By Tom Heck
Coaches Polston and Ward established the culture for winning at Rule High, but it was the Golden Bears, the players, that won the games. Rule players were a special group who worked hard year-round and laid it all on the line on Friday nights. James Gallman said, “When you talk to players from A-E, Fulton, Maryville or Alcoa they all remember what it was like to play RULE!”
Playing against Rule was like going to war. The first year I was at Rule, Coach Ward had me call a coach about playing a game the next year. The coach replied simply: no. His reasons were that we had a good chance to beat them and he KNEW we would BEAT them up. He knew how physical the Bears were and he wanted no part of the war. That was the Bears of the ’70s and ’80s; they did not back down. That work ethic and toughness brought the young men together.
Rule is a brotherhood. While talking with Mike and Eric Foxx about the brotherhood we discovered how many families played at Rule. You can start with the Helton family – Joel, Jerry and Ronnie who played and coached at Rule and then go through the incredible list of Golden Bear families below.
Foxx (Frank, Mike, Eric, Garland); Cofer (David, Mike, James, Joe); Hurst (Butch, Mike, Jeff, Joe) Gallman(Terry, Richard, James); Myers (Aaron, Eric); Barrett (Victor Ronald); Nelson(Tony, Vernon); Howell (James, Clarence, Ricky); Minor (Jeff, Terry); Styles (James, Andre, Tony); Lively (Charles, Phil, Tim); Washington (Garcia, Genio, Gilbert); Allen (Jimmy, Ricky); Davis (Chuck, David, Anthony). If we are missing anyone we are truly sorry.
When I was researching this article it struck me how often the Foxx name came up. I called Coach Ward and asked if there was a Foxx on every playoff team. There was a silence and then he said, “You know, you are right.” We had discovered that on every Rule playoff team there was a member of the Foxx family. Frank Foxx was the outstanding running back on the 1973 and 1974 teams. Big Mike Foxx was the dominant lineman on the 1976 team. Eric Foxx was a star running back on the 1980 State Runner Ups. Cousin Garland Foxx was a tackle and a true leader on the 1985 and 1987 teams.
Frank went on to wear the Orange at Tennessee. Frank is presently a security guard at the City-County Building. Big Mike was a Hall of Fame player at Alabama A & M and, in 1982, was honored as Model Student. Mike finished his working career as an educational assistant at Bearden Middle School. Eric had an outstanding career at Appalachian State and has been a fixture at Channel 10 in Knoxville for 31 years. Garland chose not to play in college and stayed in Knoxville to take care of his mother. I was fortunate to meet his stepdaughter at South-Doyle High School and could see the Foxx influence in her eyes. Garland unfortunately passed away leaving many friends.
The Foxx family is an amazing group, but they only represent the hundreds of Golden bears that proudly wore the blue and gold. Coach Ray Smith and I were talking about how we run into so many Golden Bears who are successful in life. When I speak to many of the Rule brotherhood they speak of the lessons learned from Coach Polston and Coach Ward on the Hill. Eric Foxx says, “Once a Golden Bear, always a Golden Bear!” That phrase describes the feeling that former players carry with them as they march through life. They remember those battles on the fields and the work that led to their success. So many of these men have told me how they have transferred the lessons learned as a Golden Bear to their children. Golden Bear Football still lives in all the men and their families.
Come out Friday night to celebrate Rule Football at the Fulton/Clinton Game. Go Golden Bears!