Looking back I am so glad my grandfather said that. I spent one of the most enjoyable afternoons of my life sitting back and listening to some of the stories that Rushton was willing to share with me.
Gil Rushton played for Clemson University and Frank Howard in the late 40s and early 50s. He was a member of two undefeated teams in 1948 and 1950.
As I was talking with Rushton, you could tell he had much respect for the late great Howard.
“ He was smart like a fox,” Rushton said. “And so competitive. It didn’t matter what we were doing, Coach Howard wanted to win. I remember we were playing in Orange Bowl and I had overrun a play. Their running back broke my containment and was running up the sideline. I was trying to chase him down, and as I am running after him I hear Coach Howard yelling, ‘If you don’t catch him you are gonna walk back to Clemson.’
“It stood as the longest play given up in the Orange Bowl for a long time. I’m glad somebody finally took that record!”
Rushton has fond memories of his Clemson years.
“I really enjoyed my time at Clemson,” Rushton said. “I lettered four years there and in the middle of that I went with General McArthur on a traveling football team. We traveled all over Korea.”
It was an experience he still cherishes.
After his playing days were over he began officiating high school games. One of the games he officiated was the 1957 Shrine Bowl. He officiated on the high school level until one day an official from the ACC called. Coach Howard had recommended him to become an ACC official.
He officiated 32 years in the ACC. He currently holds the record for being the longest tenured official in ACC history. He has officiated 12 bowl games. But one of his favorite memories happened at his very first ACC game.
“Maryland was playing and back then the coaches met at the middle of the field prior to the game,” Rushton said. “As Coach Jim Tatum went to shake my hand a big bee flew him and stung his hand. He yelled and said I have been stung by a lot of refs before but this is ridiculous.”
Another great story Rushton told me was about the 1977 Orange Bowl. Ohio State was playing Colorado. The University of Colorado’s mascot is this big buffalo named Ralphie. Before the game Rushton asked them if they would be able to handle that buffalo. After being assured they would, Rushton watched on as the buffalo charged out of the gate leading the players out. All of a sudden the handlers couldn’t handle the buffalo and he was loose.
“I jumped into the stands before they finally got a hold of him,” Rushton said. “I didn’t want any part of big Ralphie!”
Mr. Rushton married his high school sweetheart and former Miss Greenville. He has been in Easley since 1970. If you ever have a little time to hear some great stories, stop by and see him. Believe me my grandfather was right — it is worth the time.