I can't really remember the first time I met Coach Doug Pollard. He was in charge of Moravian's highly-successful track and field teams; he and Mark Will-Weber - the head cross country coach, assistant track coach, marathoner and editor at Runner's World - were the backbone of a very strong Greyhound long-distance program.
It was probably because he was looking for volunteers to help run home track meets. I was happy to pitch in with the field events, since I had thrown javelin and discus in high school with varying levels of failure.
At one invitational meet - my sophomore year, I believe - I was in charge of both events. Since he was essentially running the meet, he had little time to actually coach. He was up in the press box, making sure everything was on schedule.
Once jav was over, we moved almost immediately to discus. Coach Pollard, in the press box, made the first call for men's discus. Eighteen folks made their way to the cage.
"I knew you were going to have a late day," Coach Pollard told me, "when I saw that mass of humanity start moving toward discus."
The days always ran late, it seemed. I'd always end up like a lobster from being in the sun all day, never thinking the days would last as long as they did. Those Saturday nights were spent with lots of aloe.
But I never minded.
Coach Pollard, who died on Monday far too soon, was a man who earned your confidence quickly. Besides the track meets, I knew him from hanging around the athletic department. Though I'd knew I wasn't much good enough to go out for track - and thus, never did - I always knew he would be the second person (behind Scot Dapp, the head football coach) I would go talk to if shit ever really hit the fan.
He was always quick with a smile, but didn't hesitate to tell you what he saw as the truth.
When our offensive line coach, Gary Williams, left the program after my junior year, we found out that Coach Pollard would be serving as our position coach. That really had me looking forward to my senior season; I knew we were getting a known commodity. Even better, I knew we were getting someone we could trust.
Our pregame ritual was always the same and not unlike most college teams. Specialists - punters, kickers, holders, returners - went out first, followed by backs and receivers. Then the big guys came out. As a team, we all went through warm-up drills from sideline to sideline, stretched, and did some positional warm-ups.
The last game I ever played was at home against Muhlenberg on a crisp, sunny October day. It also provides me with my lasting memory of Coach Pollard.
After those positional warm-ups, we all gathered into a huddle for some inspirational words.
"For some of you guys," he started, "today will be the last time you'll ever put on pads. And that's a tough thing to deal with."
Hearing those words, it hit home. It was my last game. It was the last time I'd ever put on pads.
Still, I was on a football field. As overcome with emotion as I was, I held back the tears.
Kind of like I am now.
Thank you, Coach, for all you've done for our school. We'll all miss you terribly.