Pat Floyd played for the Newton County High School Lady Rams and was one of the best high school basketball players I’ve ever seen. She played when people thought girls needed to play three to a side. She could shoot the eyes out of it. I would purely love to have seen her play full court — and with a 3-point line.
When I was 6 years old, I seriously injured my eye. I got a nylon cord wrapped around my bicycle pedal, somehow, while stopped on the sidewalk near my house to watch the big kids play ball. Pat was one of the big kids. Three years older than me. My sister’s age. She was at bat. I was pulling on the cord. It snapped. Almost put my eye out. I assumed Pat had hit me with a line drive and went home and told that to my daddy. She hadn’t.
It took a year, but they fixed my eye.
One Halloween we were playing around on the front steps of our house and Pat Floyd accidently hit me with her elbow. It knocked my tooth loose. The crooked smile you see on the picture that accompanies this column is courtesy of that Halloween night accident.
When Pat started playing high school ball, I was one of her biggest fans and rode to lots and lots of games with her mother, Mrs. Marteal, and her daddy, Mr. Ed. I loved them both. Newton played a lot of games up toward Hall County back then, and we always stopped on the way home in Loganville, at a little place where Highway 78 intersects with Highway 81 that served the best hamburgers this side of Hester’s pool room. I was riding home with the Floyds one Friday night, listening to the AM radio on Mr. Ed’s Ford, when the space capsule caught fire on the launching pad at Cape Canaveral, killing three astronauts. The things we remember.
Pat grew up and became a physical education teacher. She might have started going by Patricia, then. When I was a freshman PE major at Georgia, she was a senior in college, and I ran into her at the state convention. When she found out that I was majoring in PE, primarily as a path to coaching, she gave me some sound advice. She said, “Please don’t be one of those guys that just rolls out a ball.” I tried hard not to be.
Pat became a great gymnastics coach and won several state championships at Tucker High. I haven’t seen her in a long time.
But she had a brother named Bobby, and early in my coaching career I had the privilege of coaching Bobby and his wife Kay’s son Robbie, at Cousins Middle School and Newton High. Robbie wasn’t very big, but he was a good little basketball player, a better baseball player, and an even better kid. I’m still sorry I kicked that water bucket over and splashed him in the face during that one half-time.
His folks were great parents, too. Several times I wanted to take the kids on my team on field trips of sorts. I remember we went to the Kentucky Sweet 16 basketball tournament and the Georgia-Kentucky Rex Robinson “Watch it, watch it, watch it — yeah, yeah, yeah football” football game, among other places. Bobby and Kay offered up their station wagon for a 22-year-old coach to drive time and again, without being asked, so that more kids could go.
What I’m trying to say here is that the Floyds were good people, and the whole family was part of that village that helped raise this little linthead boy back in the day.
Time goes by. Folks lose touch. I haven’t seen any of the Floyds in a long, long time, although Mrs. Marteal came to my book signings for as long as she lived — and she lived up into her 90s. Pat sent me word by a friend that she had passed, but I was out of town and didn’t make the funeral. I meant to try and call Pat and Bobby and tell them how sorry I was, but I don’t think I ever got around to it. You know how things go. The best laid plans and good intentions and the path to hell and all of that.
But I appreciate all of the Floyds. I really do, and I hope that they realize that, by osmosis if nothing else.
Now I told you that to tell you this. Last weekend I got to watch the Georgia baseball team sweep Georgia Tech in a three-game series. Georgia had a freshman infielder who was listed as being from Covington. He wears number 1. His name is Harrison. He goes by Buddy. Buddy Floyd.
Robbie and Marcy are his mama and daddy, Bobby and Kay his grandparents. Ed and Marteal would have been his great grandparents, and Patricia Floyd is his proud great aunt.
And I am Buddy Floyd’s new biggest fan. It’s a small world after all.