So Many Characters

/So Many Characters

Herman “Half-Ton” Hickman.

A long-time Walker friend and associate, Hickman was an unusual mix of brains and brawn. As a Tennessee school boy, he won the shot put competition and the state oratorical contest in the same year, surely one most unlikely combos in scholastic history. As very grown man – Hickman packed 300 or more pounds on his 5-10 frame during the later part of his adult life – Hickman coached football, enjoyed a long and storied career as a professional wrestler, recited epic poetry from memory and was a founding member of an elite New York City literary supper club. He and Walker enjoyed each other’s company. Both men played the country bumpkin for all its was worth – Hickman’s customized license plate read, “HICK” – but were actually quite sharp. Hickman held a number of assistant coaching jobs before landing the head job at Yale in 1948. He didn’t excel there and left Yale for a lucrative career as TV host and celebrity.

Frank Howard

Coach Howard is a legend at Clemson University, where he coached for 30 years and helped establish the South Carolina college as a football school. Howard also left behind an enduring piece of Clemson tradition: Howard’s rock, a piece of white flint from Death Valley, Calif. that Clemson players rub for good luck as they head onto Frank Howard Field for home football games. … Howard and Walker had many ties. Both were Alabamans. Both had connections to Wallace Wade and Paul “Bear” Bryant. And, both had a taste for distilled spirits and ribald stories. It’s not clear just how close they were – the Clemson-Wake Forest football rivalry was quite heated while the two men coached those schools – but both during and after that time Walker and Howard spent social time together and even “toured” as a two-man after-dinner show which basically featured the two of them telling stories and insulting each other.

Herb Capozzi

Capozzi was a Canadian-born reserve lineman on several of Walker’s CFL teams in Montreal. He was not an especially gifted player and it appears Walker may have kept him on the squad for sport as much as anything. Capozzi was one of Walker’s regular whipping boys, a constant target for the coach’s ever-present needle. Walker always seemed to have a player or two like that on his teams, but Capozzi may have brought some of on himself. He was a smart aleck who was once caught by Walker imitating the coach’s Deep South drawl in front of the team. He was also a very ambitious individual who went on to make a lot of money in the hospitality business, to own professional sports franchies in football, hockey and soccer, and to gain election to the Canadian Parliament.