Kelly Parsons has checked in as a summer reporter for the Star Tribune sports staff. She has graduated as a North Carolina Tar Heel. Her hometown is Winston-Salem. She grew up reading Lenox Rawlings as the lead sports columnist for the Winston-Salem Journal.

I would guess that Kelly strives to be as thorough and knowledgeable in her work as was Lenox, before his retirement last year.

And faster. It would be great if Kelly would be faster than Lenox, who made doubly sure that every sentence said exactly what he wanted it to say ... and that took time. Tell Lenox that he had 30 minutes to write a column and he would write a fine one and make deadline. Tell him he had 3 hours, he would take 2 hours, 58 minutes and write a fine one.

Rawlings was also a Tar Heel -- as was his close friend Mark Whicker, now the long-serving and outstanding sports columnist for the Orange County Register. Early in his career, Whicker worked for the Journal in Winston-Salem.

All of this is a way to welcome Parsons with a favorite Whicker tale that concerns her home city of Winston-Salem (location of Wake Forest, which for decades was the football weakling of the ACC).

Whicker was attempting to interview Frank Howard, the very successful Clemson football coach from 1940 through 1969. He also was the athletic director before retiring from that in 1971. He remained a constant presence and holder of a large office in the athletic complex.

Bob Bradley, Clemson's sports information director, explained Howard's presence in the list of staff members thusly: Frank Howard..........Legend.

So, some time in the '70s, Whicker introduces himself to Howard as being from the Winston-Salem Journal, and Frank quickly says, "Oh, you from Wake Forest.''

Mark says, no, that while he works for Winston-Salem Journal, he went to college at North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

To which Howard responds, with a sympathetic gesture: "That's OK, boy. If I was from Wake Forest, I wouldn't admit it, either.''

I had a chance to interview Frank by phone in December 1985, before the Gophers played Clemson in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. I was writing columns for the St. Paul Dispatch, the afternoon paper. When I informed Frank of this in introducing myself, he said:

"The St. Paul DIS....Patch! Does that paper get out of the city limits, boy?''

Later, Frank asked, "What's your record up there?'' I relayed the info that the Gophers were 6-5.

"Yeah, we 6-5, too,'' The Legend said. "This ain't no bowl game. This is a battle of pissants.''

All in all, the best phone interview of my career.




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