By Grant Overstake
My wife Claire and I are remembering the life of legendary KU Track and Field Coach Bob Timmons, who died August 4 at age 91.
Our lives were touched deeply by Timmie, who warmly welcomed us when we transferred to the University of Kansas in the winter of 1978. As 20-year-old newlyweds, we became the first married couple to compete for the track program.
Claire was a standout sprinter/hurdler for Coach Theo Hamilton and I competed for Timmie in the decathlon. I wasn’t good enough to make the team in any one event but earned a pink and blue uniform by doing 10 events moderately well.
In 1979, I’d placed 5th in the KU Relays decathlon and looked forward to my senior year. But I was forced to forgo my senior season in order to fulfill my scholarship obligations at the journalism school.
I remember crying in his office that day, heartbroken. Before practice, Timmie called me up in front of the entire squad and shook my hand.
“Now Grant isn’t the greatest athlete,” he said, to no one’s surprise. “But he is a great writer who could wind up writing for Sports Illustrated someday. He doesn’t want to leave us, but it’s time for him to do what he does best.”
With that blessing, he sent me on my way, feeling inspired. And in 1980, a feature article I wrote for the University Daily Kansan earned the William Randolph Hearst Award, the college version of the Pulitzer Prize.
On the track and in life, we knew Timmy wanted the highest and best for us.
That’s why we loved him.
Read more about the remarkable life of Coach Bob Timmons in The New York Times.