Consensus forming to induct Doctor Larry Long into the Hopkinsville Area Athletic Hall of Fame; Hall of Fame football coach, Dan Goble, leading the charge!
For twenty years or so, Doctor Larry Long paced the sidelines on Friday nights in Hopkinsville, Kentucky caring for and treating both a program and its players. Through decades of service, and five different coaching regimes, Doc Long has been the constant on which the Tiger faithful, and its football players and coaches, could always count. Doc would never accept nor even request any payment for his immeasurable service. Now the program has a chance to reward both his loyalty and commitment. Will they?Fletcher W. Long, KPGFootball Senior Scout
Doc Long stories around Hopkinsville High School football are myriad and equally legendary. Doc Long was around 6’5,” in his heyday, with a lengthy wingspan and gangly legs which seemed to go on forever dangling from his hip joints.
He had many different nicknames. The coaches and players, for twenty or so years, called him “Doc.” Of course, “Doc” wasn’t a nickname.
Doc Long was (and still is) a practicing physician, a board certified Radiologist, and a Fellow in the American College of Radiology. The nickname, “Doc,” was both earned and entirely legitimate.
Doc’s oldest friends called him, “Spider.” Watching him jog onto the field of play to render aid to a downed player supported his being referenced as “Spider.” He was virtually all appendages, both gangly and graceful, all at the same time.
There was a cheerleading sponsor and former member of the HHS faculty who called Doc Long, “High Pockets.” This was the cleverest of his pseudonyms and the nickname which most aptly described his leg proportions.
No matter what you called him…you could always call him. He would always come through.
When you needed to get taped before a big game, better call Doc Long. When you went down in practice and was hoping you could play this coming Friday night, better call Doc Long.
When a player was lying prostrate on the field, writhing in pain, better call Doc Long. When a player’s physical had expired and he needed a new one, and right away, to be eligible to compete, better call Doc Long.
Doc Long is 81-years young, chief of staff of the Caldwell County Medial Center, still practicing medicine, and still periodically performing physicals for Hoptown Tiger football players. People still call Doc Long. Old High Pockets still comes through, every time.
That is why we weren’t the least bit surprised to hear Coach Dan Goble, on the brink of his own induction into the KHSAA Hall of Fame as a football coach, recommended Doc Long for the Hopkinsville-area Athletic Hall of Fame. An exhibit will memorialize former Christian County and Hopkinsville High School greats and dignitaries down at the Stadium of Champions.
The committee is busy taking in pictures for the planned exhibit. Coach Goble would like Doc Long memorialized on the wall. Coach Goble thinks Doc Long has earned enshrinement. Who would know better than Coach Goble the level of achievement and diligence required to merit enshrinement in this or any other Hall of Fame?
“Doc was a fixture on that Hoptown sideline for around two decades and was there even before I was hired at Christian County,” Goble told KPGFootball. “Heck, I hear he’s still giving players who need it physicals. Doc Long doesn’t charge the school system one thin dime. Doc never has.”
Doc Long has never requested anything in return for his service to the program. Doc has just done it, out of kindness.
Doc Long was the team doctor before any of his children attended the school. He served the high school’s football program long after his children matriculated through its hallowed halls.
Former Tiger and Centre Colonel great, Andrew Self, was willing to be interviewed by KPGFootball about his memories of Doc Long. Self, now a respected and long-serving Circuit Judge in the Hopkinsville community, told KPGFootball this, “Doc Long was so much more than just our team physician. He knew and loved the game, but more importantly, he knew and loved us.”
Self continued, “Playing Paducah [Tilghman] my senior year, I made a catch on the sideline and slid into the bench. Before I could asses whether I was okay, somebody picked me up and practically threw me back into the huddle. It was Doc Long. He was ‘into it’ and a great encourager in every way.”
“I will always be grateful for his support for Hoptown football and for me,” Self concluded.
There is a funny story about how Long came to be the team doctor at Hopkinsville High and not Christian County. We have heard the story and believe it to be authentic and true.
Doctor Long moved to Hopkinsville in 1976 from Paris, Tennessee where he had been praticing Radiology. Long had initially agreed to be the team doctor for the cross-town Colonels.
Fleming Thornton was in his last year at the helm at HHS, had himself played college football for Clemson, and had learned the new doctor in town was a Tennessee, “Big Orange” fan. Thornton stopped by the hospital to see the doctor he had learned was joining the Colonel forces as its team physician.
Coach Thornton chatted up Doc Long and asked him to come by the Hoptown block house (as it was regularly called). When Doc Long got to the block house, Thornton had every locker dressed out with Hoptown’s orange jerseys with the black shoulder stripes and “Tiger Paw” on the shoulders.
You see, Tennessee wasn’t the only football team whose fans used the battle cry, “Go Big Orange.”
As the story goes, Long walked into the locker room and saw it as above described. Thornton, with a twinkle in his eye, said, “Hey Doc, how are you going to pull against The Big Orange?”
Thornton had his man. Doc Long resigned from his post at Christian County and agreed to be the team physician for Hoptown’s “Big Orange.”
Long was the Team Doctor for Thornton’s last season, all of Coach Dan Sundberg’s seasons, all of Coach Mike Lewis’s seasons, and a lion’s share of Coach Craig Clayton’s first stint at the helm from Clayton’s hiring in 1986 until his leaving for Franklin, Tennessee at the end of 2004.
There was another really funny story about Doc Long while Craig Clayton’s team physician late in Clayton’s first stint at the Tiger helm. The referees were giving the Tigers a hard time and Doc was visibly upset about some of the calls.
The side judge was trotting past Doc Long, when Long decided to let him know just what he thought. Doc told the side judge, “You know what your problem is Mr. Referee? It’s pretty obvious you never played this game!”
The side judge looked at Doc and said, “You know what else I haven’t done before tonight? Throw a flag on a team’s doctor. You keep it up Doc, and you’ll be my first.”
Clayton ran down the sideline to Doc Long and said, “Dang Doc, give it a rest. I can’t have you getting thrown out of the game.”
Trust us when we say this…there are a thousand Doc Long stories woven into Tiger football lore. Each one of them more interesting than the last.
Doc Long, though not the regular team physician presently, as that post is being filled by Dr. David Bealle, still performs the occasional physical. When a kid is in a pinch and needs to be cleared for play, they are still calling on Doc Long.
Does this make him Hall of Fame material? It does in my book. It should in yours.
This is Coach HB Lyon, reporting for KPGFootball, and we’re JUST CALLING IT LIKE WE SEE IT!
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