Fourth and Long Gone

Fourth and Long Gone

"Fourth and Long Gone" is a 1985 novel written by college football coaching legend Pepper Rodgers. Although fictional, it is a roman à clef based on true stories. Unlike more serious exposé-style sports fiction written by authors such as former Dallas Cowboys receiver Peter Gent, who authored the gritty "North Dallas Forty" and the darker "The Franchise", "Fourth and Long Gone" is more light-hearted and bawdy.

Plot summary

Charles Forrest "Buck" Lee is an assistant coach to the legendary Coach Buddy Shavers at the powerhouse West Alabama University in Evergreen, Alabama. Then Lee accepts the head coaching job at East Alabama University in Stanleyville, Alabama. The West Alabama Golden Hawks are the East Alabama Rattlers' bitter cross-state rival and have been historically dominant in their head-to-head matchups. In fact, the Hawks' last loss to the Rattlers was years earlier when Buck Lee was a young assistant.

In Shavers' mind, Lee is a traitor for taking the job.

But Buck Lee has a plan to beat West Alabama: sign a phenomenal star high school running back named Eaarnel Simpson. Simpson appears destined to win the Heisman Trophy and, as such, the head coaches at most of the big name colleges want him. But Coach Shavers is known as the master recruiter, so Buck Lee takes the sole responsibility of signing Simpson.

To do it, he uses a unique clique of assistant coaches, friends, and supporters who aid him in recruiting high school players, which, in one case, means that they have to recruit the domineering father of a quarterback prospect. When Buck Lee signs Eaarnel Simpson, he believes that he's finally one-upped Coach Shavers, but he has to defeat Shavers and West Alabama on the gridiron. However, Eaarnel Simpson is injured near the end of the season and can't play in the big game. A victory seems improbable, but they do defeat the Hawks and Buck Lee is named the Coach of the Year.

But the success comes at a price: his family leaves him.

Buck Lee

The Atlanta, Georgia-born Buck Lee has a fear of dogs and fear of flying, never voted in his life, and has a chronic jock itch problem. He's also got a beautiful wife named Gail and a son named Bucky.

The Eaarnel Simpson/Herschel Walker Comparison

Pepper Rodgers has claimed that Eaarnel Simpson is a direct reference to former University of Georgia running back Herschel Walker. The recruiting of Eaarnel Simpson parallels the recruiting of Walker. However, unlike Eaarnel Simpson, Herschel Walker didn't fracture his ankle in his freshman season. After his junior year, Walker left college and signed with Donald Trump's New Jersey Generals of the fledgling United States Football League. After the USFL folded three seasons later, Walker played for the National Football League's Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, and Philadelphia Eagles.

At 6'-1" and 225 pounds, Walker had the rare combination of size and great speed. However, his twelve-year professional career was seen by some as somewhat of a disappointment, and due to the cumulative effects of nagging injuries, he was relegated to part-time status in his final few seasons, usually as a third or fourth receiver. He finished his NFL career with 8,225 yards rushing and 512 receptions for 4,859 yards. Scoring-wise, he has 61 rushing touchdowns and 21 receiving touchdowns.

The colleges

Although the the rival schools, West Alabama and East Alabama are completely fictitious, it is possible that they are references to the University of Alabama, which is located in the western part of the state in Tuscaloosa and Auburn University, which is located in the eastern part of the state in Auburn. The two teams meet annually in the Iron Bowl. Alabama leads the series 38-31-1. The original name of Auburn University was East Alabama Male College.

External links

* [ Coach Pepper Rodgers' website]

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