David Henry Lucas didn’t want to write an ordinary football book crammed with big game rehash.
“The 1960s were just such an interesting time to be young and involved in college,” said Lucas, a South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end from 1967-69. “So many things were happening. Civil Rights early in the ‘60s, the anti-war movement later. I wanted to appeal to different audiences. I didn’t want to limit myself to just football fans.”
“The Championship” is anything but typical. Conventionally, Lucas covers South Carolina’s build up to the 1969 Atlantic Coast Conference championship — still the Gamecocks’ only league title in football. Quarterback Tommy Suggs that season also led a Paul Dietzel-coached South Carolina team to the second of three straight wins over Clemson.
This insightful, deeply personal and refreshing memoir is also a terrific take on 1960s college life and culture clashes as witnessed by an International Studies major.
Lucas, 66, invites readers into his Bishopville home and on ultimate summer road trips — “dreamlike” drives to and from Alaska, where he worked as a temporary game warden.
“Alaska was just such a very romantic place,” Lucas said this week. “I watched John Wayne in ‘North to Alaska’ and never dreamed that within a few years I would have adventures of my own up there.”
Here’s that rare book with photos of touchdowns and sacks, plus harbor seals and grizzly bear claws and a football player’s 1962 Buick Special ragtop.
Dating with David
Lucas writes about some of his dates. One girl pleads for leniency when a Myrtle Beach police officer catches Lucas drinking beer outside The Pad nightclub. On one condition, the cop says.
“Yes, sir, what condition is that?” Lucas asks.
“The condition is that you beat Clemson this year.”
At the other end of the awkward social spectrum, Lucas finds himself on a first date with the daughter of Baptist missionaries that recently moved to Hartsville.
“She was tall with a great figure, black hair and a set of piercing blue eyes,” Lucas writes.
And too virtuous to enter a Bennettsville nightclub.
After telling Lucas he was “the worst person I’ve ever dated,” the girl demands a quick ride home.
“That was the last time I saw her,” Lucas laments, “but sometimes I wonder how her life turned out.”
Lucas isn’t a first-time author. He wrote a book about his successful fight against the South Carolina Coastal Council over two Isle of Palms properties that turned into a 1992 Supreme Court case. Lucas moved to Isle of Palms in 1979 to work as a contractor. He formed a partnership in 1984 that purchased the resort renamed Wild Dunes. Lucas moved back to Bishopville, where he raises horses.
“The Championship” made its debut in August. Lucas said he considered shopping the book to agents but settled on a self-publishing plan after market research confirmed his Gamecock-friendly audience was mostly confined to a small state. Editing help came from Lucas’ wife Martha, who has an English degree from Winthrop.
Contact Lucas via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for autographed copies of the book, which is also available at createspace.com and in bookstores.
The stolen game ball
Lucas has done a few signings around the state and hopes to connect with the Gamecock Club to arrange for more.
They’ll love the part about how Lucas ended up with a game ball from the 1969 ACC-title clinching victory at Wake Forest. A Deacons assistant coach was “casually walking back toward the dressing room tossing one of the game balls up in the air” when Lucas’ teammate Joe Wingard snuck up and intercepted. Wingard sprinted to the locker room and flipped the ball to Lucas. Years later, Lucas told Steve Spurrier the story and the Gamecocks head coach asked for the football, now included in a display case on campus.
Did you know Lucas sacked Ken Stabler four times in South Carolina’s 17-0 loss in Tuscaloosa in 1967?
Uniquely, Lucas includes loads of supplementary material.
Usually, authors quote from newspaper articles; “The Championship” includes entire articles cut and pasted into the pages. Lucas includes copied South Carolina football media guide pages from 1965, 1967, 1968 and 1969. “Gamecock Roost” reports are published in their entirety.
It makes for a strangely comprehensive look at a glorious, tumultuous stretch of Gamecock football history against a 1960s backdrop of protesting and Trans-Alaska road-tripping.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff