By Susan Barnes
There were an orange and white birthday cake for former Vol linebacker and college football Hall of Famer Steve Kiner, a stack of ice cream coupons from Mayfield Dairy’s Alan Owen, a long table full of friends at almost-world-famous Our Way meat and three in Decatur, Georgia, and too many tall tales of football conquests gone by to count.
Center stage was Walter Chadwick, legendary Vol tailback who was profiled in Tennessee Alumnus in 2008 in a story about his courageous struggle with a traumatic brain injury suffered in a 1971 car wreck. A collection of former teammates and Tennessee alumni or alumni wannabes (one faithful member is a Vanderbilt and Georgia grad) who provide friendship and support for the Vol great had gathered in the Atlanta suburb to celebrate another year of being Walter’s friends. And to draw inspiration from a man who has never given up.
Still leading Team Walter are Kiner, Ellen Morrison, and Marilyn Elrod, but since the original Alumnus article appeared two years ago, the support group has continued to expand.
New UT friends Sarah and Jeremy Adams had read the Alumnus article but didn’t know they were Walter’s neighbors until they saw him decked out in his orange shirt, riding his bicycle to the MARTA stop near his house. They stopped to speak to him, then met him again at the Atlanta alumni chapter’s Big Orange Caravan. Jeremy was part of the recent celebration that included teammates Jerry Holloway, Jim McDonald, and Mike Price, current assistant athletic trainer Chad Newman, as well as Mayfield’s Owen, who brought greetings (and ice cream coupons) from Scottie Mayfield himself.
Walter’s heart problems have improved; he has been well enough to travel to visit teammate Elliott Gammage and his Gibbs Hall housemother Ruth Anne Bacon. He visited his son John in Knoxville and met new Vol football coach Lane Kiffin.
In 2008 Walter hosted his first-ever party, a housewarming for his remodeled townhome that was a gift from Team Walter friends. Former coach Bill Battle attended, as did Walter’s brothers Don, Alan, and Dennis, another Vol great. Former Atlanta alumni chapter president Beverly Puckett was there, along with Vol speedster Sam Graddy, and many other friends from the Big Orange Nation.
There is always room for more players on the Team Walter roster, and Walter often “holds court” at Our Way on Wednesdays at noon. If you would like to join the group for a Walter Wednesday (and enjoy some great squash casserole), e-mail Ellen Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll come away smiling, just as Walter always does.