Bullet Bill Albans
I was looking through a list of UNC national champions the other day and I saw a name I hadn't seen in ages. Bill Albans from UNC was the national champion in the 220 yard low hurdles in 1950.
When I was in high school, I had a buddy who was 1 year ahead of me in school who went to UNC. I saw him frequently both socially and in connection with my job as copy boy for the Raleigh News and Observer. I and my friends were interested in hearing what college life was really like and this buddy started telling us about a wild man at Carolina from New Jersey who did the most outrageous things. We developed an appetite for these stories to the point that we would ask for a Bill Albans story immediately upon seeing our Carolina friend.
I am frustrated that I can't remember the stories themselves but age has a way of playing tricks on you. I remember the man, I remember the image of the man as a hell raiser but I can't remember exactly what he did to earn this image.
To appreciate this story, you have to consider the times. It was 1950 and what would have been considered wild then would be viewed today as normal behavior. Seems like somewhere in the back of my mind I remember my friend saying that Bullet Bill once went to class barefooted. We thought that was hilarious because we knew that anyone who dared do that sort of thing in our high school would be sent home immediately without much discussion. So I guess when it really gets down to it we were guilty of behavior that we later disliked so much as parents and that is aligning with anti-establishment forces. Little did I know what was coming down the pike in terms of attitudes towards authority and established norms.
I think Bullet Bill went out for football but I'm pretty sure he didn't letter. I know he didn't play much because he hit Chapel Hill when football was at its zenith. He might have be a star in high school but many a high school star found they were no match for the veterans who descended on UNC after World War II.
I wish I could remember some of the stories because it would be fun to laugh at how trivial his antics would seem today. Fortunately, I can remember a quote attributed to him when he lost the U.S. decathlon championship to Bob Mathias in 1950. My best recollection of what he said was "Here I am the best athlete in the history of America and I have to be born at the same time as Bob Mathias." We all laughed when we heard this, I guess because Bill Albans said it but when you think about it, it probably was true and it probably was a tremendous disappointment for Albans since he was leading Mathias until the final day. Somehow, the quote just didn't seem to fit Albans in our minds but maybe it was because we couldn't recognize that Albans was maturing and was being rather philosophical about things. We were more comfortable with his persona as a trouble maker and violator of convention, something most of us were unwilling to do.
Albans probably went on to a successful career, a wonderful marriage and today may even have great grand children. On the other had he might have continued to buck convention and lived a very different life from what I have described above. It sure would be nice to know which is correct or maybe some things are best left alone.