I remember the first time I met Dale Anderson. It was the summer of 1993 and he had just been hired as the head football coach of brand new Southwestern High School.
Although he was a first-time head coach, he spoke with the confidence of a veteran. As we looked out over a cornfield off Oak Hill Road, he spoke of a future football palace.
In a few short years, he proved to be a visionary.
Through his personality, which was one part football coach, one part carnival barker, Anderson earned the trust of hundreds of players and parents in a very short time.
He was bombastic and charismatic.
Think of a slightly more humble Rex Ryan — minus the F bombs. That was Dale Anderson.
The Southwestern High football fraternity soon became more family than football team.
Over the years, I never viewed Anderson as much more than average as an X's and O's guy. He will never be remembered among the William Clarks, Ron and John Cains, Jay Cobbs or Johnny Hines of the community as a great football coach.
As a matter of fact, many will argue that his teams —especially in recent years — underachieved. In 1999, Anderson fielded one of the two most talented squads I ever covered. Led by the Gale Sayers-esque Scott Blair, the Warriors looked destined to compete for a state title. Instead they were upset in the first round of the playoffs.
But in terms of building a football program from scratch? In that regard, Anderson stands alone.
Anderson's legacy was tarnished last week with his abrupt resignation and a subsequent police investigation. All of that was quickly followed by a barrage of Internet rumors and innuendo.
Only time will tell if Anderson's legacy will be restored — or if it will splinter and collapse.
That is, however, just one man's legacy.
While Dale Anderson was unquestionably the architect of the Southwestern football program, he didn't construct it alone.
I remember the first couple of years when the Warrior team didn't have a true home game. They shared a field with Pulaski County. They practiced in a mudhole. Yet they won a couple of key district games and made the playoffs in Season 1.
They set the tone for future generations of Southwestern football teams.
They began a proud tradition.
A football temple rose from a cornfield off Oak Hill Road.
One man did not build it all by himself. It took the hard work of boosters, parents, administrators and assistant coaches.
But most importantly it took the blood, sweat and tears of every young man who has proudly worn that blue and orange uniform.
Their legacy is pure and honest. It can never be tarnished.
Jeff Neal can be reached at 451-4920 or firstname.lastname@example.org