Like so many high school kids, Johnnie Nabors had athletic talents but not a long line of college suitors during his senior year at Meadowcreek High School.
All he wanted that spring of 2005 was a chance. Enter Reggie Perry with just that.
Perry didn't even coach Nabors on the football field, but he was at the school in the spring after taking over for George Pugh. The coach couldn't help but notice this polite, hard-working kid in the weight room every day. He wasn't big for an outside linebacker at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, but he could run and every day he was working hard.
One day that kid, Nabors, walked up to Perry and asked for help finding a college. He didn't know what to do, just that he wanted to play football and run track at the college level.
The new Mustang coach then called in a favor to the Union College (Ky.) football coaches, assuring them that they were getting a kid without any discipline issues. They took Perry on his word and offered the chance Nabors needed.
"I knew he could run and he was a good kid, so I thought, let's find somebody to help this kid," Perry said. "He had those talents. He just needed somebody to take a chance on him and give him some financial assistance."
Nabors has taken that chance and run with it. Literally.
He played football for two seasons at Union and competed on the track team for two seasons, eventually determining he was most valuable to the college in the latter sport. So this season as a junior, he's focusing solely on track for the first time.
He already was an All-American last season, but this season he has the fastest NAIA 60-meter dash time (6.86 seconds) in the country. Not bad for a high school football player who competed in track for just one high school season. He has his sights on a national title.
"I can't really describe what (winning nationals) would be like," Nabors said. "From where I came from, it would be like a dream come true."
Nabors' success story touches Perry deeply. The Meadowcreek coach never dreamed of college when he was a kid, but someone gave him an opportunity to play college football. Now a guy who wasn't thinking about college has two post-graduate degrees and he's helping give others a chance.
This tale is a good lesson for anyone, namely aspiring
Don't give up on an eager kid. You'll be surprised what they do with a chance.
Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. His column appears on Thursdays.