Former football player was unique example

March 16, 2014 at 4:01 p.m.
Updated March 15, 2014 at 10:16 p.m.

Editor, the Advocate:

The story of Leroy Key, 84, of Seadrift, who passed away March 6, deserves revisiting for folks not familiar with bygone years when Victoria College boasted a full-blown football program in Texas' then-crowded and rugged junior college ranks.

Arriving in Victoria in 1952 as a young sportswriter, I was two seasons too late to see him play. By many accounts from some who did, among them coaches, ex-coaches and players whose opinions counted, and supported by records in the Advocate's files, my old friend Leroy was one whale of a running back - likely VC's best ever - despite a tender knee. When we first met as retirees more than a decade ago, he recalled that after his two junior college seasons, he was courted by major college powers like Texas and LSU and was even invited to give the NFL a shot with the old Los Angeles Rams.

Instead, Leroy clung to a greater love: the coastal waters of Calhoun County. After a hitch in the military, he went home to a family background in the seafood industry and became a shrimper, something "you could do pretty good at then and be your own boss." Eventually, he needed other work, but his passions remained hunting, fishing and country music on his guitar and other strings.

I'd thought of Leroy several times earlier this year when Phil Robertson, patriarch of the bewhiskered Duck Dynasty TV clan, became controversial, and his college football history at Louisiana Tech drew wider attention. One tale goes - more or less confirmed here recently by ex-college teammate Terry Bradshaw, the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer - that young Phil was considered pro football material but wasn't interested. Hunting and fishing the Louisiana bayous was all he wanted. Improbably, Robertson's development of a patented duck call spawned a multimillion dollar business.

Leroy didn't make a million dollars. But he surely lived a rewarding life with a devoted wife, sharing his love of the coastal outdoors with sons and grandchildren, watching them succeed in high school sports, handcrafting most anything that needed building and offering his music for charity events.

Leroy Key - a good guy who did it his way.

Vince Reedy, Victoria



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