The thought still makes Tom Calvin laugh.
A lifetime ago, when he was growing up on a farm on the outskirts of Athens, on the same patch of dirt now occupied by the original location of Whitt’s Barbecue, Calvin spent many Saturday afternoons listening to the radio broadcasts of Frank Thomas’ powerful Alabama Crimson Tide alongside his father and three brothers.
“We were all big Alabama fans, and we’d come in from working the farm to listen to the games,” Calvin recalled. “Dad would get so mad when we’d get behind…or made a turnover or something went wrong…he’d have to go out and walk around the house.”
In time, the elder Calvin would find himself listening to the broadcasts waiting for the announcers to call his own boy’s name.
Sometimes, he felt the need to excuse himself, retreating to the privacy of his solitary walk. But he was always brimming with fatherly pride.
After a stellar career at Athens High School and service in World War II, Calvin developed into a determined runner for the Crimson Tide teams of 1947-50 and played four seasons for the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers before becoming one of Alabama’s most successful high school coaches, winning 204 games and a state championship across 33 seasons at Bay Minette, Sylacauga, and Austin of Decatur.
HOMETOWN HEROES is a three-part story, updating monthly, about the life and career of former Alabama player Tom Calvin.
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