Science Hill’s Toby Patton won the 100 meters at the state meet as a junior in 1992. He held his own in the John Exum Parkway Invitational, too. Patton, who entertained Hilltoppers fans scoring touchdowns in blurs, entertained teammates Scotty Goines and Dana Whiteside while running beside a car.
“Scotty wanted to see just how fast he really was,” Whiteside said. “So we put him out of the car on John Exum Parkway. We got the car up to speed and he stayed with the car going uphill. He wanted to try a couple more times to see if he could beat us in the car. Unbelievable?
“When Toby played for North Side at the Boys Club, his mom never had to wash his uniform after the game because he literally never was tackled — never.”
Patton is one of 15 who will be inducted into the Science Hill Sports Hall of Fame today at 1 p.m. in the auditorium. Visit www.JohnsonCityPress. â€‰ com â€‰ for stories on each inductee.
Patton, who holds school records in the 100 (10.5) and 200 (21.5), often was untouched for Science Hill. He answered a Dobyns-Bennett kick return for a score by returning the ensuing kick for a TD in a ‘Toppers victory his senior season.
“We ended up winning that game by a blocked field goal at the end,” Patton said. “I think it was Gary Hampton that blocked it.”
Despite weighing 140 to 145 pounds at Science Hill, as well as in college at North Carolina, where he ran with Marion Jones and heard praise from Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse, Patton didn’t run scared.
“I remember in an Erwin game when I ended up tackled in the middle of a pile, and dude went for my eyes and rubbed my contact lense out,” Patton said, “Oh, I was so heated, and I jumped up arguing, and I was, like, by myself with three or four Erwin players. I turned around and my teammates were in the huddle, and I’m like, ‘Dudes, ain’t y’all gonna back me up?’”
Patton’s intensity was a good fit for assistant coaches like Mike Voitlein and Greg Stubbs.
“There were times Coach Stubbs would get on my butt and we really had some going at it, but I really respected Coach Stubbs,” Patton said. “Coach Stubbs was one of - I don’t want to say craziest - but I can remember times he would get in the backfield and act as if he had on football pads. I’d be thinking, ‘Coach Stubbs, you’re getting ready to get hurt.’ I mean he’d literally be participating in the physical contact part of it with no pads on.”
Patton was All-State as a return specialist. He had some returns called back, too. One was against Tennessee High after the Hilltoppers had executed assistant Randy Ferrell’s lateral play called “Florida State.” Odd things always seemed to happen against the Vikings. The only two games Patton remembers missing time with cramps were against them.
Whiteside recalls Patton missing nearly all of the Sullivan East game because he missed Tuesday’s practice to go watch Michael Jordan play an exhibition game in Knoxville. The penalty was 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 10 50-yard sprints and 10 100-yard sprints. It took the rest of the week before Patton decided to comply, and he did so before the East game.
“He was so tired some of the guys helped get all his equipment on the bus for him,” Whiteside said. “We for some crazy reason were having trouble putting East away. As part of Toby’s punishment, he didn’t start. He actually only played one play that night. It was a punt return he took back about 70-plus yards that propelled us to the win.”
Former Science Hill coach Bob May still chuckles thinking about Patton’s speed.
“He had wheels,” May said. “Nobody around here was gonna catch him.”
Patton always had a soft spot for North Carolina, which is why he ended up being a diminutive receiver in Mack Brown’s option attack instead of a wideout at Tennessee.
“Tennessee was Wide Receiver University then,” Patton said. “I probably should’ve gone there, but I’d always loved North Carolina.”
He lettered as a redshirt freshman in football and ran track.
“I had study hall with Marion Jones,” he said. “She was cool. Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse would call me ‘fearless,’ like, ‘Man, you’re the smallest dude out there. I don’t know how you do it. You get hit and jump back up like it ain’t no thing.’
“I can remember Jerry Stackhouse sitting in class and just drawing basketball’s all day long. I’m thinking, ‘Man, that’s all you’re doing - drawing basketballs?’”
One hit Patton absorbed came from linebacker Derrick Brooks on his first career catch at Florida State. And Patton bounced up talking.
“I was so nervous in that game that when I caught that ball my legs felt like weights,” he said. “I couldn’t get going. I looked at Derrick Brooks and said, ‘Man, if I was out here all the time, you would’ve never caught me.’”
Indeed, Patton said he clocked a 4.2 40 (hand-held time). He would’ve also won a state title in the 200 if not for Ramon Clay’s blistering 21.3. Patton’s 21.5 would’ve won the state each of the next 10 years.
Patton said track coach Ernest Hill was one of his favorite coaches at Science Hill. Hill also coached Patton in basketball and football in junior high.
“I’ll never forget at Liberty Bell,” Patton said, “I guess it was the first time Coach Hill was coaching - and we went to Kingsport and I scored five touchdowns and we won.”
Patton finished second in the 100 at the state as a freshman, third as a sophomore, first as a junior and an extremely disappointing second as a senior. He said there was no tape up at the finish and he leaned at the wrong line.
“That was very tough to take,” Patton said. “Scotty Goines was very instrumental in me winning it my junior year, because he was a senior that year and he really stepped his game up. It got to the point where I’m like, ‘At any given moment, this dude could really actually beat me.’ Our practices were very intense, because I didn’t ever want him to beat me - even in practice. I think we were like No. 1 and 2 in the conference.”
Hill sounds almost certain Patton could’ve won without a coach.
“You showed him how to get in the blocks and you show him how to run the race, and then after that it’s all up to fast-twitch muscles and stuff that he’s already got,” said Hill, who describes Patton as a great husband and great father. “You’ve got to be born with some stuff to run that fast. ? Toby called me when Usain Bolt broke that record. We just kept laughing. We couldn’t believe a human being could run as fast a Usain Bolt did.”
The laughter surely sounded just like it did when Whiteside and Goines were driving alongside Patton.