Anthony sent out in style



Union is a better place because of Mike Anthony. That was the theme of a tribute dinner to honor Anthony, who retired as Union High School's head football coach in January. The event was held in the Union High School Cafetorium, filled with fans and well-wishers. A highlight of the evening was Anthony being honored as a Palmetto Patriot, among the state's highest honors.

School board member John Rampey read a letter from Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer to make it official. But the night was much more, with Anthony's former coach Bob Dunlap, Clemson star Kyle Browning and Gaffney offensive coordinator and former Jacket coach Greg Lawson among the guest speakers. Anthony, who won three championships as coach of the Yellow Jackets, tried to fight back the emotion. This is a difficult time for me, because of the love I have for the people in this audience, he said. I don't know why I'm standing here and you're honoring me. Why God gave me all this, I don't understand.

Dunlap, who coached Anthony in high school, said his pupil has the innate ability to communicate with young people. He talked about Anthony's senior year, 1967, when the Yellow Jackets went 8-3 and No. 55 was honored as all-conference offensive center. Anthony also was MVP for the baseball team that year, helping lead the team to a conference title and the upper-state title game. When Anthony decided he wanted to go to college and become a coach, he first turned to Dunlap  who joked that it only took Anthony a few years to forget his coaching philosophies and rise to the top of the profession. I'm so proud of you coach, said Dunlap. I'm thankful to God that He allowed you to pass my way.

Several coaches slated to speak  new Union coach Tommy Bobo, Gaffney coach Phil Strickland and Greer coach Travis Perry  were at a conference in Charleston and could not attend the tribute. Statements from Bobo and Perry were read. Lawson spoke in Strickland's stead. Coach Anthony helped me grow as a coach and a person, said Lawson, who left for Gaffney last year and helped lead the Indians to the state championship. He's the main reason I am where I am today. He gave me the opportunity. I missed you this past year my friend. I know the community will miss your leadership for the kids. Thanks for the memories.

Two former players spoke  Clemson's Kyle Browning and Justin Knox, who has signed to play football for the Citadel. (Coach Anthony) is a person willing to do whatever it took for the players, said Browning. He stayed on the college recruiters for me and finally Clemson offered a scholarship.

Knox, quarterback for the Yellow Jackets during the 2002 championship and during last year's playoff run, said he couldn't imagine being coached by anyone else. He said the most special time for him and the players was the devotion time before each game. (Anthony) is a great football coach, but more importantly he helped us become better people, said Knox.

Other speakers included former WBCU announcer Phil Hobbs, booster club leaders Roger Bailey and Brenda Lawson and county supervisor Donnie Betenbaugh. Food was provided by Midway Barbecue and dinner music by UHS student Josh Crocker. Two large screen televisions showed Anthony speaking with players in the locker room at Williams-Brice Stadium, before the 2002 championship game. A sign above the podium read: Tradition never graduates ... Tradition never retires. Thanks Coach Anthony and best wishes in the future.

Flower arrangements on the tables sported Union gold and black. WBCU organized the event, which also promoted Boogaloo Broadcasting Company  which produces local plays utilizing local talent. The tribute was broadcast by WBCU and S.C. Sports Talk, a statewide syndicated program. Anthony was given a plaque from WBCU and the community and a hat from the booster club. He was humble through it all.

When I stand before my Lord, I do not believe He will ask me how many state titles I have. What we do for our fellow man is what it's all about. Anthony said he wants one word engraved on his tombstone  blessed.

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