On Saturday, which just happened to be April 1, I read a story in the New York Post about a 6-10 Michigan high school football freshman who wears size 23 shoes. Alas, he has no cleats.
Eric Kilburn Jr. is a defensive tackle who eats a lot and takes up considerable space. For some reason, teammates call him Big E.
The father, Eric Sr., thinks his son’s helmet and shoulder pads look a little too small. At 14, the lad is still growing – between football season and spring practice and double on weekends.
Big boy flashback: On April 1, 1974, a very different News-Sentinel published a story by Ted Riggs about a much larger basketball player signed by coach Ray Mears for the Volunteers.
Ah, yes, I remember it well – Ghrohueover Glhoehck, pronounced, more or less, Grover Glick. Riggs limited risks. He secured reluctant pre-approval from sports editor Tom Siler.
Former sports writer Roland Julian, side by side with Riggs for three or four decades, chuckled during creation and just happens to still have a 47-year-old newspaper clipping. God is good.
The headline: Vols sign 8-foot basketball whiz
The rest of the story …
Tennessee has signed its first eight-foot basketball player.
Coach Ray Mears, assisted by an old friend from Ohio, landed this prize on the Dark Continent of Africa.
Ghrohueover Glhoehck, roughly pronounced as “Grover Glick”, is 8-0 1/2 and has played four seasons with the Addis Ababa Sheiks, perennial champions of the Ethiopian Interscholastic League.
Addis Ababa has won 115 consecutive games, including a 122-91 triumph over the Mombasa Tigers in the Ethiopian-Kenya playoffs three weeks ago.
Grover scored 114 points in that one. His coach, Arlis W. Davison, said no rebound statistics were kept “but I would estimate, conservatively, that the boy had upwards of 75 retrieves.”
Glick also plays baseball and is a high jumper. He cleared 7-3 in the Gulf of Aden Invitational meet a week ago. A Pittsburgh Pirate scout in Uganda reportedly offered Glick, a first baseman, an $85,000 bonus contract, but Grover’s guardian would not hear to it.
Glick is a native Ethiopian but was reared in the home of a British nobleman, Lord Seward Albertine, an archaeologist who learned of the UT athletic-academic program through Martin Marrison.
Marrison was among Mears’ closest friends when he coached at Wittenberg College. The transplanted Ohioan now leads safaris in Africa for Manging, Haywood and Woolruff Ltd., a British land-holding company.
Grover G. also was offered scholarships by Oral Roberts University, Brigham Young, Xavier of Louisiana and Baylor, all contacting him through sports-minded missionaries.
“Grover played in one of the toughest leagues in East Africa,” said Mears. “He could start for us next season.”
Classwork at UT should be no problem for Grover G. He has been tutored since early boyhood by Will Bright, whose students have gone on to such institutions as Oxford, Case Tech and Southwestern Louisiana.
Ethiopians are understandably excited over Glick’s signing. The news media recognizes this and EGC (Ethiopian Broadcasting Company) will send its ace commentator, Jan Word, to UT next season to tape a play-by-play description of Grover’s debut. Harvin East, star sports writer for the Addis Ababa Sand Times, also will be here.
So, there you have it, Big Orange fans, an eight-footer for the Vols. Mark down the date of this historic signing – APRIL FOOL’S DAY, 1974.
All kidding aside, Tennessee fans celebrated. Mears caught on quickly and laughed off the spoof. Several coaches, including Joe B. Hall, who said the News-Sentinel is everywhere, called to ask what was going on in Knoxville, that Kentucky fans were complaining about the Vols gaining such a big advantage.
For children and other late arrivals, most of the names in the story were spinoffs and adjustments of UT sports people, old Vol A.W. Davis, assistant coach Stu Aberdeen, pillars of the university community Gus Manning, Haywood Harris and Bob Woodruff, even the great John Ward. You can guess who Harvin East was in real life.
Even with so many clues, dozens of readers wanted to know more about Ghrohueover Glhoehck.
The big freshman in Michigan is real. The Post has photos. In 1974, all we had was a terrific Bill Dyer illustration. Glick was so tall, he ran up and off the page.
Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is firstname.lastname@example.org.