here for 15 years," Hyder says, "and the other day at the store I heard
a woman say, 'There goes that new coach.' And I'm sure it'll be that way if I'm
here another 15 years. When you follow someone who's a legend, you just have to
In the minutes
before the start of Valdosta's game against Camden County, Hyder stands calmly
on the sidelines watching the warmups and letting his assistant coaches and his
team captains handle things. He is a man of average size, but his face, which
is all severe angles and high ridges of bone, is a study in concentration, and
his eyes burn. He lived in Valdosta for five years before he felt it was safe
to buy a house. Waller remembers that when he was president of the Touchdown
Club, "There was many a Sunday afternoon when Coach Hyder and I would sit
across from each other in my living room, trying to figure a way to keep his
job for another week."
visitor thinks, was fortunate to have had Bazemore and then to have found Hyder
to replace him. But if Hyder decides next year to join Bazemore in the stands,
Valdosta will find another coach and go on winning, just as it always has.
So as the warmups
wind down and the Wildcats leave the field for the little cinder block locker
room under the stands, the visitor tries another football cliché to explain the
way Valdosta keeps on winning: You got to have the horses.
On an earlier trip
the visitor had attended a Touchdown Club breakfast, and, while he helped
himself to a little more sausage and grits, he asked one of the men next to him
to name some of the great players to come out of Valdosta. To win 600 games, he
thought, you must have groomed a Heisman Trophy winner or two, a bushel of
All-Americas, certainly a few dozen players who made it to the pros.
the answer came, "there was Buck Belue."
He was quarterback up at the university when Herschel Walker was there. He
played in the USFL a couple of years."
Oh. The guy who
handed the ball to Herschel.
A few other names
turn up: Stan Rome (Clemson and the Kansas City Chiefs) and Bruce Bennett
(University of Florida and CFL). Dana Brinson, who now plays for Nebraska, was
a Wildcat. But there are no Tarkentons or Walkers in the Wildcats' archives.
There are also no blocking sleds or tackling dummies on the practice field—just
grass, goalposts and faintly marked yard stripes. When the Wildcats practice
hitting, they hit each other. And when they play, they play as a team, not as
one or two stars with an anonymous supporting cast.