My dad was raised by a single mother, which made him really independent, driven. He and my uncle were both boxers during high school, and they hid it from their mom. They were both very good, so they were supposed to fight each other in the championship. Somehow it got back to their mom, and she went down and dragged them out of there…she stopped it all! After high school, he played football at Oglethorpe University. Then he enlisted in the Navy and served in WWII on a destroyer. I think it really affected him…he never really wanted to talk about it much. When he got back from the war, he knew he wanted to be a football coach, so he started coaching high school in Decatur, Georgia. While he was there, he won several two state championships and was awarded state coach of the year. From there he moved to college. He coached at the University of Texas, Auburn University and Clemson University, where I was born. When I was about six years old, he went to the pros…the San Diego Chargers, where he was head coach for about a year and a half. He ended up going to the Washington Redskins and they played in Super Bowl VII vs. the Miami Dolphins, which is why I have this championship ring. I loved sports too, so I started to run track. I won a particular race by about 10 yards and I remember him coming up to me after and telling me all the things I had done wrong. That was him…he was his job…it was all-consuming for him. It seemed like our lives revolved around it…he always had to be a coach. But during the last few years of his life, he got dementia, and things were different. He was always telling me how proud he was of me…how much he loved me. If he were here today, I'd tell him how much I appreciate that and all of the things he did for me. He influenced my life and played a big part in who I am today.
-Mary Waller, Business Health