Bill Althaus: Special Hall of Fame night filled with surprises
As I drove to North Kansas City High School Thursday evening to watch the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association BeYOUnion.com Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Football Game, it struck me how my career had come full circle.
Back in 1971, when I was a member of the Truman High School newspaper staff, the first game I ever covered was at North Kansas City. Now, 50 years later, I was going to be honored at halftime of the game, as the GKCFCA honored me as the first sports writer to be inducted into the group's Hall of Fame.
I was able to share the special night with my wife Stacy and some good friends, and the evening was capped by Grain Valley quarterback Cole Keller leading the Missouri squad to a come-from-behind 20-12 victory, earning him the Most Valuable Player Award.
It was the first time Stacy had seen Keller play, and he rewarded her with a performance that had a Hollywood script-type ending.
As Stacy and I walked to the field for the halftime ceremony, one of the first individuals to offer congratulations was Anthony Simone, the founder of the Simone Award, which is given to the top prep football player in the metro area each year.
Many years ago, I became the first sports writer to be honored by the Simone Committee, and a firm handshake and hug from Mr. Simone was a great way to kick off a special evening.
I was inducted along with two longtime friends, coaches and gentlemen I respect – former Blue Springs South coach Buddy Young and former Raymore-Peculiar coach Tom Kruse.
Buddy approached Stacy and said, "I'm the reason Bill came home so late after covering Blue Springs South games. I have the tendency to give long answers to his questions."
We shared a laugh as the evening continued.
"Mr. Althaus, congratulations on being inducted into the hall of fame," said former Raymore-Peculiar and University of Missouri great Chase Coffman, who spent seven years in the NFL and was honored as a former area high school great.
That certainly impressed me – and Stacy.
"He knew who you were?" asked Stacy.
He was inducted before me, and I had a wonderful conversation with Coffman, whose father Paul was a former tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. Chase's warmth made me feel like I had a made a new friend.
After we visited on the sidelines, we joined the other inductees at midfield, where I was greeted by current GKCFCA President David Allie at the 50-yard line. Individual and group photos were taken and Stacy and I were about to return to the stands when former Truman High School running back O.J. Simpson approached me.
"Congratulations Bill," said Simpson, who also played for Kansas City's arena team, the Phantoms. "I have to show you something."
He pulled out his cell phone and there was a photo of him and NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. Talk about a true Hollywood ending, Simpson was about to provide one.
"I'm playing Marshall Faulk in a movie about Kurt Warner," he said, referring to the film "American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story." "It's unbelievable. I'm on IMDB (Independent Movie Data Base) and have my Screen Actors Guild card! We filmed for about two months and it comes out in December. I'll keep you up to date on it."
Those are the moments that an evening like this so special, even though the day got off to a rough start that included a literal dog fight and a dead battery.
But the rest of the night was perfect – and the best was yet to come. On the car ride home Stacy said, "I can actually see better out of my eye."
She had undergone two cataract surgeries that left her with blurred vision. She could not drive and had trouble seeing her computer screen at work. We were praying for a miracle – and our prayers were answered.
It was the perfect end to a memorable evening.
One that I was blessed to share with friends, coaching associates and Stacy, my best friend over the past 39 years. It doesn't get much better than that.
Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC