Breakfast With A Champion

It's not every day that one gets to have breakfast with a champion, but I had such an experience several days ago. I have known for sometime that Paul Severin, UNC's first two time all-american football player lived in Ashland near Richmond, but even though I have resided in Richmond for the last 30 years, our paths had not crossed. I decided it was time for that to change.

I telephoned Mr. Severin and explained who I was and asked if we could have breakfast sometime. I suggested the Golden Coral knowing that his son owns the Golden Corals in Richmond. He agreed but probably thought I was selling something since strangers don't call every day and ask if they can have breakfast with you without having an ulterior motive. You can tell from this statement that even though I have tried to prevent it, I have become somewhat cynical over the years.

We met at the Golden Coral in the far west end of Richmond, not very far from where I live.

My first impression of Mr. Severin was that he appeared to be in remarkably good physical shape. I didn't know how old he was but some simple math told me that he had to be in his early 80's. I can only hope I am fortunate enough to look as good as Mr. Severin if I reach his age. I would hate to break out of the huddle today and see him lined up on the defense against me. You could tell from his tan that he spends a great deal of time outdoors and he confirmed this fact and says he plays golf regularly.

We talked about some of his exploits at UNC and I showed him the UNC trading card with his picture on it and unbelievably, he had never seen it before. We talked about how it was at UNC back then and he told me something I had forgotten. I had mentioned that youngsters( under 50 ) were surprised when I told them that UNC used to wear navy blue jerseys in the 40's and he said his recollection is that the Heels often wore all white uniforms. His picture on the card is in an all white uniform and I do remember them. The Carolina or baby blue jerseys came in during the Justice era but I remember "Choo Choo" wearing both white and navy blue jerseys.

I knew that Jack Palance, the movie and television actor, had played on the same team as PS and he confirmed this. The list of UNC football lettermen does not include JP and I asked PS why. He said that JP told him while strolling the streets of New York City after Carolina had played Fordham at the Polo Grounds that he was going to "quit the team". PS did not give a reason for JP quitting the team and I neglected to ask the reason why. JP did say to PS that he (Severin) was "going to be a star". PS says he hears from JP every "now and then" and we both laughed about JP's doing push ups at the Oscar Awards ceremony several years ago. PS said he commented on JP's strength one day at football practice and JP said "You should see my daddy." Another interesting fact we discussed was that George Stirnweiss who played baseball with the Yankees and won the American League batting championship in 1945, played football at Carolina and was All-Southern Conference in 1938 and 1939.

We discussed the team during the period PS was in Chapel Hill and some of the plays that stood out in his memory. One that PS recalled with fondness was when he chased Steve Lach down in 1940 and made a game saving tackle to preserve a 6-3 Carolina win. Lach was the star of the Duke team that was undefeated, untied and unscored on in 1938 until they lost to Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl in the last two minutes, 7-3.

Mr. Severin coached football at Randolph Macon for 8 years and basketball for 1 year. I had forgotten that he was a 3 year letterman in basketball at Carolina. He pointed with pride to the fact that during the one year he did coach basketball, RM defeated the University of Richmond, no small feat for a school the size of Randy Mac.

We both enjoyed talking about his playing days and the Heels in general. He asked me what I thought about the current state of the football program and I told him. This was before we made our coaching change, and there is no need to go into that here. I have enough enemies. We agreed to meet again soon and I can't wait. Like I said, it's not every day you get to have breakfast with a champion. I may get to do it more than once.