Bob Russell hasn't scored a basket in Columbia County since 1965.
That's when he was a senior on the Evans High School boys basketball team. He said that even then he wasn't worthy of an athlete spotlight.
"I wasn't a star or anything. I was just a bench warmer," he said. "I just loved sports."
Forty years later, he still loves sports. Now a teacher at Greenbrier High School, Russell serves as the business manager for the athletic department.
Though his physical ability can't begin to compare with a typical student highlighted in the Athlete Spotlight, he holds a certain sentimental value to the weekly sports feature.
For four years, Russell has saved the newspaper clipping of every Athlete Spotlight story written about a Greenbrier student. The stories and photos are cut out, laminated and hung in his classroom. At least 44 Athlete Spotlights circle the classroom like wallpaper.
"The kids love it. Stephanie Fransoso was so excited when she found out she was going to be in the Athlete Spotlight. She came running to me and said, 'I'm going to be on your wall,'" he said.
Fransoso, now a soccer player at Auburn, is one of a select few Columbia County athletes featured in two Athlete Spotlights during the course of their high school careers. Russell knows the story behind each student on his wall.
"Some I had in class. Most I did not," he said. "I tried to get them to sign it before I put it up."
The tradition goes back to Russell's teaching days at Evans High School.
"I did this at Evans, and I had a bunch of them back then," he said. "I had a huge room and it just went all the way around."
Russell's classroom at Greenbrier serves as an unofficial Wolfpack Hall of Fame. The oldest athlete spotlight on his wall dates back to Oct. 9, 2002, and features Lady Wolfpack softball players Jeni Massingale, Kristan Glover and Ashlee LaFontaine. Each girl signed their name on the laminated newspaper clipping.
Though the students love the attention, Russell remains behind the scenes. As Greenbrier's athletic business manager, he's in charge of the Wolfpack finances and game-day setup.
"He certainly makes mine and Garrett Black's job easier," Greenbrier athletic director Scott Chadwick said.
"Neither one of us is real thrilled about dealing with money. Actually, neither one of us handles the money in our own home. It's good to have Bob take care of that," he said.
Chadwick, Black and the Greenbrier athletic department will have to look for someone else to handle the finances next school year. Russell has announced his retirement from teaching after the 2006-07 school year.
"For my retirement, my wife gave me a cruise to Alaska," Russell said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to retire and go on cruises with my wife."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.