Today I learned the only thing harder than immediately taking a liking to a guy named "Hokie" is saying goodbye. Close friends for over 30 years, Hokie and I journeyed into the Gulf of Mexico, backwater swamps and marshes, sand beaches, bayous, cactus patches, and more importantly - into each other's personal lives.
Although he was a frequent and favorite co-host of mine, I'll leave praising his sports and broadcasting achievements to others. He was to me one of the most humble, generous and caring individuals I've ever known.
Best known for his "toughness," I had the opportunity to know the man who patiently allowed his "family of women" as he described them, to get away with what no linebacker ever could. Picture this - the same guy who lowered his shoulder to get across the goal line softly singing the Barney theme song to his grandchildren. Or having a close friend's Downs Syndrome adult son worship him and allow him to sleep next to him like his child. When you lose a long time friend, so many stories from the past come to mind, its hard to pick a favorite. And believe me, there are many told by Hokie and about him that will be retold for many years to come.
I spoke to Hokie's eldest daughter, Jennifer, a short time before his death about the outpouring of support from friends and fans. We agreed that when bad things happen to people who have been good to other people their whole life, people are willing to do good things for that person - a lesson she says will be passed on to his grandchildren.
Hokie's family lost a wonderful husband, dad and paw-paw. Fans have lost a legendary athlete. Listeners have lost a knowledgeable, entertaining sportscaster. And I've lost one of the best buddies of my lifetime.