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The extract falls into three distinct parts. Read the first part of the story and say what Coach Rake looks to you
Coach Rake had asked three of his former players to deliver eulogies. Short ones, he had demanded in writing from his deathbed. The first was given by the Honorable Mike Hilliard, now a circuit court judge in a small town a hundred miles away. Unlike most of the former Spartans, he wore a suit, one with wrinkles, and a crooked bow tie. He grabbed the podium with both hands and didn’t need notes.
“I played on Coach Rake’s first team in 1958,” he began in a squeaky voice with a thick drawl. “The year before we had won three games and lost seven, which, back then, was considered a good season because we beat Porterville in our final game. The Coach left town and took his assistants with him, and for a while we weren’t sure we would find anyone to coach us. They hired this young guy named Eddie Rake, who wasn’t much older than we were. The first thing he told us was that we were
We broke camp with twenty-one players, twenty-one kids who’d never been in such great shape. We were small and slow and didn’t have a quarterback, but we were convinced. Our first game was at home against Fulton, a team that had embarrassed us the year before. I’m sure some of you remember it. We led twenty to nothing at halftime and Rake cussed us because we’d made some mistakes. His genius was simple — stick to the basics, and work nonstop until you can execute them perfectly. Lessons I have never forgotten. We won the game, and we were celebrating in the locker room when Rake walked in and told us to shut up. Evidently our execution had not been perfect. He told us to keep our gear on, and after the crowd left we came back to this field and practiced until midnight. We ran two plays until all eleven guys got everything perfect. Our girlfriends were waiting. Our parents were waiting. It was nice to win the game, but folks were beginning to think Coach Rake was crazy. The players already knew it.
We won eight games that year, lost only two, and the legend of Eddie Rake was born. My senior year we lost one game, then in 1960 Coach Rake had his first undefeated season. I was away at college and
“On the walls of my cluttered office hang the photos of all thirty-four of Rake’s teams. He would send me a picture of the team every year. Often, when I should be working, I’ll light my pipe and stand before them and look at the faces of all the young men he coached. Skinny white boys in the 1950s, with crew cuts and innocent smiles. Shaggier ones in the 1960s, fewer smiles, determined looks, you can almost see the ominous clouds of war and civil rights in their faces. Black and white players smiling together in the seventies and eighties, much bigger kids, with fancier uniforms, some were the sons of boys I played with. I know that every player looking down from my walls was indelibly touched by Eddie Rake. They ran the same plays, heard the same pep talks, got the same lectures, endured the same brutal drills in August. And every one of us at some time became convinced that we truly hated Eddie Rake. But then we were gone. Our pictures hang on the walls, and we spend the rest of our lives hearing the sound of his voice in the locker room, longing for the days when we called him Coach.”
“Most of those faces are here today. Slightly older, grayer, some a bit heavier. All sadder as we say good-bye to Coach Rake. And why do we care ? Why are we here ? Why are the stands once again filled and overflowing ? Well, I will tell you why.”
“Few of us will ever do anything that will be recognized and remembered by more than a handful of people. We are not great. We may be good, honest, fair, hardworking, loyal, kind, generous, and very decent, or we may be otherwise. But we are not considered great. Greatness comes along so rarely that when we see it we want to touch it. Eddie Rake allowed us, players and fans, to touch greatness, to be a part of it. He was a great coach who built a great program and a great tradition and gave us all something great, something we will always cherish. Hopefully, most of us will live long happy lives, but we will never again be this close to greatness. That’s why we’re here.”
“Whether you loved Eddie Rake or you didn’t, you cannot deny his greatness. He was the finest man I’ve ever met. My happiest memories are of wearing the green jersey and playing for him on this field. I long for those days. I can hear his voice, feel his wrath, smell his sweat, see his pride. I will always miss the great Eddie Rake.” He paused, then bowed, and abruptly backed away from the microphone as a light, almost awkward applause crept through the crowd.
5. Comment on Coach Rake`s coaching principles as described by one of his former players.
1. The first thing he told us was that we were a bunch of losers, that losing is contagious, that if we thought we could lose with him then we could hit the door.
2. The practices were beyond brutal.
3. My mother told me later she felt like I was off at war. Unfortunately, I’ve seen war. And I would prefer it over Camp Rake.
4. His genius was simple — stick to the basics, and work nonstop until you can execute them perfectly.
5. When you play for Rake you join an exclusive little club, and you follow the teams that come behind you.
6. Our pictures hang on the walls, and we spend the rest of our lives hearing the sound of his voice in the locker room, longing for the days when we called him Coach.
7. Eddie Rake allowed us, players and fans, to touch greatness, to be a part of it.
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