Keeping A Tradition

Published 8:18am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bruce Long began playing football at T.R. Miller High School in 1937.
Thursday night, he was named the first member of the new M Club, a group of former lettermen at the school.
“There is a picture on the wall here in the fieldhouse and I am the only one that did not have shoulder pads and it was because I did not need them,” Long teased during the group’s first meeting at the T.R. Miller fieldhouse Thursay night.
Former player David Jennings organized the meeting.
“When David called me, it was just exciting to me to be affiliated with a group of T.R. Miller football players,” Long said. “I played four years and have two sons that played. T.R. Miller football to me has been great and I think every player will say the same thing.”
Jennings said the “M” club will be a social and working group for players, coaches, and managers of past T.R. Miller teams.
“Back during the summer I was talking to coach Riggs about the Miller football program in general, and we were talking about getting some more excitement and involvement in the program,” Jennings said. “I suggested that we start the M club. It was a club that was here when he was here in the 70s and then it disbanded. It’s not something you have to sign up and join. You are in if you played football at T.R. Miller due to the decisions you made here to play football.”
T.R. Miller has 599 career football wins as a school, No. 1 in the state regardless of classification, Jennings told the crowd of around 25 former players.
“There is a disconnect between the players within the program and that once you graduated, your time here was done,” Jennings said. “We have earned the right to have something different.”
Jennings said he hopes the group will meet at the field house on Fridays before football games for food and fellowship.
“You can bring your family, your children and see what you have been through,” he said. “Not all of us dressed here in the new facility or ran out of the tunnel here, but this is here because of the effort we gave and the ones who are not here. Each year we will have a spirit pack apparel with nice stuff, nice shirts, caps and other stuff.”
The annual meeting will be held at homecoming beginning this year. Former players can help mentor the current program to maybe come in a speak to the current team.
Jennings said he hopes new members will get the word out to former players by phone or e-mail.
“This homecoming, we will have the 1969, 1984, 1994 teams and that is three state champions here,” Jennings said. “On that day, we are going to have our first formal meeting and tailgate during the dead time before the game.”
Long, whose coach was Ben McCloud, said McCloud coached at Miller for five years and he is still living.
“He was the kind of guy who has some of the traits coach Riggs has but some that he does not have,” Long said. “He would kick your butt physically. I appreciated the call to come up here and be with this group. My last season was 1941 and I graduated in spring of 1942.”
Long joked that he hopes the group attracts a wide range of former players.
“Y’all get some more guys because I feel kind of lonely in here at my age with all these young guys,” he said. “T.R. Miller is so fortunate to get so many young kids in the program and your effort here, this is the kind of thing that is going to keep them coming.”
After the meeting, Jennings said he thought the M club meeting was successful.
“I feel really good about it as we had a nice crowd tonight and I am really looking forward to how many we have here in two weeks,” Jennings said. “I think we will have more than 100 and by the team the season rolls around I think it will be a really big deal and something positive for this program that we have really needed for a long time. I am excited. Mr. Long being here was amazing and that is just a drop in the bucket of what we have here. I believe the fact that he wants to be part of it and is fired up is amazing, and there are others out there that we are looking to reconnect with. Not only the players here in town that we have here, but in the world of technology that we have now, it is easy to get in touch with them. They are just a part of this as the ones here. We are really looking forward to making those connections over the week and the M club is going to be a really good thing for this program. This club is just for us. We earned it. Johntae (Brown) just graduated and he is a member just like Mr. Long is. There are no junior members.”
Riggs said he enjoys learning from former T.R. Miller players.
“A few years ago, we changed homecoming a little bit and a college team had brought their players back and I got the idea to do it one homecoming because that is a special time every year because so many people and players come back then,” Riggs said. “I learned a lot from the 1969 reunion, we had fun with that, so I think we can do something like that with this. That night, the players from that year walked out through the tunnel and players during the Tiger Walk and that was very emotional and they told me they liked that and that was the best part of the weekend for them.”
Riggs said he was pleased with the first M club meeting.
“You never know once you get people involved their feelings about things and here tonight, just from the group here tonight, this is going to be a good thing,” Riggs said. “It is going to be good for our players, good for our community and certainly good for football at Miller. I am really excited about this and hopefully we can put something together at homecoming to make all them feel welcome and get them back in the field house some. Not that we didn’t want them, we are just busy. I just think all this is going to be a great idea. We have some assets as for football and we don’t use them. Brewton is a special place and ya’ll are that asset. I think this will be something that will be really great.”

Former T.R. Miller players Yancy Jernigan and Thad Moore look at old photos and newspaper clippings at the T.R. Miller fieldhouse Thursday night during the first M Club meeting. Below, former player Bruce Long speaks to members of the group.

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