James Jones Column: My past keeps coming back

Published 5:36 am Wednesday, September 13, 2023

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I had no idea what I was walking into when I entered Memorial Stadium last Friday for the Selma-Demopolis showdown. I was looking to see who the Demopolis head coach was before the Tigers played Selma.

One of the players said it was Lance Tucker, and my heart skipped a beat.

Memories flashed through my mind. Suddenly, it was 1988 again and I was a freshman at Stillman College, struggling to make the transition from high school to college. I was too busy trying to figure out how a “B” student got a “D: for mid-term for English.

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Two days after turning 19, I sat in the stands at Woody Clements Stadium and watched a 13-year-old Lance Tucker lead Fayette County to a 33-0 rout over Holt, my alma mater. His father, Waldon Tucker, was the head coach.

Relief washed through me, knowing that I didn’t have to spend 60 minutes chasing Tucker. Whenever you played against Waldon Tucker coached teams, you always felt sore a couple days. Glad I didn’t get that chance.

The Tucker father and son duo did it again, beating Holt 28–18 at home. I just turned 20 and was still navigating my way through college.

Waldon Tucker remembered my high school coach, the late Woody Clements. They were good friends.

“Woody was a great coach and a great man,” Waldon said.

“Yes, he was,” I replied.

When I got my act together in college, I earned an internship with the Tuscaloosa News in 1990. As a sports correspondent for two years, some of my work involved Fayette County. It was fun and enjoyable spending part of that time keeping up with the Tuckers.

Waldon became one of the winningest high school coaches in the state. Over 37 years, his 322 wins ranked him fifth all time once. He coached Fayette County to a 1996 4A state title and Gordon to a 1980 title.

Lance Tucker has had a prestigious playing career.  He led the Tigers to 54 wins and still ranks among the state’s all-time leaders in completions (586), attempts (1,202), passing touchdowns (63) and career passing yards (8,173).

And Lance followed in his father’s footsteps as Fayette County head coach. In eight years, he won 76 games and led the Tigers to three state championship games.

So, on Friday, asked two Demopolis assistant coaches if the son was like his father?

Both nodded. Can’t say that I am surprised.

A perfect example came when the Tigers held a commanding lead over Selma in the fourth quarter. Demopolis recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Lance Tucker sent his backup players in for the conversion. The quarterback took a knee.

While some coaches would’ve kicked the extra point. Lance Tucker did what his father would – don’t run up the score.

It was great seeing Lance and Waldon Tucker again to relive fond football memories of me going from a boy to a man.