TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
They built this city on high school sports.
And last weekend, the student athletes from the 1930s to 1960s at Corbin High School brought back the memories, the friendships and their legacy to an appreciative town.
The group was chronicled in a new book, “The Boys From Corbin — America’s Greatest Little Sports Town,” written by Bowling Green author Gary P. West.
The book was released for sale beginning at a reception Friday evening for the players and coaches at Edwards Gym on Frank Selvy Way.
Selvy, Rodger Bird, Jerry Smith and other Corbin High legends joined West in signing the book during the midday hours Saturday, at the gym.
The weekend was capped off Saturday evening when more than 200 athletes, their families and friends came to a banquet in their honor sponsored by the Redhound Varsity Club and held at Corbin Primary School.
They brought their wives, their children and their grandchildren. And they brought with them a following of fans.
Many people noticed that.
Corbin Independent Schools’ Superintendent Ed McNeel certainly did, as he thanked the athletes for raising the bar during their time at Corbin High.
“That drive for excellence was here then, and it’s here today. Thank you for coming and setting the standards. We’re still following them,” he said.
Some of the players during that “golden age” of Corbin sports spoke about their time in school. Corbin High and UK football standout Rodger Bird pointed out a few things to the audience.
“There was no silver spoon in our families (talking about the Bird and Selvy families). Just good athletes. … When (former UK and Alabama head football coach) Paul “Bear” Bryant was once asked to define the word ‘class,’ he told a reporter, ‘I can’t define class. I recognize class.’ … And someone asked me when I played, ‘What would you rather do, hunt or play football?’ I told them, ‘You know what I like to do. You don’t have to practice to hunt,” said Bird.
Roger’s brother, Jerry Bird, had a son who played for Eastern Kentucky University in the 1970s. While Steve Bird didn’t play during the glory days, his presence was noticed. And he gratefully acknowledged his family and city roots.
“I was molded by the people of Corbin. I could always count on Corbin for advice. You have to understand when you put that uniform on, you not only represent your family, you represent Corbin. You carry that pride wherever you go. We’ll always have that pride of who we are,” Steve said to the crowd.
The crowd also warmed up to the legendary head football coach at Eastern Kentucky University, Roy Kidd.
It was quite a moment for the former Corbin kid who grew up on the street that would later be named after him.
“I was proud to be one of ‘The Boys.’ When I grew up on Center Street, I’d go to the football field and watch ‘em practice. When I was in grade school, Corbin High had some players. I mean ‘players.’ As far as I’m concerned, that was when the tradition began,” Kidd said.
When Kidd finished, he got a large round of applause from his teammates and friends.
“I learned a lot about football, and a lot about living in Corbin. We played together, we worked together. It’s so good to come back and see so many people. It’s unreal how many football players and basketball players who came from here went on to college on a scholarship. …I’m a Redhound, and I will always be a Redhound,” he said.
Then author West came to the podium, he spoke volumes from the heart.
“Tonight, you could feel the emotion from the speakers here tonight. You could see it. You could hear it. You could experience it. …There’s a lot of depth in the talent this town has. … I have absolutely fallen in love with the people of this city. I don’t know of anybody who has a relationship with a city like the people of Corbin. This book is done. It is an extremely important part of my life,” he said.
Before leaving the podium, West passed along this final comment.
“I have passed your way, and forever you will be a part of my life.”
He returned to his seat to join his wife, Deborah, and was given a standing ovation.
Later, Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney gave West an honorary key to the city. Bill Hoover also gave West a gift — an official Corbin Redhounds jersey, with the number “1” on the back.
McBurney said after the banquet, “The event that happened this weekend was an event that will never happen again. Gary West’s book preserved that legacy forever. Now, generations to come will remember ‘The Boys From Corbin.’ It will always be here.”