I don’t think Pat Summerall realized how much he helped me in my career. And how much I appreciated what he did for me.
Pat, who died this week at 82, and I were friends. Not Christmas-card swapping, man-hugging friends, but more than professional acquaintances. I met Summerall shortly after I moved to Jacksonville in 1977 to work for the Times-Union. Pat, a native of Lake City, lived in Ponte Vedra Beach at the time. Our professions brought us together and his kindness sparked our friendship.
Pat was an established media star and I was still a young sports writer, but he always treated me like an old friend, an equal. While covering such major events as Super Bowls and Masters he introduced me to many sports and media stars, often inviting me to join him and others for nights on the town from New York to Miami to New Orleans to Los Angeles. Pat could enjoy a “night on the town” as well as anyone I’ve ever met. My relationship with Summerall gave me instant recognition and credibility with national media people and sports stars.
We also spent many Sunday nights in the fall in the Atlanta airport, awaiting our flights home from covering various games, and then sat together on the plane, sipping scotch. Believe it or not, I tried to keep quiet, opting instead to carefully listen to his stories and opinions. I learned a lot.
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