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Good morning. It’s Wednesday, September 19, 2018. On this date in 1957, the Florida State Seminoles football team went through a light practice. The season opener was in two days, and head coach Tom Nugent wanted the boys to be fresh against Furman on Saturday.

One of Nugent’s players on that 1957 team had been a star athlete at Palm Beach High School named Burt Leon Reynolds, a popular young man whom his classmates knew as “Buddy.”

Coach Nugent was known as a creative football mind. He’d developed the I-formation at VMI and brought it to Tallahassee. At both schools, as everywhere else in the South, Nugent’s teams were all-white. He didn’t challenge this orthodoxy, at least not then. But he knew better. Nugent had grown up in Massachusetts and been a star collegiate athlete in upstate New York. He’d been introduced to official segregation in the U.S. Army -- he’d been a captain during World War II -- but it didn’t sit right with him. At his next coaching stop, the University of Maryland, Tom Nugent made history by integrating his team, the first in the Atlantic Coast Conference to do so. The year was 1962. When he died, in 2006, this fact was barely mentioned. But his players at all three schools tipped their cap to their old coach.

“He put FSU on the map in the early years,” said Burt Reynolds. “He was an innovator who brought a whole new style of football with the I-formation. I love him and I’ll miss him.”

But “Buddy” Reynolds was destined to make his name off the gridiron. For that, he would need the guidance of another gifted educator.

I’ll relate that story in a moment. First, I’d direct you, as I do each weekday, to our front page, which aggregates an array of columns and stories spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors this morning, including the following:

* * *

Trump, Obama Hit the Trail -- for Better and for Worse. Sally Persons continues our “Stump of Approval” series with a look at the pros and cons for each party as the current president and his predecessor go to bat for their candidates. 

Energy and Information Infrastructure, Part 1: Bitcoins & Behemoth Datacenters. In RealClearEnergy, Mark Mills starts a new series by examining the next wave of electricity demand. 

American Consumers Reap the Benefits of Energy Technology. Also in RCE, Matthew Kandrach shows how evolving U.S. shale technologies benefit Americans.

Life-Changing Potential of 5G. In RealClearMarkets, Gary Shapiro explains how the upgrade means much more than just faster phones.

Cuba and the Half-Century Failure of Economic Sanctions. Also in RCM, Daniel Savickas argues that a pro-market approach by the U.S. would yield greater benefits than the long-standing embargo.

Anti-Liberal Zealotry, Part 2. In the second of a five-part RealClearPolicy series, Peter Berkowitz considers the challenges faced by American democracy as reflected in Patrick Deneen's recent book, "Why Liberalism Failed."

Multi-Employer Pension Hole Keeps Getting Deeper. Also in RCPolicy, Andrew G. Biggs takes issue with proposed legislation to rescue these retirement plans.

50 Must-Read Books, Categorized by State. In RealClearLife, Athena Wisotsky has this roundup.

* * *

Tom Nugent’s Florida State Seminoles would win their season opener in 1957, defeating Furman College, 27-7, at Doak Campbell Stadium. But it wasn’t to be a successful season. The team would lose its next three games and finish with a 4-6 record. The third of those consecutive losses, to North Carolina State, was a pivotal event in the life of Buddy Reynolds.

Recruited as a fleet-footed halfback, Reynolds had been a star on the 1954 freshman team. But he suffered a knee injury in his sophomore season and had it operated on. Then, while still recovering, he’d been in a car accident that resulted in the removal of his spleen and an operation on the other knee.

He was trying to show he still belonged on the field in 1957, but was never the same player. Late in the first half of the N.C. State game, playing defensive back, he gave up a touchdown -- the only score of the game. Nugent blamed Reynolds for a blown a coverage, but the young player knew that the truth was worse than that: He simply couldn’t run well enough anymore.

Benched by the coach, Reynolds decided to give up football. “I’m leaving because I’m not the ballplayer I was and I hate to see the hole open and I’m a step slower,” he told his roommates. “I’m going off to Hollywood and become a movie star.”

As Reynolds recalled, his friends should have “laughed hysterically.” Instead, they tried to be supportive. “Well,” they said, “call us when you do.”

Buddy Reynolds was certainly handsome enough to be a leading man in motion pictures. But where did he get the idea he was an actor? The answer is that it came from a man named Watson B. Duncan III, the drama teacher at Palm Beach Junior College. While recuperating from his injuries, Reynolds had taken a class from Duncan, who cast the young man as the lead in play called “Outward Bound.”

Duncan told Reynolds at the time that acting, and not football, was his calling. “You’re a nice man, Mr. Duncan,” Reynolds replied. “But you’re crazy as hell.”

“In the South, we have a saying: ‘No man is a man until his father tells him he is,’” Reynolds said many years later. “And if doesn’t tell you, you search and search for somebody who’s a man’s man to tell you.”

Burt Reynolds, who passed away earlier this month, didn’t have far to look. His dad, a cop who rose to the rank of police chief, may not have used the manhood rite-of-passage phrase Buddy was looking for, but it was Burton Milo Reynolds who encouraged his son to continue his studies and it was Watson Duncan -- not a “man’s man” but a Renaissance man -- who filled the educational void. 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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