One of the things that is exciting to all of us, is to have been near greatness at some time in our life. This is why prominent figures are often besieged for autographs. The thrill of standing on the track at Wichita, Kan., watching Jim Ryan become the first high school athlete in history to run a mile under four minutes, is a special memory.
It's even more gratifying to watch someone whom people perceive to have limited talent, succeed in a big way.
Chet Douthit was a running back at Columbus and his biggest plus was his speed. In his senior year, he managed to run a ten-flat hundred at the Neodesha Invitational and jump more than 22 feet in the broad jump. but what Chet really wanted to do was play college football.
Several four year schools were contacted and one school even said, "those 165-pound running backs are a dime a dozen," and wouldn't give him an offer.
Chet left Columbus and went to Coffeyville Community College where he had a good two years and then on to Arkansas State where he started and was good enough to secure a try out with the Atlanta Falcons. Not bad for one of those "dime a dozen backs."
All through school, Chet was one of those people you couldn't help but like. He sat on the front row, listened to every word the teacher said, took notes diligently, then at best made a C or a B.
People used to say, "Poor Chet, he sure has a hard time."
What they didn't seem to understand was that poor Chet had developed some good work habits early in his life. It was those same habits that helped him keep succeeding.
After school, Chet moved from Columbus and ended up living at Truman Lake where he worked and guided other fishermen. I called him a couple of times, getting ready to fish Truman, hoping he could take me out, but each time he was fishing in a tournament somewhere else. When we traveled to the lake, I inquired in the bait shop if they knew Chet, and their reply was, "Yes, he's the best fisherman on the lake."
Before long we heard that Chet had moved to Florida to be a part of Roland Martin's fishing team and a year or so later we watched Chet fishing on national TV. Later I opened the Bass Pro catalog and there was a color picture of "poor" Chet promoting a particular brand of high quality fishing rod. Then the world series of Bass fishing, the Bass Master Classic, was completed, featuring the top 70 fishermen from across the United States. You can imagine the pleasure of opening up the paper and seeing that Chet Douthit placed third.
For all those students and teachers who worried about "poor" Chet, they don't have to worry any more. He seems to be doing OK.