’75 Rebel remains loyal OC supporter
Posted: Friday, August 17, 2012 10:32 am
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
Once a Rebel, always a Rebel.
“That’s my school,” insisted Steve Smith, a 1975 graduate of Obion County Central and still a loyal supporter and regular at Rebel home games since then.
A standout offensive lineman for the Rebel team that went 9-2 and won the Union City Civitan Bowl in the fall of ’74, Smith has made regular trips to Troy to follow Central’s gridiron fortunes despite living in Paducah as a Taco Bell franchise owner in western Kentucky the past 23 years.
The constant journeys home started even before that, when he was first a college student at Middle Tennessee State University, and continued when he held jobs in both Dyersburg and Nashville.
“I really wish more alumni would come back and support the program,” Smith, now 55, told The Messenger. “Football has given me so many fond memories and provided me with so many great relationships.”
He reminisced particularly about his senior season that still ranks as the best year — winning percentage-wise — in OCCHS history.
“We were just a bunch of country boys, but we’d hit you,” Smith laughed.
“We didn’t hit dummies in practice or go against air, we hit each other. We didn’t have any camps or conditioning practices in the summer, but I remember (assistant coach) Clint (Edmiston) and Billy Reeves had a couple of hay-hauling crews in the summer. That was our conditioning.”
That ’75 Rebel team that followed an 8-2 year the season before was coached by Charles Akers.
It featured 1,000-yard rusher Charlie Wilson, his backfield mates Joe Simpson and Tommy Cleek, and a two-quarterback system that included Ross Shelton and Brent Cary.
A tenacious offensive line consisted of Smith — described as a devastating downfield blocker in one Messenger story — Sam Edmiston, Steve Lee, Keith Kirk and Terry Council, among others.
Smith identified Simpson as the “heart” of the team, recalling that “he was 18 and worked through the co-op program at Goodyear from 11-7 every night.
He then came to school, went to football practice, went home and took a nap, and then back to work that night.
“Now that was wanting to play football there.”
Steven Lanham was two-way starter at end on that Central team and earned Defensive Most Valuable Player honors in the Civitan Bowl with a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the Rebs’ 34-6 triumph over Memphis Oakhaven at War Memorial Stadium.
The 56-year-old Lanham has remained a life-long resident of Obion County and has fond — if not specific memories — of his senior season at OCCHS.
“We were just out for fun, and football was fun,” he recalled. “They take it a whole lot more seriously now, but then, it was just an enjoyable time.”
Lanham said he still tries to attend “a game or two” every year at OC and escorted his father-in-law, Edmiston, last year when several past Rebel teams were honored.
As for Smith, he’s planning on again following “his school” in the coming season and beyond. He says the game mirrors life with its trials and triumphs, and he uses many lessons learned on the gridiron in his business.
“Football is the ultimate team game and, in life, you have to work with people to be successful,” he said. “Everybody has to pull together for a common goal.”
And Smith will never forget where he came from, nor where he learned those principles.