Letters to Bud Chapter 2: National Notoriety

Archie Manning: ‘I Really Enjoyed His Friendship’

When the news spread that Hall of Famer Bud Grant was retiring from the Minnesota Vikings, hanging up his coach’s whistle before the age of 60, Archie Manning sat down to pen a note to his former coach and friend.

He’s glad that he did.

In the age of texting and email and social media, letter writing is somewhat of a lost art.

“I have to admit, I’ve always tried to drop notes and write letters, but I’ve sort of joined the crowd,” Manning told Vikings.com. “I’m glad that I wrote Bud – my handwriting wasn’t very good, but I’m glad that I did it.

“That was sincere, because he really was very good to me and nice to me,” Manning added. “And that was kind of the end of my days.”

Manning, a standout quarterback at Ole Miss who went on to play 14 seasons in the NFL, was named to his first of two Pro Bowls following his performance in the 1978 season in which he was 291-of-471 yards passing for 3,416 yards and 17 touchdowns for New Orleans.

It was there that he first met Grant.

The Vikings coaching staff was assigned to the NFC team after Minnesota fell to Los Angeles in the divisional round of the 1978 playoffs. Manning and Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach led their squad as the all-star passers for two quarters apiece. As the backup, Manning played the second and fourth quarters.

“That was really the better deal, the second and fourth,” Manning said. “The fourth quarter, you know, everything’s on the line … We won, and I guess I played pretty good, because a couple of years later, [the Vikings] traded for me.”

Manning was acquired by the Oilers in 1982, where he played one season before again changing teams via trade, this time joining the Vikings and reuniting with Grant.

Upon arriving in Minnesota, however, Manning unfortunately developed a thyroid problem just a few games in and became too ill to play the remainder of the season.

He threw just two touchdowns before being added to the injured reserve list, but Manning spent much of the 1983 season standing near Grant on the sidelines. The two shared brief exchanges during practice, and Grant would ask Manning about previous coaches and players that he’d spent time with.

Despite never playing a significant role on the field in Minnesota, Manning formed a close bond with Grant.

“You know, Bud was a little stoic,” Manning said. “It wasn’t like we were face-to-face; he was watching practice and everything, but he’d just ask me questions.

“I had a couple of players tell me, ‘I’ve seen him talk to you more in the last few weeks than he’s talked to me in the past five or six years,’ ” Manning added. “We had great conversations, and he always had good answers.”

Manning recalled one particular discussion in which he questioned the Vikings not hiring a strength and conditioning staff.

“I asked him, ‘Why don’t you have a weight coach?’

“He answered, ‘No one’s convinced me that they know what they’re talking about,’ ” Manning said with a chuckle. “Another day he told me that he couldn’t always keep his most talented players. Sometimes he had to keep his smartest players.”

Added Manning: “He had great philosophy on a lot of things. I really enjoyed his friendship.”

The quarterback stayed with the Vikings in 1984 when Grant retired for a single season before coming back to coach in 1985. Manning then walked away from the gridiron for good.

“Bud really gave me the opportunity to retire with dignity and not get cut or released or anything,” Manning said. “I really just thought the world of him.”

Grant’s impact on Manning has been long-lasting, and it’s also been passed through the Manning football bloodline.

During his time in Minnesota, Manning sometimes brought his sons to the practice facility at Winter Park. Cooper was in fifth grade, and Peyton and Eli – both now Super Bowl champions – were 7 and 2 years old, respectively.

“I would take Peyton out to practice with me after school, and maybe we’d go up there on a Tuesday and mess around,” Manning said. “Then I’d take them on Saturday morning, so they were around some players and coaches.”

The boys were too young to remember much from their father’s stint with the Vikings, but Manning made sure to tell them about Grant as they got older.

“I told them about the way Bud was with his staff and the way he didn’t have a big turnover in coaches,” Manning said. “That’s always an indicator to me of a great coach – that people like to coach for him, like to work for him.

“Bud was very observant,” Manning continued. “He was a real philosopher from a football standpoint, and he certainly didn’t go around with a big ego. All you have to do is look at the Vikings success rate over all those years – he was a good man.”

A portion of Manning’s letter reads:

I just wanted to wish you well in your retirement and tell you I certainly enjoyed our friendship. Our little chats were meaningful to me and helped me get through a rough time.

Please know that it was an honor for me to play for you in the Pro Bowl and in your last year. Very best wishes to you and your family.

A trio of quarterbacks: Archie Manning sits on the Vikings bench between fellow passers Steve Dils and Wade Wilson during a game in 1983.

Just as Manning is glad to have captured those emotions on paper for his former coach, he’s always cherished receiving a handwritten letter from someone he cares about. Manning occasionally is invited to speak to current football players, and he makes a point to encourage today’s generation not to lose the art of letter writing.

“One thing I’ve always told players, young players especially, is, ‘Don’t forget your coach. Don’t ever forget your coach.’ A coach will tell you that he, more than anything, appreciates a letter from a player.”

The connections between Bud Grant and Jim Trimble were many.

Both played on the gridiron collegiately – Grant for the University of Minnesota and Trimble for Indiana University – before taking a hiatus from athletics to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

And while Trimble never played football professionally, the two met for the first time within the Philadelphia Eagles organization. Grant began his NFL career – after two seasons in the NBA – by signing with Philadelphia as a defensive end for the 1951 season, during which Trimble served an assistant coach for the Eagles.

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles

Trimble took over as head coach prior to the 1952 season, and it was the Pennsylvania native who converted Grant to a wide receiver. Grant went on to rank second in the NFL with 997 receiving yards on 56 catches and scored seven touchdowns that season.

When Jim Trimble, Jr., recalls his father’s relationship with Grant, however, he’ll tell you the key connection really took off when the two faced each other as coaches.

Grant went on to play for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1953-56, where he led the Western Conference in receptions three times (1953-54; ’56) and receiving yards in 1953 and 1956. In 1957 and at the age of 29, Grant became the youngest head coach in Canadian Football League history when he took over the reins at Winnipeg.

Meanwhile, Trimble was entering his second season as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Photos courtesy of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Grant, left) and Canadian Football Hall of Fame (Trimble, right)

The former coach-player duo met at the Grey Cup to cap off the 1957 season, and it was Trimble who took home the 32-7 win over the rookie Grant.

The following year, however, Grant led the Blue Bombers to a 35-28 upset of the Tiger-Cats. And he just kept winning.

“My dad won the first one, and Bud won the next four [Grey Cups] over the next five years,” Trimble said with a chuckle.

“They were both highly regarded coaches in the CFL,” Trimble said. “That was back in an era when the CFL and the National Football League were, perhaps not equal, but they were much closer, much more similar than they are today.”

The Grant-Trimble rivalry became a hot topic across the league over those years, and their public-facing personalities could not have been more different.

“My dad had some notoriety in those years because he was pretty bombastic, and all in a [cordial] way, but he’d do a lot of talking. I guess what you might call ‘trash talking’ in today’s world, but not quite the same,” Trimble said. “And as you know, Coach Grant is much quieter than that. He was much more, ‘We’ll show you what we can do on the field.’

“So it was quite a rivalry that they had for those five or six years at Winnipeg and Hamilton,” Trimble added. “They would even write songs about them and play them on the radio. It was just an interesting era.”

The two coaches met in perhaps the most infamous game in CFL history, the 50th Grey Cup (1962) that was later nicknamed “The Fog Bowl.”

The game started out at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto like any other, but a thick fog began rolling in around the second quarter.

“It got to the point where it was so bad that the spectators couldn’t see, the players really couldn’t see, and they stopped the game with about nine minutes to go,” Trimble said.

To be precise, game officials suspended the game at the 9:28 mark of the fourth quarter and scheduled it to resume the following day. At that time, the Blue Bombers held a 1-point advantage over the Tiger-Cats. When the game was restarted the next day, neither team scored for the remainder of the quarter, and the final score remained 28-27, Winnipeg.

“It was the only championship game that was ever called and resumed the next day,” Trimble said. “That’s part of their lore together in the CFL.”

Following that loss, Trimble left Hamilton to coach the Montreal Alouettes.

“I’ve read it in a press report somewhere,” recalled Trimble, “that when my dad went to coach the Alouettes in [1963], he said, ‘You know, if I can’t beat Bud, I’m just going to leave the entire Western Conference, and maybe somebody else can beat him.’ ”

Trimble had three losing seasons in Montreal before moving back to the United States and accepting an offensive line assistant position with the New York Giants in 1967.

That same year, Grant also returned to the U.S. to assume his new position as head coach for the Minnesota Vikings.

“My dad certainly had a lot of respect for Bud, and that applies to his whole career – not just the CFL but his subsequent career with the Vikings,” Trimble said. “It was an interesting relationship, a good relationship. Their careers ran parallel for so many years, and they competed against each other so intensely. I think they had a lot of respect for each other.”

Hearing his father’s letter to Grant, originally penned in 1984, read over the phone, Trimble’s theory was confirmed.

“What’s interesting is that I can hear the admiration that Dad has for Bud through that letter,” Trimble said. “I think my dad generally wouldn’t be inclined to blow smoke, if you will. There’s people he admired and respected in the game, and there’s people he didn’t respect. And you knew the differences between the two.

“That’s a lovely letter,” Trimble continued, emotion evident in his voice. “I’m not surprised because Dad was a good writer, and he wrote a lot of letters. That sounds like it was from the heart … That’s Dad. He was a good man.”

Bud Grant garnered fans across Minnesota and the nation from day one. The list of people in Grant’s camp even included “The First Fan” while he was in the Oval Office.

A young Richard Nixon played the sport himself, suiting up for the junior varsity team at Fullerton Union High School (California), later transferring to Whittier High School and eventually joining the Whittier College team, where he was a backup offensive linemen for the Poets.

Richard Nixon (center, standing) is shown at Whittier College, as a member of the second-string football team. Nixon was known as "the most spirited bench warmer on the team." (All Nixon photos courtesy of AP Images)

Nixon was sworn in as the 37th President of the United States on Jan. 20, 1969. On Nov. 16 of that year, he became the first President to attend an NFL regular-season game while in office (Lyndon B. Johnson saw the Baltimore Colts defeat Washington 35-0 in an exhibition game three years prior). Tom Landry’s Cowboys defeated Vince Lombardi’s Redskins 41-28 with Nixon present.

A California native, Nixon was an early fan of the Los Angeles Rams and later adopted the Washington Redskins.

Several newspapers reported on Nixon’s attendance of the game. According to an AP report in The Bridgeport Post, the President’s presence was announced over the in-stadium PA system, and “a cluster of Dallas fans” seated above Nixon taunted him by floating down blue-and-white balloons.

The President had a cup of block coffee at one point during the game but passed up hot dogs or popcorn. At halftime he signed a few autographs and let the photographers crowd around.

- The Associated Press, Nov. 17, 1969

Former NFL Vice President Joe Browne, the league’s longest-serving employee after a 50-year career, recalled the influence that Nixon, “America’s No. 1 Football Fan,” had on the game.

“President Nixon was such a football fan that his interest in the Redskins was the driving force behind Congressional legislation that changed NFL television policy,” Browne told Vikings.com. “Upset that he could not watch Redskins home games even on his White House TVs in the early 1970s because of that policy, Nixon pressed Congress to pass TV legislation, which he said he would sign.”

The Sports Antiblackout Bill of 1973, which was signed by Nixon, lifted the local-market-television blackouts of games, whether or not they were sell outs. From then through 2014, teams generally had until 72 hours prior to kickoffs to sell out tickets and avoid a blackout.

While Nixon did not affiliate with the Vikings, he self-identified in his letter to Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant – written nearly 10 years after his resignation from office – as “a football fan and a Bud Grant fan.”

Nixon and Grant both served in the U.S. Navy during the 1940s, and the former President also revered Grant for a number of other reasons.

Browne came to learn of Nixon’s affinity for Grant through the late Herb Klein, who served as Nixon’s White House Communications Director and later became the publisher of the San Diego Union Tribune.

“[Klein told me] that Nixon was a huge admirer of Coach Grant because of Bud’s disciplined, no-nonsense coaching style, his cool demeanor and his winning teams,” Browne said.

“Klein, who was a great friend of fellow California native NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, also told me that Nixon, like many Americans, respected Coach Grant because of his meticulous attention to how teams carried themselves during the pregame playing of the National Anthem," he added.

The Vikings and Redskins faced off three times during Nixon’s presidency, including Minnesota’s 27-20 defeat of Washington to advance to the NFC title game in 1973.

As someone who had watched Grant patrol NFL sidelines for almost two decades, Nixon said he was “deeply saddened” to read the news of the coach’s retirement.

… what I will remember most is your unfailing good sportsmanship and coolness under fire. Win or lose, you were always in charge of the team and of your emotions. You set an example for conduct on the sidelines which I trust younger coaches will attempt to emulate.

Perhaps most intriguing about Nixon’s letter, which was typed on a Federal Plaza letterhead but personally addressed and signed, is a line nestled in the final paragraph:

"The story indicated that you had no plans to coach again. I hope that after a year or so, you will change your mind."

After being away from football for the 1984 season, during which the Vikings sunk to 3-13, Grant did exactly what Nixon implored of him.

He returned, “after a year or so,” following heavy negotiation by Vikings General Manager Mike Lynn and Founder Max Winter, to coach his Vikings for one more season.

And whether or not Grant took into consideration a plea from the former U.S. President – while fun to ponder, unlikely – he was content to don a coach’s whistle for one more run.

Grant was quoted in the Chicago Tribune in August of 1985, and it’s easy to hear in one’s mind the coach’s even-keeled demeanor as he told reporters he “wasn’t sorry” about his decision to come out of retirement.

“I never was unhappy coaching,” Grant said. “I was not unhappy retired, and I’m not unhappy to be back. It’s a win-win-win situation.”

The victors of AFC Championship games hoist the Lamar Hunt trophy, signifying a silver ticket to the Super Bowl.

Hunt’s impact on the league moves far beyond the trophy, however, from the naming of the NFL’s biggest game to actually influencing early Vikings rosters.

And while teams coached by Bud Grant and owned by Hunt faced each other just four times during their respective careers, the first was for it all.

Hunt was raised in Dallas, Texas. A reserve player at Southern Methodist University in the early 1950s, he had a great affinity for the sport of football and, as the son of an oil tycoon, went on to focus on the executive level.

After being initially turned down for an expansion franchise by the NFL, Hunt established the American Football League in August of 1959. He and a group of seven other men went on to originate AFL teams; Hunt founded the Dallas Texans – which became the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963 – and hired future Hall of Famer Hank Stram as the club’s first head coach.

Hunt is credited with coining the term “Super Bowl” following the NFL-AFL merger and concurrent plan for a championship game between the two leagues. The league’s owners decided first on the “AFL-NFL Championship Game,” but the media adopted Hunt’s “Super Bowl” nickname, which was officially used for the first time in reference to Super Bowl III.

What some may not realize, however, is that the battle between Hunt and Grant started long before facing each other on the Super Bowl stage. It rather dates back to separate leagues competing not for a trophy but for players.

The Vikings, who originally had been slated as an AFL team before being approved as an NFL expansion franchise for the 1961 season, drafted Golden Gophers standout Bobby Bell in 1963. Bell instead signed with the AFL’s Chiefs, and six years later, he helped Kansas City defeat Minnesota 23-7 in Super Bowl IV.

“I have to believe that loss … probably bothered Vikings [Head Coach] Bud Grant as much as any in his long coaching career,” opined Grant’s lifelong friend and Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman in a 2015 article.

(Photos courtesy of AP images)

In the 1970 season opener nine months later, Grant coached the Vikings to a 27-10 defeat of Hunt’s Chiefs. Minnesota went on to finish that season 12-2 and advanced to the Divisional round of the playoffs, while Kansas City went 7-5-2 and missed the postseason.

Grant faced Hunt’s Chiefs a total of four times – including the Super Bowl – during his tenure in Minnesota and amassed a record of 2-2. In 1974, the Vikings capped off a 10-4 regular season with a 35-15 win over the Chiefs before going on to beat the Cardinals and Rams en route to Super Bowl IX.

While Grant and Hunt didn’t share the deepest connections, one thing is clear – from one influential football mind to another, the words carried great esteem.

Before Paul Brown co-founded the NFL team that still bears his namesake, he served at the Great Lakes Navy Training Station outside Chicago.

Brown was the head coach of the Bluejackets football team, and it was there that Bud Grant first interacted with the football legend who would become his friend and mentor. The two crossed paths in 1945, one year before Brown moved on to Cleveland.

In his book I Did It My Way, co-written by Jim Bruton, Grant recalled the following:

We had a young team, and Paul Brown really knew how to get us ready to play. That was a real highlight of my time there. At the end of the season, Brown had a few of us at a football banquet.


I remember he said some very kind things about me as a player. He said for people to keep their eye on where I went to school because they would be reading about me on the sports pages. I was quite humbled by his remarks.

Brown gained a reputation for being forward-thinking, and Grant picked up on many coaching tips during his time at Great Lakes, including the format of the playbook and team itinerary.

He recounted in I Did It May Way:

"I was very impressed with Paul Brown’s organization and his way of coaching. We would have meetings and learn techniques. I never had encountered anything even remotely like that in the past. I was enthralled by it all."

Mike Brown, Paul’s son and current Owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, recalled a story his father told him about Grant first arriving at Great Lakes.

“My dad said that Bud was a fullback when he showed up there,” Mike Brown said. “Marion Motley (now a Pro Football Hall of Famer) also was there, and he also was a fullback. The way the old story went was, when Bud stood in line with the other fullbacks at practice, he noticed how Motley practiced and saw all the things that Motley could do, and once he saw that, he decided to switch positions and instead play [defensive] end. And he did. He played end there and later in pro football.”

Following his time at Great Lakes, Brown went on to coach the Cleveland Browns, a role he held from 1946-62. (Photos courtesy of the Cleveland Browns)

While Brown coached the Browns from 1946-62, Grant excelled as a player for the Philadelphia Eagles (1951-52) and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1953-56) before implementing things he’d gleaned from Brown in his own coaching career, starting first with the Blue Bombers from 1957-66.

Brown went on to co-found the Bengals and coach Cincinnati from 1968-75, overlapping with Grant’s early years with the Vikings.

Brown served as the Bengals head coach from 1968-75. (Photos courtesy of the Cincinnati Bengals)

During their respective careers, Grant faced a team coached by Brown five times. As a defensive end with the Eagles, Grant played against the Browns four times in two seasons. In 1973 when Grant coached the Vikings to a 12-2 record, one of Minnesota’s losses came against the Bengals, who defeated the Vikings 27-0. That marked the first time in Grant’s coaching career that the Vikings were held scoreless, a feat that wasn’t again accomplished until 1980 – again by the Bengals, of whom Brown was still the Owner.

“My dad and Bud had a coach-player relationship that went on to become a coach-coach and a friend-friend relationship,” Mike Brown said. “They liked and respected each other.”

When Brad Durrell was growing up, his father, Richard, would take him and his siblings to Vikings training camp in Mankato, Minnesota.

Among those visits were a handful of post-practice interactions with Bud Grant, a fellow Gophers alum and basketball teammate of Richard’s. Alex, five years younger than Brad, was an “absolute football fanatic,” and the brothers collected autographs during the early '70s from players in purple who obliged their requests at camp.

While Durrell doesn’t recall his father, who passed away in 2008, to have been intimate friends with Grant, he said the two did correspond from time to time.

“Even though my dad was on the business side, he was sort of known for writing a lot of letters to a lot of people,” Brad said. “He really believed in doing that.

“Of course, that was a little bit of a different era,” Brad continued. “When you sent everything through the mail.”

(Photos of Richard Durrell courtesy of Brad Durrell)

Brad remembers his father always speaking highly of Grant. In his words, “everybody liked” the iconic football coach.

“He was pretty much a straight shooter, and he wasn’t a real showman or anything,” Brad said of Grant and his father’s perspective of him. “He just sort of did his job, and he was very well respected.”

Added Brad: “Vikings football was a part of our life.”

When Grant and Durrell shared a court at the U of M, it’s likely they couldn’t predict the type of success they’d both encounter down the road.

Durrell, like Grant, was a talented athlete. After serving three years with the Marines and spending time in occupied Japan, and prior to attending the U of M, Durrell was offered a contract from the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. He turned them both down in order to complete his education.

While Grant went on to be a two-sport professional athlete and eventual head coach for Minnesota, his former Gophers teammate left behind his cleats and joined the business world instead. According to the New York Times, Durrell in 1950 answered a newspaper ad for a circulation newsstand representative in Minneapolis.

Durrell’s career took off – he worked in advertising for TIME and LIFE magazines and was later named the founding publisher of People. The first issue of the now well-known magazine featured The Great Gatsby actress Mia Farrow in 1974.

“That’s sort of his claim to fame,” said Brad. “He moved up through the ranks and started People with a whole team. But that was a pretty big deal, because People was the most successful magazine launch in the history of the world, and a lot of people played a role in that. It was just sort of the timing, it was the right time.”

Interestingly, both Durrell and Grant walked away from their respective careers within six months of each other in 1984 (although Grant returned in 1985 for one more season of coaching). The former teammates also both went on to hold consultant roles with their organizations.

Perhaps Durrell’s own words, written in the careful script of a personal letter, say it best:

Your decision, Bud, sounds not unlike mine. We’re in fine health – and there are a number of things you and I want to do. We’re fortunate to be given the circumstances to make these kinds of choices.

As a college student planning to pursue a Master’s degree in sports administration, Bob Whitsitt was met with a slew of questions from his father.

Raymond Whitsitt, M.D., felt that there were more practical, sure-fire career options for his son.

“I remember my dad saying – nicely – 'Why don’t you try to get a real job, because there are no jobs in sports. That’s not a real industry,' " Whitsitt recalled. “But then when I explained that that’s what I really wanted to do, I do remember him saying that he knew Bud … but that’s the extent of anybody he knew anywhere in the world of sports.”

Unbeknownst to Whitsitt, Raymond sent a letter to Grant in 1978. In the message, he reminded Grant of their time together at Superior Central High School and inquired about any internships that may be available with the Vikings for Bob, who was part of Ohio State’s first graduate class in sports administration.

Whitsitt never did intern with the Vikings. He received, in fact, a number of rejections and “I’m sorry, we don’t have anything available” messages from teams all across the country, NFL and otherwise.

And his father wasn’t the only one who wrote letters.

“I literally wrote to every NFL team, probably almost every NBA and almost every Major League Baseball team – in addition to quite a few arenas, quite a few stadiums,” Whitsitt said. “I remember for many, many years, I carried a box around that probably had well over 100 letters saying, ‘Thanks for your letter, but we don’t have internships available.’ ”

Whitsitt carried the letters with him when he got his first gig in sports – an internship with the Indiana Pacers – and again to the next one. As he worked his way up the corporate ladder and relocated a number of times, however, he eventually let go of the box of rejection letters.

Whitsitt went on to be a well-known figure in the world of professional sports. In 1986 at age 30, he became the president and general manager of the Seattle Supersonics, becoming the league’s youngest top executive. In eight seasons, the Sonics went from being last in the league in attendance to boasting a sold-out arena for every game. Whitsitt was named the 1994 NBA Executive of the Year.

He then went on to serve as the Portland Trailblazers general manager from 1994-2003 and for seven years overlapped a role as president of the Seattle Seahawks (1997-2005).

Photo courtesy of AP Images

Looking back, Whitsitt said it would have been a thrill to work for the Vikings coming out of Ohio State.

He recalled an experience he had as a fourth-grade student in Madison, Wisconsin.

“My dad came home one night, and he had gone with my mom to ‘Back to School Night,’ and there were a bunch of things on the bulletin board,” Whitsitt said. “One of the things my teacher had us write down an answer for was, ‘Who’s your favorite football player?’

“And obviously, every kid in the class wrote down one of the Packers,” he continued with a chuckle. “But I wrote down Fran Tarkenton, No. 10 with the Vikings. Scramblin’ Fran. My parents came home, and my mom wanted to ask me like nine million things about school, and the only thing my dad wanted to know was, ‘Why in the world would you have a Viking as your favorite player instead of a Packer?’ ”

Whitsitt said he was amazed that a letter written by his father in 1978 would still be in Grant’s office nearly 40 years later.

According to Whitsitt, it gave a glimpse into the type of person Grant was and continues to be.

“My dad told me that Bud Grant in high school – and certainly later on when he got drafted in just about every sport imaginable – back in high school, Bud was all-everything."

“He was one of those guys that continued to be all-everything all the way through the professional level, and I can honestly tell you that I never had a chance to meet him," Whitsitt added. “I would have loved to have met him, but I certainly followed his career like you wouldn’t believe.”

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