The possibilities were endless.
Forty-nine years ago. Could it have been that long?
I could major in anything I wanted. But I took my folks' advice and decided to try lawyering. That's what my folks saw me as.
But it took only one-quarter of Political Science at USF (University of South Florida) for me to learn my future wasn't in a courtroom.
The Vietnam War was raging. I was in the draft that first year in college, in 1971. But my number was something like 222.
It was time to take things seriously.
And, if I was serious about anything in college, it was intramural sports.
I wasn't serious at first.
I played football, basketball, and softball during my freshman year. We had a good basketball team but sucked in the other sports.
That all changed the next year. I was still in DeSoto Hall but my roommate Willy Letaw and I got off the non-visitation floor. I don't even know if they offered it then.
While I didn't have a lot of friends as a freshman, it all changed as a sophomore. Instead of being on the second floor, we were on the twelfth floor, the highest floor for boys.
Girls had the 13th floor.
I wasn't a novice anymore. I started getting some confidence.
No, I still wasn't going to be a lawyer. I was gonna have fun.
As a freshman, I was a dork. I didn't have another girlfriend after my first GF broke up with me during Christmas break.
I felt like a dork because I was a dork.
But that summer a transformation too place.
I had a bunch of girlfriends that summer. I was still naïve but not quite as naïve as I had been. I'll get into girls later. I write this just to say that I had some confidence.
That second year I was in our room before Willy arrived.
My door was open, and I had Old Milwaukee beer cooling in the sink sitting on ice.
I greeted any possible friends with a cold beer.
The first to arrive were Dennis Kenney, Rick Mottern, and Mike Johnson. They entered USF as juniors, having attended Brevard Community College. And they all lived in Satellite Beach.
We became fast friends. We also became intramural teammates.
I was the coach and also played in just about any sport.
Since we lived in an off-campus dorm we didn't qualify for the dorm intramural league. There were also the fraternities. But we didn't qualify there either.
We were independents. We had our own league.
The school gave out four trophies at the end of each year.
We got points for every intramural sport we played but it took me until the second quarter to realize that if we entered every sport we might win the trophy.
There were five sports each trimester. One major one, like football, basketball, and softball. A couple of semi-major sports, like volleyball and wrestling. And several minor sports, like cross country and table tennis.
We got a trophy that year, but it was for sportsmanship.
Who wanted to be known as good sports?
We were all about winning.
We just didn't get into enough sports to get points for the overall trophy my sophomore season.
That changed my junior and senior years. We got the overall independent trophies both years.
I'll get back to intramurals in another post, like the time my brother Stan was the 190-pound independent wrestling champion.
But I want to jump ahead to my last season of intramural sports.
We almost always had good teams, maybe great teams. But we never won a school championship.
Well, I was part of a school championship team. It was in co-ed football. Not my strongest sport. But I was invited to play with a team that had really good girls on it.
We won it all my senior year. But it would have been better to win it in football, basketball, volleyball, or softball in the men's leagues.
We were always in the playoffs and made it to the semi-finals two years in a row for softball.
We also made it to the semis in volleyball.
But never the championship.
I had already graduated when I played my last season of softball.
It was in the summer, and instead of having 80 teams we probably had closer to 20.
Even though I graduated I got a job in the intramural office. I had a job in the intramural office during my senior year. I was in charge of softball and probably a couple of other sports. Since I was employed by the school I was able to play.
My team was a conglomeration of three different teams.
Dennis Kenney played on that team as did one of my roommates, Andy Cotellis. My catcher.
I forgot to mention we all had nicknames. That second year someone decided the name of the team should be the Penthouse Paupers because we were almost in the penthouse. As mentioned earlier, that was a girl's floor. That first season I wasn't in charge but that soon changed.
Like fraternities and dorms, we decided to get uniform shirts. I think they were powder blue, complete with nicknames on the back.
Dennis became Space. Rick Mottern was Beaver. Andy became Grog. And Jerry Gambito, probably the best intramural player in the school history, became Goomba.
I didn't yet have a nickname. Hey, I was enjoying being Rick instead of Rich or Richie.
But I needed a nickname for my shirt.
So, I went back to my high school days and used a name that was part of my high school journal that sophomore or junior year.
My journal started without a name. But soon I decided it needed something.
I started calling it Mr. Muldoon.
Then I gave it a first name, Harry Muldoon.
Finally, I had a contest to give it a middle name.
There were two names I was fond of and my journal was subsequently called Harry Rufus Coatsworth Muldoon.
Or Harry R.C. Muldoon for short.
Rufus became my nickname.
I wanted a nickname people would remember.
I became Rufus.
Everybody remembered Rufus. But that's another blog for another day.
The name stuck for a long time.
My wife Nancy's family called me Rufus for about 10 years. I don't know when Rufus became Rick again. Probably when I was trying to become more professional. But I can't remember when that happened.
Getting back to that softball team the summer after I graduated. We were good, really good. And we made it to the championship game. We should have won it all. But were only runners-up.
I wish I could remember some of the names on that team. We had some really good players on it.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the team's name.
We were Rufus' Restaurant.
We didn't vote on it. I was the coach. And I submitted the papers.
It was kind of funny because most of my teammates were heated rivals the two years prior.
It was really good to play on the same team as them.
Still, we lost that game, something like 2-0. So we went out drinking. We started singing songs from the Wizard of Oz. And it turned defeat into a sort of victory.
I can remember which character I was. Maybe the Lion or the Scarecrow.
But not Dorothy.
One of the best parts of that summer was when I asked the sports editor if I could write a softball column.
It was my first writing experience.
My byline: R. Rufus Reed.
The editor said he couldn't pay me, and I'm thinking, "I could have been paid for writing sports."
But that's also another blog for another day.
Still, the best part was the name of the team.
And I've resurrected Rufus' Restaurant over the years.
But that first squad became my favorite.
Author and historian Rick Reed has been writing about Florida's Lake and Sumter counties since 1991 in The Daily Commercial, The Lake Sentinel and Lake Magazine. His Reminisce column, which looks at local history in Lake and Sumter counties has appeared in The Daily Commercial since 1998. He served as the City curator of the Leesburg Historical Museum from 2003 to 2008 and wrote the Sesquicentennial History of Leesburg in 2008, a 240-plus page book of Leesburg’s history.