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Famous footsteps: Hare met his share of well-known folks

Douglas Fritz • Apr 1, 2020 at 12:00 PM

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series about Frank Hare. Today’s article focuses on his playing days and crossing paths with famous people.

If Frank Hare played a game of “six degrees of separation” with most Northeast Tennessee folks, it would likely be hard to trump his collection.

From Pennsylvania to Arizona to Milligan College to Bluff City, the 74-year old Hare can share more than a handful of good stories.

The retired Sullivan East educator reflected back on life’s road that spanned part of the country.

GO WEST, YOUNG MAN

It was 1964 and Hare was a good football player for Central Dauphin High School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The defensive end and tight end caught the eye of Arizona State University’s Frank Kush, who had a pristine record of 46-13 in his first six seasons with the Sun Devils.

“I had been recruited by quite a few colleges across the country,” said Hare. “But my SAT scores weren’t good enough to get into a lot of them. Ohio and Pennsylvania were heavily recruited in those days, and Frank Kush was the from Windber in Pennsylvania. He had quite a few Pennsylvania boys on his team.”

Kush convinced Hare to make the cross country journey. He eventually won 176 games at Arizona State before an NFL stint with the Baltimore Colts (1982-83) and the first year of the Indianapolis Colts (1984).

REGGIE! REGGIE! REGGIE!

Also a freshmen with the 1964 Sun Devils’ football team was a defensive back named Reggie Jackson. Hare became a suite mate with Jackson.

“It wasn’t anything I did or didn’t do,” said Hare. “They just kept the Pennsylvania boys together. My roommate was from near Philly. Reggie was from a suburb of Philadelphia. It was a long way from home for all of us. We would get homesick and it was nice to talk to people from your area.”

Reggie was one of the big-time players Hare met before they were well known. But Reggie was still, well, Reggie.

“He had what most people would call cocky,” Hare said with a laugh. “He was very sure of himself. He was about 6-foot, 220 pounds. He was strong and solidly built, but he wasn’t anything special to look at.”

One day after football practice in the 110-degree heat, several players went over to watch the baseball team practice under Bobby Winkles — who would later go on to manage the California Angels and Oakland Athletics, the latter coming in 1977 and 1978 on the heels of their World Series heydays.

“We were watching batting practice that day, and Rick Monday was playing for Arizona State,” said Hare. “Monday was launching balls. He hit two or three moon shots.

“Reggie told Winkles, ‘I believe I can hit like that.’ Reggie found a wooden bat and the first one he hit was about eight feet high, straight on a line and it hit the fence. The next two were like watching a guy on the driving range in golf, hitting 320 feet down the middle of the fairway. Reggie put the bat down and walked away. He never said anything.”

A couple of years later, Hare ran into a former football teammate. Hare was unaware Jackson eventually switched sports thanks in part to that fateful day.

“He said, ‘Did you hear about Reggie? He’s with the A’s.’ ” Hare said. “I said, ‘The who?’ You’re kidding.’ I had thought of Reggie as a football player.”

NFL HALL OF FAMER

Another Arizona State teammate was Curley Culp.

“He was the NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion, so people didn’t want to mess with him,” said Hare. “He was 6-foot, 240 pounds, with no fat on his body and he shaved his head. He didn’t speak much and was a straight-A student.”

Culp went on to enjoy a 13-year NFL career with Kansas City, Houston and Detroit. In 2013, Culp was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“It was good to have him on the team,” said Hare. “One thing I learned about playing athletics: I learned what good was. I used to think I knew what good was. There were no slouches out there.”

Hare didn’t make it past his first year in Tempe, suffering a shoulder injury.

“I broke my shoulder and tore all of the ligaments,” Hare said. “I was only 18 years old, and my mom didn’t have the money to come out there. The doctor said it was better to have surgery because if I ever hurt it again, I could lose partial use of my arm.”

Football season was over and Hare went back home. At that point he had no intention of returning to college.

GLORY DAYS

Hare was a member of the Pennsylvania Big 33, a football team selected by sports writers across the state. Pennsylvania challenged other states to a game each year and this time it was Texas, coached by Bobby Layne with Doak Walker as his asssistant.

Layne and Walker would both go on to inductions into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as players.

The Big 33 Football Classic has become famous for its streak of having at least one former participant in all 54 Super Bowl games. The streak was extended this year by San Francisco defensive tackle Kevin Givens, place-kicker Robbie Gould, and Kansas City backup quarterback Chad Henne.

In 1964 — six years after the Big 33 began — it was the first meeting between Pennsylvania and Texas, a game many people said would determine the best state for high school football in America.

“The game was played in the summer after graduation,” said Hare. “Football was big back in those days, and there were about 20,000 people in the stands.”

Pennsylvania won by a score of 12-6, an outcome that didn’t sit well with Layne. He reportedly blamed the loss on not having all of Texas’ best players available for the contest. The next year, Texas officials changed the date of its North-South All-Star game so all of its top players could participate in the Big 33 contest. Texas won 26-10 in 1965.

CHAUMPING AT THE BIT

Hare played in another memorable game during his high school days.

Central Dauphin, a county school, took on Harrisburg city school John Harris in a battle that drew 15,000 fans. Harris was coached by George Chaump, a few years before he joined Woody Hayes’ staff at Ohio State. Chaump was also an assistant coach in the NFL with Tampa Bay. His head coaching career included stints at Marshall (1986-89) and Navy (1990-94).

Harris was 58-4 over six years at John Harris, and one of those losses was against Hare’s team.

“We won 21-13,” said Hare. “They had a lot of people who went on to play big-time football. It was a special game — one of the greatest athletic events in my whole life.”

NORTHEAST TENNESSEE

Hare was back in Harrisburg after leaving Arizona State when he ran into a high school friend.

“He was wearing a Milligan College sweatshirt, and I said, ‘Where is that?’ ” Hare said. “He told me I should go there.”

Hare wrote a letter to the school and eventually landed there. He made the basketball team and played four years, one under Duard Walker and three under a guy more known for his baseball coaching career: Harold Stout.

“I played with Tooney Cash and guys who could shoot the basketball,” Hare said.

Hare was quite the basketball player for the Buffaloes, who played a couple of seasons worth of home games at Happy Valley’s gym. Hare was one of the Buffaloes’ leading scorers, and in a game against Maryville College in 1966 he pulled down 19 rebounds.

Hare, who also played baseball and ran track, described his time at Milligan as being “like the stars lining up. I was along for the ride. Milligan was the right thing for me.”

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