This is the story of Billy and Tony. It’s not a long story, mostly because if you know Tony, you know he’d lose interest in this if it were too long.
The two grew up in Northeast Texas … about 60 miles from one another. Both faced struggles through adolescence — divorces, not a lot of money, awkward 80s clothing (short shorts and knee-high socks). Both lived in po-dunk towns — Como and Ore City, Texas — and both attended mostly rural po-dunk high schools.
While neither knew each other through these first 18 years, both decided to attend Stephen F. Austin State University, where they spent their first semesters living just a hallway down from each other (again, without knowing each other).
It wasn’t until their sophomore years when the two men decided to join a fraternity — something you don’t expect a lot of poor kids from redneck towns to do. That’s possibly why they chose the fraternity they did — it was full of guys who cared more about girls, beer and friends than money, clothes and status.
Billy and Tony became quick friends, mostly because of their similar backgrounds, and in no time, they were getting into the kind of trouble my children will never hear about (until they’re 21 at least). The friendship went beyond school — they worked winters together at a factory, they worked graveyard shifts at gas stations and motels to get by in college and even lived near each other in Dallas for a short time.
One of them became a high school football coach, the other a newspaper reporter (covering high school sports at first). One of them soon became a head coach before he turned 30. The other ran his own daily newspaper before he was 30.
One of them took a high school coaching job in North Carolina … the other became a newspaper editor in North Carolina just a year later — a move that was purely coincidental.
Both have great families … both are achieving much more than some expected they ever would.
I bring up the story of Billy and Tony because tonight, those aformentioned high schools — Como-Pickton and Ore City — play each other for the first time in about 30 years in Texas. They never faced each other, despite being so close, when these guys went to school there. So tonight … for the first time, this friendship has a rivalry.
So all I have to say is Go Eagles.
That, and I’m proud of you, Tony.
P.S. I like you too, Greg … but you were from Houston, so that didn’t really fit in this story.