump directed him to establish a first-class athletic program. Crump continued, “They need to look good when they take the field.” Then he added, “Get the best coaching staff you can to lead them.” With this huge assist from Crump, Lindsey did his part in giving birth to what was to become a Bird athletic dynasty.
On Saturday night at Meadowbrook Country Club, ten new members were inducted into the L.C. Bird Athletic Hall of Fame. Activities Director Ron Paquette presented beautiful awards to each inductee, who in turn addressed the audience, which included family, friends, coaches, and Skyhawk supporters. Speeches were marked by the common thread of family in explaining the athletic success that Bird has enjoyed now for three decades.
Mike Battle spoke of his many blessings, “especially his Bird family, who saw me not only as a great football player, but also as a student and human being of value. They supported me on the field, but also in the school play.” He added, “The glue that holds this wonderful family together is the commitment of long-term coaches and administrators at Bird.”
Ben Beach was a big strong kid at a football school. Oddly, it was the success of the football team that allowed him to go on to become Bird’s all-time scoring and rebounding leader on the basketball court. Football playoffs meant coach Tester was six athletes short for the first month of the season. Beach quipped, “He had no choice but to play me.”
Linwood Carroll spoke of his own family, the Carroll-West brood, “that went through everything together.” Carroll recognized Tom Brattan, Joe Pici, and John Foege as three coaches who “literally gave their entire lives for the team.” He credited Pici, the football coach, for correcting a flaw in his hurdle start that led to a state record clocking in the 110M-high hurdles.
Lynne Gilbert, P.E. department chair at Davis Middle School, was recognized by Barbara Ragland for her great intensity. “Her skills, intelligence, and work ethic led Bird to within one game of a state softball championship … a championship she would later attain as coach at Manchester High School.” Gilbert told the coaches in the audience, “You can’t begin to understand what you mean to your kids.”
Karen West Moten was always one to listen, so when Coach Tester told her that we needed her to score 40 points to win a meet, “I just did it.” She took great pride in returning to coach the 1984 Lady Skyhawk track team, even challenging her troops to an occasional race. She noted, however, “I never saw Coach Tester get in the blocks.”
Merrill Robertson was introduced as one of the true quality individuals in Skyhawk athletic history. He thanked his father for impressing upon him that he could do anything he wanted to do. He also thanked him for working three jobs to get him out of the city. Merrill is grateful to his coaches for “believing in me more than I believed in myself.”
Mark Saunders became a Hall of Famer in an unusual way; his little brother brought him out to wrestling practice to fill a void in the heavyweight division. Mark went on to help make a good team a great one, and took his place on the regional podium each of the next two years. Mark said he was “humbled and thankful” for his induction.
Tim Wade, now a Richmond City police officer, is the most decorated lineman in Bird history. He went on to play at Virginia Tech, where he met his future bride upon entering his very first class. He expressed his thanks to his parents and grandparents, who never missed a game. Wade remembered thinking during a JV game witnessed by the varsity coaches, “Don’t screw up now; you’ll never make varsity”. He also told of his two-year-old son, a future Skyhawk, who “took out a six-year-old the other day!”
Eric Carroll told the crowd that he learned effort from his parents and learned from his coaches that talent was something to be used and never squandered. He shared a quote from his grandma, warning us all that little ears are listening and little eyes are watching. Eric sent a challenge out to the former Bird athletes that it was “their responsibility to go forward to assist those at Bird now and in the future to raise the standards even higher.”
Coach Tester was introduced as the night’s final inductee. The beloved Tennessean was described as the symbol of Bird athletics. Tester expressed his gratitude to all the great kids and athletes at Bird. He also downplayed his success by saying, “Athletes win games and coaches lose them.”
The Hall of Fame induction will be an annual event. The Hall’s main fundraiser is its annual golf tournament held in May at Lake Chesdin Golf Club. If you would like more information or would like to play an active role to support the Hall of Fame, please contact Ron Paquette at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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