Special to the Herald-Tribune
Nevada Tiger Football has a lengthy and illustrious history. Last fall, NHS athletic director Kevin McKinley felt recognition of this history was long overdue. He sent a request to all Tiger football alumni. The invitation asked these past players to attend the first district football game and be recognized by the fans before the game.
Tigers from every imaginable age group were in attendance. There was a lot of hand shaking and back slapping in that room. It is hard to describe with mere words, but that room was filled with tremendous emotion. Those feelings only intensified when some of our oldest fellow Tigers were introduced.
When Kevin introduced Winston "Winnie" Baucom, he received a standing ovation from all the alumni Tigers. It was a special night for the former Tiger quarterback. You see, that Friday was Winnie's 90th birthday.
The gathering of Tiger alumni football players was a huge success, and one that I am sure will be repeated again. It was so successful that I think it just might become an annual event.
To honor past and present Tiger athletes, I have decided to write this first article, in what I hope will be a series of many. The goal of these stories is to tell Tiger fans of all ages the history of some of our great Tigers.
In the picture that accompanies this story, you will see "Winnie" Baucom, along with present-day NHS head football coach Wes Beachler and the present-day quarterback for the Tigers, Alex Payne.
Winnie and Alex share a special bond. They have both been Tiger quarterbacks. The only thing that separates them is 73 years. Here are their Tiger Tales.
Winston "Winnie" Baucom, was born in 1922. As a young student athlete, he played both football and basketball for NHS. He was the Tiger quarterback in the fall of 1939 and 1940. I scanned the Daily Mail copies from that fall of 1940. On the front page of almost every paper were headlines like, "Nazi bombers hit London for the 11th straight night!" Can you imagine the dread that teenagers back then must have felt, knowing what lay ahead in their young adult lives?
When we visited with Winnie at his home, he related some fond memories from those years. The old high school was located right behind the present-day post office. The football team would put on their uniforms at the school, then jog to the practice field beside present-day Logan Field.
He remembers that during hot weather, local fans would pull out their water hoses, so the players could have a water break on their trips to and from the field.
Winnie told us that the Lamar rivalry was a huge event back then. School did not start until after Labor Day, so the season ended much later. Nevada and Lamar often played their annual game on Thanksgiving afternoon. They even ran special trains for the visiting fans. Most fans planned their holiday turkey dinner for either before or right after the game.
After graduation, Winnie went into the military, as was the case for almost all young men in the World War II era. When he returned to Nevada, he worked for the United States Post Office from 1948 until he retired in 1977. Winnie and his wife, Phyliss, raised two daughters, Kerry and Marylynn.
I have known the Baucom family all of my life. Both Winnie and Phyliss were very active in a variety of youth oriented programs in Nevada. For a number of years, Winnie was the Little League Baseball coach for Flory's Pharmacy.
At the First Baptist Church, Winnie was the leader of a boys' group known as the Royal Ambassadors. Phyliss joined Winnie in his dedication to youth. For years, they were the sponsors for a Sunday night church group for teenagers. They often used some of Winnie's vacation time to take groups of church teens to summer camp.
This NHS Tiger has enjoyed a long and productive life. He was a great NHS student athlete, a wonderful family man, and perhaps most importantly, a volunteer youth program leader. In my mind and that of many others, Winston "Winnie" Baucom, is a shining symbol of what kind of people NHS has produced.
Alex Payne is the current quarterback for the Nevada Tigers. He is a 17-year-old junior, the son of Marty and Melissa Payne. Alex started playing Little League football in the third grade. He also plays baseball for the Tigers. Alex hopes to go into the medical field, with his first choice being pharmacy upon graduation.
Alex first saw action during his freshman year as a quarterback. This led to his receiving the Newcomer of the Year Award. In the spring, he was honored with the annual Kelly Bradham Award, which is given to the athlete who has had the most impact for his team that year. This past season, Alex was a member of the All Southwest Missouri team.
Alex told us how honored he was to be a part of the NHS Football team. He is especially proud of being a part of the turnaround our teams have enjoyed under the tutelage of Coach Beachler. He related that it made him really proud when he went places like the White Grill and fans from all ages, came up to offer their congratulations. I told him that NHS players have been receiving congratulations there since the place opened in 1938.
When the meeting at Winnie's home came to an end, I decided to stay for a little longer visit. It was at this point that Alex made a tremendous impression upon me. He stated, "I think I will stay a while longer and visit, too."
That action indicated a lot about this young man, and the current state of our young Tiger student-athletes. When you have a coach like Wes Beachler and players like Alex Payne, you know that our program is not only headed in the right direction, it is still capable of producing outstanding citizens, like Winnie and Alex.
I hope to meet more past and current Tiger athletes in the upcoming days. For you readers, take some time away from the recliner and the remote. There are some wonderful kids playing for our local NHS programs. Some things change, but Nevada Crimson and Gray Tigers are still producing great kids. Come out and support them.
Here is one last salute to Winnie and Alex. They are brother Tiger quarterbacks in whom we can all take pride.