Former Players Enjoy a Virtual Reunion

Former Park View HS football players that suited up in the early 1980’s enjoyed a reunion on Zoom last Thursday night. (Dennis Smith photo)

(With Park View High School slated to merge with Bluestone HS to form the new Mecklenburg County HS in 2022, the South Hill Enterprise is running an ongoing series that looks back at some of the outstanding athletes and coaches and their stories through the years.) 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into isolation in many ways, technology has helped keep us together in many others.

Former Park View High School players of the early 1980’s took advantage of Zoom technology for a reunion last Thursday evening as life updates, stories and laughs were the main items on the agenda.

The men, mostly in their early to mid 50’s, had moved in many different directions in life since wearing the green and white. Former Dragons on the call included a college football coach, a university dean, a retired soldier, a minister, a retired firefighter, an electrical contractor and a high-school football coach among others. The one thing they had in common was fond memories of playing football together at Park View HS.

And for most of them, the memories seemed like they happened yesterday.

Former lineman Dr. Michael Crowder, who was recently promoted to a Dean at Miami University (OH), said he thought the group was ready to hit the gridiron again.

“I believe we could go put the pads on and pass out before we got to the sideline,” he said with a laugh.

Crowder stated how important the memories of being on the field together have been to him through the years.

“Football was only four years of our life,” he said, “but it had such an impact.”

Players chimed in from across the country. Walter Farrar, a running back and defensive back, had retired from the military but was still working as a contractor while living in Oklahoma.

“I played running back and defensive back, everything behind Howard (Feggins),” he said with a chuckle. “I think I was voted player of the game one time.”

Bryan Crute, a minister in Atlanta, Georgia, said he was thrilled to see his former teammates.

“I was so excited to get the invite,” he said. “The last 30 years have been a blur but I am so glad to be connected with you all again.”

Crute said many of the lessons he learned in football have been instrumental in his life.

“I think back to how we learned the fundamentals from Bill Ogburn (playing with the South Hill Midgets),” he said. “Sports really brings you together. I still today refer back to those lessons today.”

Tony Whittingham, Jr., the current Park View HS varsity football coach and MVP of the 1982 PV District championship team, said there is nothing like reuniting with former teammates.

“I am humbled to be on the call with everybody,” he said. “I played football in college but it was different. I missed you guys. Seeing your faces bring back many memories.”

Bruce Cliborne, the current Park View Middle School football coach, and a standout linebacker for the Dragons in the 80s, gave an updated on his family and the opportunity he had to coach his sons when they played for the Dragons.

“I am at one of the happiest times of my life,” he said. He reminisced about some big games including a win over Central of Lunenburg that snapped a Chargers’ long winning streak.

“We had a good time,” he said.

Return specialist and wideout/running back Earl Walker was “fast as lighting” his teammates said.

“Not anymore,” he quipped with a laugh, “I’ve got two bad knees.”

The men took a moment of silence and Bryan Crute said a prayer for the teammates that have passed – outstanding athletes like John Best, Nick Rogers, Anthony Joyner, Herbert Smith, John Webb and Jerry Jordan.

For some on the video call, it had been more than 30 years since they last talked.

Former standout Howard Feggins who went on to play in the NFL and is a current college football coach at Colorado State University-Pueblo set up the video call. He reminded his teammates to continue mentoring and teaching others.

“It is a tough world we live in,” he said. “Let’s continue to educate others.”

Beau Beasley, a former linebacker and lineman at Park View, said seeing his former teammates brought back a flood of memories.

“I have a vortex of memories,” he said. “I can close my eyes and see those lights on the field right now.”

Sonny Echols, a center and defensive end for Park View back in the 80’s, said it was wonderful to laugh and chat with his former teammates.

“I love you all like brothers,” he said.

Former defensive end Jarrious Lassister said he never worried about a running back getting to the outside on him.

“I knew the (guys behind me) had it on lockdown,” he said.

Several on the call had recently lost parents or endured a health crisis.

Former lineman and tight end Kevin Crute thanked his teammates for their support over the past year while he recovered from open heart surgery.

“I know I am a walking miracle,” he said, “I am doing much better and I can’t thank you enough for all of the support.”

Former lineman Robbie Crowder and Bruce Lambert, a player from the South Hill Midget days, also took part in the call.

Feggins thanked former Park View Coach Dewey Windham for his leadership with the team during their playing days. 

“Thank you for believing in us,” he said.

Windham thanked the guys for inviting him on the Zoom call.

“You all look like you did when you played in high school,” he said with a laugh. “It is so good to hear you and see you all. The best years I had in coaching was with you all. I am so proud of how you all have turned out.”