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Monthly Archives: January 2017

One of My Heroes……

Many of my stories are from when I was younger but as long as I have these memories I’ll consider relating the ones I find interesting.  This story is certainly about an interesting (actually incredible) guy I knew who was one of my early (and current) heroes from both an engineering and sports perspective.  We all have our heroes and Charley Johnson is one of mine.

I was in college at New Mexico State University.  The football team was the Aggies (we all were) because in the early days of NMSU it was an A&M (Agriculture and Mechanical) college.  Students learned about soils, cotton, cattle and other farming subjects.  It later became a great engineering college.

The quarterback of the football team during my first year there was Charley Johnson.  In 1960, he led the Aggies to an undefeated season and a national ranking.  He was that good.  I believe that was the only time the Aggies had this kind of success.  The other thing that impressed me; he was taking Chemical Engineering.  He was getting straight A’s.  A 4.0 grade point.  I had started my college career in Chemical Engineering so I knew it to be a difficult subject.  Although I loved chemistry, I changed from Chem E to Electrical Engineering in my sophomore year.  Not Johnson.  He took the Aggies to the Sun Bowl twice during his tenure at NMSU, winning both charley-johnson-3games.  He was selected as the MVP both times.  Impressive for anyone but incredible for an engineering major.  There’s more.

Johnson went on to the NFL, initially playing for the St. Louis Cardinals (football team), followed by the Houston Oilers.  Although he had a spotty record with these teams, he was picked up by the Denver Broncos in 1972.  He took over the starting assignment in 1973 and led the team to its first ever winning season in the 14 years of its existence.

As an active player in the NFL, be began studying for his master’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.  Night classes!  There’s more.  Johnson was in the United States Army Reserve and was called up to active duty during this period.  He was away from the team during the week as an artillery officer, flying back to the team on weekends, throwing touchdown passes.  He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1964 and 1965.  There’s more.NFL Historical Imagery

Johnson got his master’s degree and began studying for his Doctorate in Chemical Engineering.  He achieved this as well.  I heard he continued to get straight A’s.  Of course.

Later, Johnson went back to NMSU as the Department Head of the Chemical Engineering School and retired just a few years ago.  Amazingly, I heard this news while Arlyne and I were passing through Las Cruces (location of the NMSU campus) on our way to California.charley-johnson-quarterback-chemist

It is said of Charley Johnson that it is “unlikely we shall ever see this rare combination of accomplishments again.”  He showed how much one person can do if he puts his mind to it.

I actually recalled much of this story from personal observation but also borrowed some of it from Jim Saccomano’s* article, “Charley Johnson, the quarterbacking chemist.”

NOTE:  Jim Saccomano recently retired from the Denver Broncos as VP of Corporate Communications, after 36 years.

Thanks for reading my stuff,

Bob Draper

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Posted by on January 12, 2017 in Bird Lover

 

Closing the Circle

Recently, many readers of this blog have followed and commented on the story about my friend and colleague Steve Athan from so many years ago.  He died tragically in Yellowstone NP.  (see blogs from January 6, 2016 and July 13, 2016) Last year I was given an exceptional opportunity when I heard from Steve’s wife and daughter, 50 years later.  When I realized that Steve’s wife Felice still lived in California, I knew Arlyne and I were going to visit her.  I told Felice that we should have a cup of coffee together.

On a recent Sunday, she invited us for lunch at her house and we drove there.  Thanks Felice, for having us over.  As I said, I thought this was a truly unique opportunity to meet Steve Athan’s wife.  We both have our memories of Steve but had never met.  In my mind, our lunch with Felice was a chance to close a circle that has remained open for 50 years.  I told her she has always been the “imaginary” wife.  I always sort of wondered about her over the years.

She remarried sometime after Steve died and her second marriage lasted 40 years.  Incredible.  She and her second husband traveled the world a bit and it must have been a very good marriage.  Let me congratulate Felice for a continued great life in spite of some challenges, not the least of which is, of course, the passage of time.  It’s happening to all the rest of us as well.

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Felice and Me

She told me her marriage with her first husband, Steve, was “the best seven years of my life.”    I believe her of course because I knew Steve.

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Wedding Day

Felice allowed me to take a picture with her and permitted me to take a few pictures of her photo album.  This is my friend Steve Athan and I remember him well.  Most importantly, Felice (Athan) Hunter is no longer the imaginary woman and the circle (my circle) has closed.  I’m sorry that we’ve both aged (pretty well, actually) but we’re leading the way for the rest.    Thanks Felice,

Bob and Arlyne Draper

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  Felice and Steve Athan

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2017 in Bird Lover