I was looking up at Forrest Gregg speaking to a local crowd Monday and I kept thinking about seeds.
The seeds of greatness were sown early in Gregg. He took the hard path to make a better life for himself.
It’s no wonder he made it into the NFL Hall of Fame, because he’s a Hall of Fame person. A true living legend.
Gregg, 79, was sincere and humble before the crowd as he pointed out people in the audience he had not seen in decades. He not only knew their names, but where they were from and his connection to them.
The man legendary coach Vince Lombardi called “the finest player I ever coached” was relaxed and comfortable back in his native Hopkins County. Sure, a plaque was being dedicated in his honor from the Hall of Fame. But you got the feeling Gregg would have made the trip down memory lane just to see some familiar faces, tell a few stories and influence youngsters walking a path he once trod while at SSHS.
The band, football team, cheerleaders and many dignitaries including former pro, college teammates and players he coached were on-hand Monday for the event. Gregg was loving it.
Hall of Fame officials pointed out that of the 280 members of the Pro HOF, about 200 of them come from towns of 50,000 or less population. In other words, hard working country boys - like Gregg once was - occupy the hall.
Bill Bradford, longtime radio personality in Sulphur Springs, spoke about his connection with the football hero. He was telling of Gregg’s relationships and how the man won as a player and also beat cancer. He offered his own feelings about why Lombardi called Gregg the greatest.
“Forrest Gregg would never let you down,” Bradford said. “He was always there when you needed him.”
Bradford turned toward the football players assembled and told them that if they were looking for a personal hero, Gregg would be a good choice.
Gregg’s daughter told of how in 1949 her dad left the family farm to move to Sulphur Springs and play football. She told about what a tough decision it was for him to leave his native Birthright. But he had the seeds of greatness and desire for an education he could get through using his football talents.
Gregg thanked all those who helped him along the way. He recounted working jobs in the community and living in a garage apartment behind Mrs. Ashcroft’s house.
From there, he exchanged his football skills for a college education and was able to improve his life.
He told of attending and later coaching SMU and the strong connections with that institution.
He spoke to the students gathered at the Monday ceremony, telling them to take advantage of chances available and to get an education.
“Education gives you options,” Gregg said. “Follow your dream, I did.”
Gregg often paused while speaking and said he might get overwhelmed with emotion.
“This town, this school, all mean so much to me,” Gregg said to the crowd. “It’s touching you took the time out to honor an old farm kid from Birthright.”
Gregg might be retired, but he is still sowing the seeds of greatness.
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