August 17, 2020


John Fitzgerald Booty, Part 1

by Paul Heckmann

Executive Director, Memories Incorporated, a 501c3 Non-Profit

Paul Heckmann: Good afternoon John!

John Booty: Hey, Paul. How are you?

Paul: Doing well. How about yourself?

John: Just fine.

Paul: I know we have a lot to discuss so let’s dig right in. Tell me all about the city of your birth, DeBerry, Texas

With my sisters Ella, Tenia and Aquanda. I believe age 5

John: Well, DeBerry, it’s a little community. We got mail system through DeBerry, essentially North Carthage, in Panola County. I grew up in a place called Horton Community. I guess it was incorporated a long time ago, that was a routing system of the mail and all that.

So, I’m a country boy! Yeah.

Paul: Were you big into hunting and fishing?

John: Well, it’s funny. My dad would fish and hunt. My brothers would fish and hunt. My mom fished. But, me, I was not big into either one. My mom would take me fishing with her. She was out at a pond and not catching anything. And I’m like that’s the worst thing I could do, so I just lost the interest in going fishing, unless I’m catching something. And my fear of snakes, well, I wasn’t fond of them either.

We lived close to Sabine River, so we didn’t cross the river, we don’t wanna get close. I remember I heard they had alligators in there.

Paul: So, I have a question for you there. Your middle name is Fitzgerald. Is that a family name or did they like the President?

John: Well, they’re fond of JFK.

Paul: What did your parents do for work?

John in First Grade

John: My mom, she worked at a cleaners before I started school. And then after my first grade, she became a school bus driver.

She drove a bus until I was a sophomore, I believe.

And my dad was a construction worker. He was a foreman for a construction company. And he was also a preacher.

Paul: Oh, boy.

John: Yes, you know what I mean. It was a small church, nothing like what we have today. I think my grandmother was a, she was a secretary of a church, so early on we were in church all the time. At least it felt that way

Well, looking back, we just did Sunday. But those preachers, they get a long winded, you know.

Paul: And you’re, “Come on dad, I gotta get to football.”

John: Get to football. Get some food. You’re hungry, you know?

Paul: So, brothers and sisters. Tell me!

John: I have three brothers, five sisters.

Paul: Oh, wow.

John: Well, there was two that’s passed away. There would have been 11 of us, but it’s 9. There were two that passed away. One was a accidental gunshot when he was young, like 8 or 9 years old.

Paul: Oh, no. I’m sorry.

John: Yeah. He was at home and playing around, and some kinda weird accident, he shot himself in the head. And my older brother was there with him. And I had a sister who was older than my older brother, my oldest brother now. She passed away of a brain tumor, I think. I wish I could understand the parents. They didn’t talk much about it, my other sister.

So, I have a older brother, Andrew, who is like 70 years old now, so. He lives in Houston. And I have a sister named Wanda. And she’s the second oldest. I have a brother named Jodell who was 10 years older than I. He was my hero. He was a football player and all that stuff. But, yeah, I think he only played for his sophomore and junior year, or something like that.

My brother, Laneal and then Margaret and Aquanda. And Ella who passed away about three years ago, three or four years ago, of cancer. And my youngest is named Tenia. She lives in Fort Worth.

Paul: So, did you guys ever move into the big city of Carthage?

John: No. We were always living in the Horton Community way out in the country. Always out in the country.

We were country people. Mom drove the bus, and the bus route come through there. And we stayed there. We moved from a highway, from off the highway. It was called Old 59 back then because they were building 59 fairway. That turned out to be a pretty busy highway, eventually we moved to another place off the beaten path. Not far off the main road. But if anybody wanted to come see me or my family, it was definitely a destination.

Only people that I saw were those Portland gas guys going back to check those rigs back there. Or oil tankers and owner of the land that’s past my mom’s house. And the pond, going to feed his cattle. But it was a destination. You had to wanna come see us!

Paul: Ha!

So, when did you find out you had an interest sports?

John: When did I find out? Good question. Well, I tell you what, I grew up in the 70s. I think when I was 3 or 4 or 5 years old, we loooooved the Dallas Cowboys. And my mom, well, she is real active. I was scared little runt. I almost passed away about 4 years old.

Paul: What happened that nearly killed you?

John: Yeah. I think it was around 3 or 4. My older brother, Joe Dell, who was playing – he liked to play tough with me. All the kids in the neighborhood wanted to be tough, so he was playing around with me and they say I slipped into a seizure.

Paul: Oh, wow.

John: And now my mom and dad were at work. Back then we didn’t have a phone. So we had to go down to the corner store and have the owner of the store take me to the hospital. So, they said I was at hospital for several days. And then said it was a seizure I had.

Paul: Wow.

John: And they sent me home. And they sent me home either to get out of it or to pass away at home, I guess.

Paul: Holy cow. Did they find out what caused it?

John: They didn’t. I mean, it’s so funny, as a kid growing up, other kids would tease me for having a seizure. And I kinda ignored it So, then they didn’t talk much about it, so I didn’t much about it. My mom didn’t talk much about it. And my dad didn’t talk much about it.

All I know is when I got home, several days passed and whatnot, my sister said I just got up and walked over to her like a mummy because I was stiff as I had been laying in one spot all the time.

She said I said I was hungry, that’s it, “I’m hungry.” And I ate and ate and ate.

Paul: Darn right you’re hungry. You hadn’t eaten in 11 days.

John: And so, after that, I just became this little kid who looked to pretend that he was Superman and run around the house and play on Sundays when football came. And everybody loved the Dallas Cowboys. I think my older brother liked the Houston Oilers, but everybody else in the house loved the Dallas Cowboys. And then for except for me, there were about I’ll say maybe 20, 30 little boys my age. So, we had a good group of kids,

Everybody loved the Cowboys back then. We had Tom Landry and had the church, God, and Tom Landry on Sundays. We all got the blues in the off-season, like man, when the Cowboys gonna play again?

And so, when I was 6 years old, I guess it would have been in ’70, ’71. My mom bought me a Dallas Cowboy’s uniform.

Paul: Oh, boy.

John: She said, “You gonna my pro football player.”

Paul: Little did she know.

John: Ha! Well, I guess she knew because she would tell everybody else, “He’s gonna be my pro football player.”

They would all looked and laugh at her because I was one of the littlest ones in the bunch. And getting over a sickness too, and then playing around with everybody hooting like, “You too little. You too little. You too little.”

And my sister told me, “I remember one of the bigger guys would tease you, and you were on the porch. He kept teasing you about you wearing that Dallas Cowboy’s uniform everywhere.”

And she said, I don’t remember this, but she said I jumped off the porch and started wailing on him. And he just says “Dude.” And then I said, “Hey, cousin, do you all wanna play football now?”

Paul: Oh, my gosh.

John: I wished I’d had that uniform with us. That was a good keepsake. But I didn’t know. I’m just a little kid.

Paul: Yeah. You wore it out.

John: Yeah. I wore it out. I wear it even when I had my Sunday go to church shoes on!

Paul: Your mom probably repaired it probably a dozen times I bet.

John: Yes. And it get worn out, but I didn’t care

Paul: Tell me about organized football. I know you said you tried it in eighth grade.

John: I didn’t start playing organized football until the eighth grade. We had first period athletics in the seventh grade where we would go and start training in the first period. That was some of the roughest. It was oh, that coach, Billy Joe Freeman, I remember his name. Boy, he was tough. Early in the morning during the fall in the summertime, the grass is eating you up then you go take a shower before your second period class. But, that was rough though.

But yeah, that’s our first time learning the game. But first time playing organized football was in the eighth grade.

Paul: When did your school start two-a-days?

John in the 8th Grade

John: Well, in the eighth grade, we didn’t go to two-a-day practice. We started the first day of school And it’s hot, man, at 3:00 in the afternoon.

And I know you know.

Paul That I do.

John: All the weeks of practice and stuff, and they made a choice to make teams.

Paul: Sure.

John: And they put down the B Team. I’m like, “Man.” My best friend who I grew up in Horton Community in DeBerry with, he’s over here, and he only 18, he’s only 18. But I know I’m just as good or better athlete than he was, you know?

Paul: True dat.

John: Yeah. But I was on the B Team. And I wasn’t even a starter at the time. And since I’m writing a book, I was able to get in contact with my B Team coach. “I had drawn a position on defense because you just had a knack for the ball. You were small, undersized, but you had a knack to get to the football.”

Paul: Right.

John: You’ll knock somebody out to the get there, you’re making a sure tackle. That’s when I started to learn to love the Carthage Bulldogs.

Paul: Yea! Small town football, you live and breathe it.

John: Oh, I wanted to be a Carthage Bulldog soooo bad. And I remember hearing about my brother playing for Carthage.

From first grade on; You’re seeing that Carthage football team, I wanna be one of those guys, wear that red uniform. I said, “I can’t wait until its my turn.”

Paul: I know exactly what you’re talking about.

John: Like the Friday pep rallies, that Friday spirit. Hardly watched the games growing up, but, man, it was something else. So, when I got in the eighth grade, I was a Bullpup at Turner Junior High

Turner Junior High Bullpups, John is #81 front row

Paul: Was Turner inside Carthage?

John: Turner was a part of Carthage Independent School District.

Paul: Okay.

John: Turner was an all-black school. Then they were integrated and became the junior high. They won some championships back in the ‘60s and whatnot.

That’s in Carthage. And so, and one day the head coach, Coach Frye, saw me throwing a football around. And he called me over, said, “John, would you like to play quarterback?”

Me? “Yeah. I’d like to be quarterback.”

Paul: Everybody wants to be quarterback.

John: He’s like, “Come on. You got the little action pass for me. And the hand off.” We were in the Veer back then, so we didn’t throw much.

Paul: Okay.

John: And they had the quarterback sneak. “You know, John just keep it and run them.”

Paul: Yep!

John: And so, I was getting lots of reps, I wasn’t even the starter. I eventually became a starter. So, when I got in the game, all that stuck in my mind was that I was playing quarterback. I was upset because I wasn’t on the A Team, but I got a lot of playing time.

And, in fact, that soothed me right there. I saw that I was a pretty good athlete as a quarterback. I wanted to challenge when I made it to ninth grade to be challenged for starting quarterback job in the ninth grade.

Paul: Did you play in ninth grade?

John: What happened, I was practicing. I was so dumb though, I even told the principal, vice principal of the high school, “I’m gonna play. I’m try out for the quarterback.” And he’s like, “Go for it.” And the guys who were on the A Team will get the first look anyway.

So, the first day of practice, I’m excited about it. But, man, I tell you what.

And I’m saying this to tell you just to give you a little insight. Back in the eighth grade, I got my enthusiasm from my mom. Because I remember the game. In the eighth grade, we’re gonna play a Thursday night game but it got rained out, so we played on a Saturday.

So, my mom had this big, white Mercury Marquis. And we had to take the bus from Turner to go to the town square of Carthage, over to the high school. And so, as we’re driving, we’re on a bus, you know, being enthusiastic and all that.

And there was – kept hearing this person blowing their horn, and say, “Let’s go Bullpups. Let’s go Bullpups.” And one guy said, “Man, who was that?” And I looked around, and it was my mom. I said, “Man, well, she’s excited.” That make me feel good. So, kinda like – but that’s I’m like I was embarrassed and I got excited. So, in the ninth grade, the first day of practice, we were going at it. And before practice, these coaches had us doing these agility drills. Oh, my goodness. Up-downs, climb the ladder, front, back, all that jive.

Paul: Oh, up-downs. I shudder when I hear of those!

John: So, and then we started stretching. And I’m holding this guy leg, and I could hear bells ringing in my ears, everything started getting dim. And as we were stretching, the bus was going through to pick up the kids. And I remember mom’s bus come through. I remember her number. And she got this big, beautiful smile. She just blew the horn. And I looked. And she could tell. She could tell who I was. I just looked up and smiled. And I got my energy back just like that.

I still feel like like I was about to pass out. And I saw her and like I just like got my energy back. So, I practice. We practiced that week. Then they have a game.

The varsity had a scrimmage game that week, so. And then we practiced another week. That’s the first day of school. And we didn’t have a game. The varsity had their game. And we all got mad at the head coach because he made us practice. And we wanted to go to the pep rally, but he said, “No, you gonna practice.” So, the following Thursday it was time to for our first game. And I’m going. Excited the whole day, that Thursday.

And me and another guy had missed practice once because our ankles are hurting but we practiced up getting ready for the game. So, I get to the locker room. And head coach said, “John, you’re not gonna go on this trip.” I’m like, “Sir?” He said, “No, you’re not gonna go on this trip.” And I just got quiet.

And then I went up to my friend who was packing his bag that could get on the bus. And I said, “You going on the trip?” He said, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Wow.”

Paul: Oh, boy.

John: And so, I’m standing outside the bus watching my team on the bus. And two of my teammates had let the window down and teased me. And that hurt almost worse, not going, not the coach told me. I’m like a little puppy dog standing outside the bus, and they gone, driving off. And then the regular bus just come through to take – pick up everybody else.

And my mom picked us up. And I got on the bus. And she noticed I was real quiet. And she had this big mirror where she checked the students. She kept looking back at me.

So, we finally got home. And after dinner that night, I just said, “Mom, I’m gonna quit football.” And she just looked at me.

And the next day, that Friday, I went to the head coach, said, “Listen, I’m gonna quit football.” He said, “Well,” he didn’t give me any reaction, he just said, “Okay. Go to the office and get into PE.”.

Paul: Oh man, that hurts.

1982 Bi-District Champs

John: So, I went and got my schedule changed and joined PE. PE teacher said, “Why you not playing football?” Because I’ll be the first one getting picked when we had the football games going on in PE. And I was the best athlete in PE. And he was like, “You need to play football.” And I said, “Yeah. Whatever.” So, at first the team didn’t do too well. I’m excited about that. But those were my friend out there too.

Yeah. And so, the spring semester, they said, you can join the athletics again if you want. And if you join athletics, you can run track. And then you can get into football, so I ran track.

And then you can try to impress the JV coaches because you’re gonna be a sophomore. And we went through the training and whatnot. And I was really going hard, and I’m back in with my classmates, my teammates from freshman year. I mean, we were freshmen. And we’re working out with the JV.

And I was doing drills, the head coach was like, “Wow, who is this kid? Where’d he come from? Where have you been?” And he would have me demonstrate the drills. “This kid’s just a good athlete. Where have you been? How come you didn’t play football last year?” And all that jazz. I was gung ho. I mean, like man, we gonna conquer JV.

And that summer, I worked on a farm, a ranch with my friend, my cousin. And we knew high schoolers at Carthage and got word that the head coach of the JV had left to go work in the oil fields. And that mean’s new JV coaches coming in.

So I am pumped, ready to go, you know? And they would send us things like when two-a-days days were gonna start and when I need you to appear for my physical and all that.

Paul: Right.

John: But before that happened, I allowed my cousin, who was my ride back then, to talk me out of playing football.

Paul: Oh, boy.

John: He’s like “Dude, man. We gotta practice against the varsity.”

I said, “Man, aren’t we tough people? We are tough. Man, we can go against the varsity. What’s the matter with you.? We gonna be Carthage Bulldogs now. We gonna be on the JV. We can go wrestle. Let’s make us tough. We beat each other up in the country. We can play ball. We can go against these other guys. We’re just as tough as they are.”

But still, I’m undecided. He is undecided.

So, I didn’t even respond to any of the letters. And I didn’t even report to two-a-days days. And I was in counseling before school start. I was in the counselor’s office, got into PE. And the first day of class, I walk into the PE class. The PE teacher, he looks at me like, “John Booty, why are you in my class? Why are you not playing football?”

Paul: Was this the same guy as the year before?

John: Yep, it’s the same guy. Coach Max.

Yeah. And so, that fall semester, I was like his teacher’s pet. “Hey, John, can you teach them how to do this? Can you do this?” He said, “I’m gonna tell these coaches about you. You need to be playing football.” But I still thought my football career was over.

And two of my classmates, a guy by the name of Roscoe Tatum, who ended up in the TCU Hall of Fame as a track star. He was our all-state running back. He was a sophomore. And a guy named Ricky Roughly who went to TCU right out of high school, another sophomore.

They were on the varsity. So, we had the sense to go watch them play. And first game of the season they played Marshall, got the stuffings beat out of them. And then they were on a winning streak. And they end up going 8 and 2 that semester, that fall semester.

And so, the last game of the season, and this is where it all started, I guess, where it has to be, what is. Last game of the season, we are all fans, and Carthage beat Henderson.

Paul: All right!

John: And remember back in 1981. Back then, only one team can represent the district in the playoff game.

Paul: Oh, yeah. That’s right.

John: Yeah. So, we had a three-way tie. We won the first flip, but then we went from a high-high to a low-low. I remember the public address announcement they did for the coin flip, “Well, Carthage won’t be going to the playoffs.”

Paul: Oh, boy. The wind went out of your sails.

John: Man. It hurt me so much. We were all just frustrated, frustrated, frustrated. My mom would have been not proud of my language that night. And I don’t cuss. And I’m using some bad language that night. And so, me and my friend, Calvin, we went on to the locker room at the new school and start banging on the lockers in frustration.

And the head coach started hearing this. I don’t know if you heard of Sleepy Reynolds. He was the head coach of our Carthage High School. He was concerned and came in and told us to stop that. Now he was walking back to his office, said, “Who are you guy? Who are you?”

Well, I got nervous because we were not supposed to be in here. But, and my buddy Ricky Roughly, said, “They come to get me, coach.”

And he just looked at us, and walked away. And that was the night I was so upset. I was Friday the 13th, 1981. And I know I have to write a book!.

And over the weekend, I told my mom, “Mom, I wanna play football again.” And she just looked at me and smiled. That’s all it took, you know, she didn’t say a word.

And then on that Monday, I was in class. Well, I told a friend mine, said, “I wanna play football again.” And he said, “You should.”But I don’t know how, but when I got to last period, was PE, and that was athletics, I got to the PE class, my PE teacher said, “John, the head coach is inviting PE students to join athletics.”

Paul: The writing was on the wall.

John: Yep.

“You need to go” Coach said, “They getting ready to have a meeting. Go in there and join athletics.” And there was Coach Reynolds. I was intimidated by him because he was the head varsity coach. He had all the PE teachers, students to introduce ourselves. And then he got to me he said, “Introduce yourself John Booty,” and the guys all saw me, because my teammates who were not playing basketball and classmates, they were in there, laughing like oh, and thinking ‘he’s gonna play football again’.

And then the head coach asked me, said, ‘Are you related to a kid by name of Gerald Booty?’ I kinda mumbled, “Probably.”

And I was nervous. He said, “Well, if you have some athletic ability like him, you may be about something.”

So I’m totally embarrassed, still a kinda shy little sophomore kid, being asked the question by the head coach.

And after an little bitty squat, and a grunt, and I’m like, “Yeah.” He’s shook me, he really did. “Yeah. I think so.” That’s all I got out, I was sooo intimidated by Coach Reynolds.

Paul: Was Gerald your brother?

John: No. Cousin used to hear about him all the time. He didn’t make his mark until his senior year, but I know he played his junior year. He used to return punts and kickoffs

So, getting back to it, on that day I said, “I gotta make a mark.”

And so, my sophomore year, I got to do an off-season workout program. I will hustle and hustle and hustle, outwork everybody. And we go out on the track field and run. And then I run to the weight room.

And one day the coach saw me in there, and he said, “Well, who is this?” Coach Reynolds laughs, ‘Oh coach, he said, that’s John Booty.”

He said, “Oh, yeah. Okay.” He said, “Well, they’re running, hustling. We may be about something.” That made me feel good.

And then spring comes and track season, and I ran track because I wanted to be ready for off-season football.

Paul: Sure.

John: But off-season football came around. Everybody is working out together pretty much. And the JV coach told the head coach, “I think I found you a receiver.” And said, “Okay.” He said, “John you know that drill where you turn around and throw your ball and turn around a catch it?” Well, I was nervous when he told me. And I did it. And I dropped it. “Coach, he threw it so fast.” You know, kids back then would make excuses.

Paul: Oh yea, that I remember. It was like, who could tell the biggest whopper and get away with it!

John: You got it.

Anyway, I caught Coach Reynold’s attention during the off-season football. Everybody was excited because we knew we had a good team coming back and we wanted revenge!

My initial goal to make the varsity and so I can help my team not rely on a coin flip.

Yeah. So, over the summer, I worked construction with my dad. And also my mom had Roscoe, who was our neighbor in Horton Community, DeBerry, come over. And I didn’t know she was doing that. He drove a green Pinto. And she said, “Roscoe, he wants to play football again. And I wanna make sure he’s okay.” And she said, “I’ll pay you $5.00 a week for gas.”

10th Grade 11-13-1981 is the night I decided to play Football again.

Paul: Oh dude, that is one cool Mom!

John: Yes she was. She loved the game. Yeah, she really loved that I loved the game too. She says, ‘he’s gonna be my pro’. But she wasn’t gonna let me quit again.

So, I’m going to two-a-days.

Because coach came and worked you. I was in the locker room before two-a-days days started, and the head coach saw me again. Said, “Who is that?” Secondary coach said, “That’s John Booty, Coach. He’s getting ready for the run.”

So, he got a stopwatch and watched as I ran the mile. And I really didn’t wanna run the mile. But I did it because he said I gotta do it. So, made me look good in front of the head coach.

So, two-a-days days go and we going and going, I’m still a little skinny runt. And the head coach says he needs some scout team players for the scout team running back.

Paul: Okay.

John: And I’m like, “Man, I’m a receiver. I’m not a running back and I’m a defensive back.” And he would call on me to be his running back and for the scout team. The first couple of times I got tagged real good. I said well, then I’m gonna teach you to let these guys that you can’t hit what you can’t catch.

Paul: Love it!

John: I made them better on defense because I didn’t wanna get hit. And when I was on defense as a defensive back, whenever we did throw the ball, I was pretty much knocking the passes down and whatnot. I was a good practice player. And, but my goal was to make the varsity because as a junior they’ll put you down on JV if you don’t have that experience.

Paul: I know that feeling.

John: And so, our last scrimmage game before the week’s football game, we were scrimmaging, I was a reserve receiver, and defensive back, cornerback.

And me and second string quarterback got in the game. And he say, “Well, I want you to throw a bomb.” Give me a fly route. And I faked the cornerback out and was just about to score. It was a scrimmage, of course. And I was so excited, I slowed down a little bit and the CB tackled me before I got in.

Paul: Oh, boy.

11th Grade, I made the varsity

John: But it was fun. We were scrimmaging Center High School. And on our way back to Carthage, I heard the head coach say, “Well, that kid, John Booty, made a big catch today.” This was on a Friday

And over the weekend. And then Monday came around before the week before the first game. And head coach called me to his office. Said, “John, come to my office.” I said, “Oh, my god.” And I go to Coach Reynolds’ office. He was like, “Hey, we like what you’re doing on the scout team. And we like what you do as a reserve. You made the varsity. And, but if we think you need some experience, we gonna drop you down to JV.” Well, when he said, “You made the varsity,” I didn’t hear much after that.

Paul: Right.

John: I’m like, you can forget that other stuff. I’m not going down to JV. And so, you’re on the reserve, but you made the varsity. And we had some studs on the offense at Carthage. But I’m on the varsity, so who cares… And so, no football experience my first two years in high school but when I got in the game, though, at the two-minute drill I was good at.

And when I got to game, the coach, “Hey John, you need to run this route here.” I’ll run it. Get the big catch. Or when they first gonna start us, or blowing our team out, they put the second team in. I got game. I was playing the game. And that’s what I thought. Because I got a interception and a touchdown in one game.

Paul: So, who’re you playing against?

John: I wanna say it was Athens. I think we got 50 to 0, I think it was.

Paul: Oh. So, who all was in your district back then?

John: Oh. They called the district the beast. We had Kilgore, Henderson, Jacksonville, Palestine, Athens.

Paul: Okay. That’s some tough football.

John: Yeah, that’s some tough football back then. And the deal is we made it to the playoffs, no coin flip.

And we beat Atlanta in Longview in bi-district. And then we played Corsicana in 1982 in Longview, in Lobo Stadium. And it was a rainy, cool night that night. And we’d thrown the ball 11 times, and they got about six picks. And they beat us 32 to 0.

Paul: Oh, boy.

John: These guys were so big, and I thought they were grown men I thought we were against. And Corsicana. I’m like, “Man, look at these guys.” At the end of the game, the secondary coach came to me and this other guy named Scott. This in the fourth quarter, late. He said, “Well, guess what, guys.” He said, “John, you and Scott, you all go in the game the next series.” I looked at him like, “Huh? What we gonna do?”

Then we got in the game. And nobody scored on us. And it was so cold, we couldn’t wait to get off that field. But it was a weird feeling coming off that field, getting beat 32 to 0.

And I think all the juniors on that team. I know I thought about this, I’m like, “I think we gonna beat this team again someday.”

Paul: Oh, man.

John: And it was just in my mind. “That team beat us. Sometime we may get them back. I don’t know or when….”

Paul: You can probably still feel that cold though can’t you?

John: Oh, yeah. I can still feel it.

I just said to one of the guys, “Man, they’ve got some big and ugliest people under his helmet. Look at that dude, man. These guys are huge.” And they beat the stuffings out of us

Paul: Yeah.

John: But we were ready to fight. But we didn’t wanna start any trouble. I knew I wasn’t gonna start the trouble. And, but you know, we had good fan support from Carthage.

Paul: So, here comes your senior year…

John: My senior year. I’m more excited than ever. I’m gonna be a starter. I already paid my dues. Not that I was a senior seniority. It’s just I had proved to the coach that I was a good athlete. They wanted me to take basketball. I said, “No, I don’t wanna play basketball. I’m getting in off-season conditioning. And I’m gonna run track because I had something to prove in track. First thing is you have to prove it.”

Off season, Coach is like, “Man, John you’re talented.” Going through the drills and whatnot. So, two-a-days days come around and Roscoe was my ride again. And two-a-days days come around. And before the first game of the season, and like on a Monday, I tweaked my dad-gum groin.

Paul: Oh no!

John: I’m like, “Oh, god.” And my backup was a good friend of mine. And said, “Brian, you’re gonna start this weekend at defensive back. I had to go early in the morning before school when I got off the bus, go to the locker room, get in the training room. Sit down, cold tub of ice. Couldn’t get in the whole day.

So, the first game, we go to Atlanta. And I’m feeling pretty good, but they didn’t wanna chance it. I said, “Coach, I can go.” And, “No.” But during the warmups, I’m running full speed. And I only played wide receiver because back then we were only ran the veer, so all I was doing was taking in the plays, in and out.

You know, two of your star receivers, two of your main athletes go to college and become – and stars, and star in college pretty much. But so, first game, we beat Atlanta. Second game, I forget who we played. We beat them. And then the third game, we played against Daingerfield. And Daingerfield had set that school record, 16 and 0, and only had eight points scored against them.

Paul: I remember that.

John: Our defense shut them down to really three points. And it’s so funny. Our offense opened up this big hole, and our running back ran through it scott-free to score, and he fumbled.

Paul: Oh, no.

John: And I saw him fumble. I’m running to get the ball, and I jumped at it, and miss it. And then the defensive back them gets on top of it

Paul: Like a comedy of errors.

John: Yeah. And they marched down the field and scored. They ate up like seven minutes of the last minutes of the fourth quarter.

Paul: Oh, boy.

John: They scored and went up 10-3. And we tried to – we tried to make another comeback. And the quarterback threw in an interception that killed it, that killed the fourth. So, we end up losing 10-6 to Daingerfield. But Daingerfield had just unbelievable team. They went to state. And then we got back on a winning track.

We lost a heart breaker, 14-7 to Henderson. And then we played Jacksonville. Jacksonville had our number for three years running. But they made a mistake. I got my first interception against Mt. Pleasant. So, I got my second interception against Jacksonville. So, what happened, before the game, Jacksonville was sitting on the ground in front of our locker room as we were coming out.

And they were chanting, “Kick that ass. What we gonna do?” And a lot of our players are getting ready to go say something to coaches. Just keep walking, guys. They were like, “We got these guys’ number.” We done whupped them three years in a row. They played the old coming to the Tomato Bowl and do beat us. So, they had that chant. When we hit the field, we exploded like an atomic bomb. And that was that.

And I think the third play of the game, we were defense first, third play of the game they went at me. And I almost jumped over this receiver’s head. Really jumped over his butt. You can’t see his behind because my butt is like over his head. Got an interception. And we ended up beating them 30, I think 30 to 8, or something like that, in Jacksonville. So, we were excited about that and everything. And at the end of the game, well, we start chanting. We didn’t chant what they chant. But we had our own little chant, (laughs)

And then the last game of the season was against Kilgore. And Kilgore tried to test me. The last game of the season was at home. And I picked off two passes against them, so I end up leading the entire team, our team and the district in interceptions. And then we made the playoffs, so. And then we played in along at Marshall. We played Atlanta. I got a interception against Atlanta. So, we ended up winning that game. And then we played in Mesquite. And Coach Reynolds said, “Well, our next opponent is Corsicana….”

1983 Carthage HS Bulldogs… so close

Paul: Oh, boy.

John: Oh-oh-oh-oh, my god. We got, for something, we got to licking our chops. Man, we were like… I mean, we would drive on a Tuesday. Get on the bus Tuesday morning, drive to Mesquite, work out for about an hour, have some late lunch, so drive back to Carthage. That’s how we did it. And that weather that night, I think it was Friday night, that weather was bad. Yeah. We must have stayed in Mesquite at Poteet stadium.

And I remember coming down the stairs, and we were coming down, and it was a rainy, cold, wet, icy. And we had our fans there. And that game was like about bigger than ever, probably uglier. But we would have some enthusiasm when we hit the field. And they kicked off to us. They kicked it away from our star running back because he was a world-class sprinter. And he kicked it to me! Ball came at me, the ball went right through my hands. But we got it anyway

I went, “Dang, John you go get that thing.” And so, we drive down the field and score. And we kick off to them. They drive down the field and score on us. They kick off to us again. The ball go through my hands, through my hands again! I went, “Lord have mercy. Can you do something, man?” It kinda made me nervous though. But we got the ball back. We go the ball. We drove down the field and scored.

I’m like, “Man, this is pretty cool.” Our team was passing to deep offense. We kick off to them, and they drive down the field and score.

Paul: Oh, boy.

John: And they missed the extra point. So, it’s 14-13. So, while I’m walking on the field, I’m a little nervous now by your own juice. They don’t kick a reason why I score, run back.

Paul: Got too. No way you drop the rock 3 times in a row.

John: Yeah. So, they kick it to me. They come at me. And what a lucky bounce. The thing just popped right in my hands. So, I’m standing there. It’s like, almost like before Forrest Gump, “Run, Forrest, Run!” So, I got two great blocks and ran in a 74-yard touchdown.

I took it to the house on them. It was, oh, my god, I was excited.

Paul: Love it!

John: And their safety on kickoff was supposedly an all-state sprinter. But I left him in his tracks. And so, it was time that I was on defense. I was a defense player, so I’d get back out on defense. And I said, “Coach, I’m winded.” I was more excited, and my first time scoring like… And like, “Can us backup go in for me?” He said, “Yeah.”

So, this guy, a good friend of mine, rest his soul, Bubba Kitchelow. And he went out on my side, and first kinda had a big run. And the head coach like, “Well, who is that?” And we have this one coach had this high-pitched voice like Mickey Mouse kinda. Said, “That’s Kitchelow, sir.” And the coach said, “Young blood, like Kitchelow, he going everywhere.” And it made me laugh. I go back in the game, and we ended up beating Corsicana 21-13.

Paul: Wow.

John: We finally did it. And I said I got the game winning this touchdown for the Carthage Bulldogs. I mean, our defense, we were hitting these big boys. They thought they were just gonna like run over us. Nuh-uh.

And so, the next week we played against Terrell in Mesquite. And we beat them – yeah. We beat them 14 to 7.

I heard years later that they had a quarterback who was pretty good. I don’t know if he was a starter, he was a sophomore at the time. But he was really, really good. And his name was Eric Bishop.

Eric Bishop, aka Jamie Foxx at Terrell

Eric Bishop is now Jamie Foxx.

Paul: Oh, yeah.

John: Yeah. So, I don’t know if he was on the field, but I do know we beat Eric Bishop’s team. I wish I could say he was a quarterback for them. I wish I could find out he was the quarterback and then tear him up, back in 1983’s playoffs. Oh, that would be great if he was the quarterback. I’m like, “Man, I beat Jamie Foxx.” But I brag about it anyway, say, “Hey, Jamie Foxx was on that team.” I don’t care if he was a sophomore. He got beat by us. I didn’t play. Yeah. Yeah.

Paul: I was a offensive coach on his team back in the day.

John: Oh, you were?

Paul: In a manner. I was one of his Assistant Coaches for the Miami Sharks OC Aaron Eckhart on ‘Any Given Sunday’

John: (laughs) I don’t think that counts!

Anyway he gets hurt. I mean, he had a pretty good quarter. I mean, when you watch him, the way he moves and stuff like that, you’ll, “Man, I bet he was a good athlete.” You know? Yeah, it’s Jamie Foxx. And he beat himself.

Paul: Okay. Tell me about what happened after that.

John: Well, we traveled our way across to Brownwood, Texas.

We played Lubbock Estacado. And the night before, we didn’t act civilized as football players. We were playing around and having fun. And I get up the next morning and I’m seeing the prep’s going out there, souping up the buses, the cheer squad, and all that jazz. And I said, “Man, we gotta play some football today.” And the first – we get to the stadium, doing our normal routine. And come back in the locker room, get dressed, and go back out for the specialties, and come back in.

And I remember right before our whole team – as the whole team was coming back in, I was in my locker, right where the door was. And I’m just tears coming down my face. I’m crying. Trying to get these guys excited. I probably was mumbling, like, “Look it man, what’s wrong with you all? What’s going on here? Why you so emotional about?” I was ready to play some football that day.

And in the first quarter, I got a interception and I almost got another one. We gonna rock this thing! We score and Daron Lewis made the extra point to have us up 7-0 . As the game goes on in the second quarter, our kicker nails a 44 yd kick that put us up 10-7. Our kicker had a prostheses lower leg. He plant on his right foot and kick with his left prostheses foot. His accident happened in the summer of 1977 but he’s been kicking since 9th grade, 1980. I think that 44 yd kick was a record for our school.

Second half Lubbock goes up 14-10 on us. They were trying a field goal and botched the snap. Their holder gets it and runs around our right side to score a TD. That took some wind out of us. Then with five minutes remaining in the game they scored again to make 20-10. We got the ball back and started throwing then score to make 20-16. Even getting the ball back it was too late cause they had momentum and time on their side. *That third quarter mishap that turned out great for them was the big play that favored them!

Paul: Oh, no. So, that was the semi-finals?

John: Semi-finals. And before that game, I was ready to go play either – I think Bay City beat Lubbock against Estacado, 30 to 0 in the state championship. I was ready. I was so gung-ho ready to play some football. I was ready to go up against Artie Banks and Joe DeLoach.

I don’t care who they had.

Lubbock Estacado knocks Carthage out

Paul: Right.

John: Artie Banks was the first-round pick, I think, or a second round pick by the New England Patriots. He was all everything at Oklahoma State. But I was, I mean, I was ready to play some football that day. And then I was more teed off when I learned that Lubbock and Santana didn’t even score against Bay City down in the Houston Astrodome. So, it’s probably on the way back from the semi-finals game, Daingerfield was playing in… We had a 12:00 game. Daingerfield was playing at night in Fort Worth.

And we would have been tying up just right because the head coach of Daingerfield had talked to our head coach. Said, “Listen, we wanna invite you guys come watch us play in the semi-finals. And we got tickets for you. And we gonna win for you.” And because you all the only team that scored on us. We only team gave them any trouble. We could have beat them.

But Coach Reynolds asked us, “Hey, do you guys wanna stop?” He asked the team, we said, “No. We don’t wanna stop.” That was the quietest bus ride. I mean, that was a long bus ride, too. That was a long bus ride. Oh, my god. That was a long bus ride. But it was a quiet bus ride back home to Carthage. And so, that was the end of my football career or so I thought. I didn’t think I was gonna get to the next level.

Part 2

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1 Comment
  1. General

    May 21, 2021

    John, such a moving story. I am so proud and happy you made it out. You are our East Texas version of success. Proud to be your first cousin and your mom was my favorite aunt.
    Hard work is always the center piece for success. Add determination and drive, you have the resipe for becoming great.

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