You would have thought that May would have been warmer, but not on a Saturday in the mountains. My Dad dragged me out of the comforts of my post-high school recovery snooze to go to some alumni get together at a golf course about 30 minutes south of our Asheville home. It made sense at the time; I would be off to Wake Forest that Fall, my dream school, and my Dad, the consummate extrovert and golf lover, couldn't pass up a free lunch at a golf course.
We were tagged at the head of the line with name tags and scuttled through the buffet line under a crinkled white tent. We made small talk with the guests here and there. There were only a few on account that it had rained the night before and a fog had settled. There wasn't even a caterer to serve the food, so we helped ourselves to enormous platters of barbeque. To drink? Ice tea and lemonade of course. I amused myself by pouring my clear plastic cup with a classic Arnold Palmer, more for the occasion than my typical preference. A gentleman with white hair was just behind me, filling his plate and cup. Most everyone else there had someone to talk to, but he seemed a bit out of place. As we finished the line, I gave my Dad a look and ask the man to come sit with us. Poor guy, I thought, he must feel out of place at an event like this.
We sat down at a long table in the middle, with no one on either side. We talked a bit about the foul weather, exhausted pleasantries about the golf course looming behind the fog. Then silence. I noticed the man's name tag said 'Jim', so I took the first plunge and said, "So Jim, are you an alumni, or do you have a kid at Wake?" To which he replied, "Well, actually I am the new football coach." So what do you say to that? My Dad pipped up and asked him what program he had come from before coming to Wake. This led to an hour long conversation about our mutual background living in Ohio. As we conversed, I started to realize the immense contradiction being presented before me: here was a Division I coach who would command future NFL players having a private barbeque sandwich with me. I have to confess, I started to fumble with my thoughts as I talked. Jim was ever the steady rock. I believe I said something idiotic when we left like, "I'll be rooting for you", to which he just smiled a quiet smile and finished his lunch. He understood.
There was no speech given by Jim Grobe on that day. No boasters there to be schmoozed. Honestly, the guy probably didn't exchange more than four words with anyone else under that tent. But that day I got to have lunch with "Jim" the new football coach. Just me and my Dad. Regardless of the wins and loses, the ups and downs, the trouncing of FSU, and the disaster to Syracuse, for me he was just Jim; a quiet grey beard who liked barbeque. Thank you Jim for your service to my school and for your humility. You are going out exactly the way you came in; not with fanfare but with dignity. I raise an Arnold Palmer to you.