Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jeff Daniels' hike of the world famous Appalachian Trail remarkable feat

Jeff Daniels of Evergreen.
As hard as it is to believe, yesterday (Wednesday) marked the three-year anniversary of the death of the man who was arguably Conecuh County’s most accomplished athlete.

Many of you will remember that Evergreen’s Wayne Frazier passed away at the age of 73 on March 11, 2012, and many of you remember his football playing days at Evergreen High School, Auburn University and the NFL. Frazier, who was nicknamed “Cotton,” was a force to be reckoned with on the football field and was one of only a few football players who could say that they started in the very first Super Bowl.

After a stellar high school career at Evergreen High School and several standout seasons at Auburn University, Frazier played four seasons as a center in the AFL. He started his career with the San Diego Chargers and was later traded to the Houston Oilers. He went on to play for the Buffalo Bills and ended his career with the Kansas City Chiefs.

In 1966, Frazier and the Chiefs won the AFC championship, which earned them a spot in the very first Super Bowl.

The first Super Bowl was played on Jan. 15, 1967 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. The Chiefs played the Green Bay Packers. Other famous football players and coaches who participated in that game included Bill Curry, Jerry Kramer, Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Buck Buchanan, Ray Nitschke, Hank Stram and Vince Lombardi.

It’s said that when the players’ names were announced over the loudspeaker that day during the pre-game introductions, that Frazier’s name happened to be the very first one called out. If you stop and think about that, it’s pretty cool that a guy from Evergreen was the first player introduced at the very first Super Bowl.

After his playing days, Frazier coached high school football for a while, including a four-year stint at W.S. Neal High School in East Brewton. From 1980 to 1983, he posted three winning seasons, finishing with a 23-17 overall record during that time.

Fans of The Courant’s regular Sports Flashback feature will know that Frazier’s name is a regular in that weekly column. Frazier’s name appeared in the paper frequently over the years, and I suspect that the only name that showed up more was his former football coach, Wendell Hart. For those of you who knew Hart, that’s not bad company to be in.

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Tomorrow (Friday) also marks the four-year anniversary of the day that Jeff Daniels of Evergreen began his 2,181-mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Almost six months later, Daniels completed his trip, and in my opinion, this accomplishment is arguably the greatest outdoors feat ever accomplished by a Conecuh County resident.

I’ve also always been of the opinion that Daniels should have been more appropriately recognized by local officials for his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. From time to time, local governing bodies will issue proclamations in honor of citizens and their accomplishments, including local athletes. Often times, these accomplishments, while noteworthy, fall way short of Daniels’ thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, and it’s a shame that local officials missed the opportunity to recognize Daniels’ achievement.

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