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'Whatchagot, Loran?': Sideline voice of Georgia Bulldogs helps THS boosters celebrate

Anyone who has listened to the famed college football radio voice of Larry Munson at the University of Georgia knows one of his greatest lines to his sideline friend, Loran Smith, is "Whatchagot, Loran."

Ralph Starling, a local banker and longtime supporter of the Thomson High School Booster Club, took time to remind those who might not have known it during his introduction of Mr. Smith as special guest speaker at the Booster Club's 11th Annual Awards Banquet in the school cafeteria last Friday night.

Prior to Mr. Smith addressing the estimated 150 people who attended the banquet, which included a catered meal from Neal's Barbecue in Thomson, Rick McCorkle, a member of the McDuffie County Board of Education and booster club member talked for a few minutes. Mr. McCorkle spoke about the Adam McCorkle/Tony Smith Scholarship - a part of which is named in memory of his son, who tragically was killed while playing in a recreational baseball game at Sweetwater Park several years ago.

The baseball/softball complex press box, which was built last year, is named after Rick and Cindy McCorkle's son. The other half of that scholarship is named in memory of Mr. Smith, a construction foreman for Two State Construction Company in Thomson and a former quarter on the football team and shortstop on the baseball team at Thomson High School. Mr. Smith died several years ago due to heart problems.

Legendary Georgia prep football Coach Luther Welsh, who still is recuperating from knee replacement surgery, was there and presented Casey Brooks as the recipient of the 2008 Adam McCorkle/Tony Smith Scholarship.

As class salutatorian, Casey has excelled in the classroom, as well as in two different sports while attending Thomson High School. Those sports include softball and soccer. She is the daughter of Michael and Donna Brooks of Thomson.

Mr. Starling, meanwhile, introduced the other scholarship award to Bob Brunson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Brunson of Thomson. That particular scholarship is known as the Mary Knox McNeill Memorial Scholarship. Mrs. McNeill died of cancer several years ago.

Another person honored by members of the school's booster club was Dr. Ed Grisham, a retired educator and former school superintendent of McDuffie County. Dr. Grisham thrilled many of those attending by singing a song he recorded several months ago about Thomson, which includes The Brickyard and the Bulldogs.

Mr. Starling later introduced Mr. Smith, an author of a number of books, a well-known public speaker and columnist for The Athens Banner Herald. For a number of years, he has been a part of one of the greatest college radio broadcast teams in America - working closely with Larry Munson, the play-by-play announcer for all home games involving the University of Georgia Bulldogs' football team.

Mr. Smith recalled a little history of his life - growing up on a farm in Johnson County near Wrightsville - where he played high school football for the late W.G. "Red" Bullock, who later became head football coach at Thomson High School. Mr. Smith, who weighed only 140 pounds, was a star football player and star track participant at Johnson County High School - the same school that graduated Hershel Walker - who became the greatest running back in history at the University of Georgia and helped the Bulldogs win the National Championship back in 1980. Mr. Walker also won the coveted Hiesman Trophy while attending school in Athens.

Coach Bullock, Mr. Smith recalled, had to talk the elder Mr. Smith into letting his son play football. "Red had an enormous charm," said Mr. Smith.

He also spoke about Danny Verdun Wheeler, a former standout football player at Thomson High School and the University of Georgia, who recently decided to finish earning his degree from UGA.

"I think it's great to see that Danny wanted to go back to school and get his degree," said Mr. Smith, noting that a degree is much more beneficial than signing to play professionally for $5 million or $10 million. "It's sad that most of them don't realize how beneficial that degree would be to them."

He praised Mr. Wheeler, Shaquille O'Neal and Joe Namath for pursuing their degrees.

Mr. Smith also talked about the importance of enthusiasm.

"Enthusiasm will take you a long way in life and you can never underscore that," added Mr. Smith.

He pointed out that he witnessed such enthusiasm just the other day when he talked with Atlanta Braves star right fielder Jeff Francoeur. "He has an unselfish enthusiasm and he demonstrates it."

Mr. Smith said Knowshon Moreno, the talented running back for the Georgia Bulldogs, has that same type of enthusiasm.

He went on to say that always has enjoyed his home state of Georgia and appreciated the good will and humor found in small towns.

One of the greatest football coaches he has ever known, the late Erk Russell, who coached at the University of Georgia and rekindled the football program at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, was praised for his humor.

"No one ever had a greater sense of humor than Erk," said Mr. Smith, saying that he's always enjoyed being around people with a good feel for a laugh or a joke.

He also said he loves a good story and wishes that he could read at least one book every week. His work prevents him from doing such, even though he openly admitted that he loves reading and advocates parents reading with their children more often.

Mr. Smith considers the lack of reading by society today as "evil." He encourages everyone to read more.

In closing remarks, Mr. Smith agreed that not everyone can be a star athlete or earn a lot of money, but that everyone is eligible for the "tiny" delights that life offers. He encouraged people to visit fun filled learning places like museums and to watch television and use cell telephones less often.

Web posted on Thursday, April 03, 2008

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