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Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
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Wake-Up Call: Alabama 'royalty' Hannah returns home

The Wake-Up Call greets you each weekday with news, views and a few Tampa Bay area sports offerings to anticipate for the day and night. We encourage suggestions and contributions. Good morning! Charley Hannah played 12 seasons in the NFL. He was part of three playoff teams with the Bucs - back when the creamsicle orange jerseys were considered cool - and started at left guard for the Los Angeles Raiders during their Super Bowl XVIII victory at Tampa Stadium. When Hannah does business around Tampa - he's vice president of Hannah-Bartoletta Homes, an upscale builder - football is an excellent icebreaker. After all, who can resist admiring a Super Bowl ring?
Lately, Hannah has been wearing another ring, the one for his induction into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on May 30. "Being honored like that, it was probably the most humbling experience I've ever had," said Hannah, 53. When the call came, Hannah was shocked. Eventually, the unexpected honor awakened the link to his football heritage, his years as an All-SEC lineman for the Alabama Crimson Tide and the enduring influence of Coach Bear Bryant. He also realized that although he has lived in Tampa for three decades, his heart never really left Alabama. Hannah said he was blown away by the memorable program. More than 1,000 people attended the ceremony at a Birmingham hotel ballroom. He said the Hall of Fame's commitment was evident after touring the 33,000-square-foot museum, complete with 5,000 artifacts. As Hannah studied some of the athletes already enshrined - Bear Bryant, Bo Jackson, Joe Louis, Willie Mays, Jesse Owens, Hank Aaron - he had an immediate question. "What in the world am I doing here?" But that was just a fleeting thought. Soon enough, he discovered the truth. He was home. The Hannah name is royalty in Alabama. His older brother, John, was an All-American guard and entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a distinguished career with the New England Patriots. His younger brother, David, was an Alabama lineman. And they were all one generation removed from the Alabama football careers of their father, Herb, and uncle, Bill. For Hannah, though, the most rewarding experience was sharing the induction with his children - Kimberly, Rebecca, John David, Victoria and Elizabeth. "What they remember or what they've been told [about my football career] was just bits and pieces," Hannah said. "Kimberly was only 3 when I was traded from the Bucs to the Raiders. "I think this gave them all a taste of the family heritage. I'd hear, 'Dad, why does that guy want your autograph?' It was neat to see them experience it all, too. It gave you one of those warm and fuzzy feelings, almost bringing you back to your childhood. I didn't know it would be like that for me, but it was incredible." It reminded Hannah about his pride of suiting up for the Tide, who went 31-5 during his four seasons. It allowed him to reminisce with old teammates, such as Bob Baumhower and Don McNeal. And, of course, it brought back memories of Coach Bryant. Even a moment that became the most frightening of his football life. After getting into a practice-field fight with his brother, Hannah was dressed down by a graduate assistant coach, then summoned to a meeting in Bryant's office. Bryant had a huge presence at his monstrous desk. Hannah sat on a small couch - with sawed-off legs and broken springs - that made Bryant seem like a giant. As Hannah tried to explain himself through whimpering sobs, Bryant stopped him short. "You know, Charley, Alabama can have a football team without you on it." Hannah thought he was done, but another assistant stood up for him and said he'd simply need some post-practice conditioning. The extra running kept going all season, until just before Alabama's bowl game. There were happier times. Hannah had three of Alabama's 13 sacks in a victory against Tennessee. Bryant singled out Hannah on film, pointing out his fourth-quarter effort to defeat a blocker, then swat away a pass attempt. He made Hannah and the other defensive stars stand at the front of the meeting room as teammates shook their hands. Bryant always promised an open-door policy for his Alabama players. Stop by any time, he said, and I'll be with you in less than five minutes. In 1983, Hannah was back on Alabama's campus. Somebody talked him into stopping by to visit Bryant. The secretary said Bryant was on the phone with Darrell Royal, the former Texas coach. Less than five minutes later, Hannah was ushered into Bryant's office, where they talked for a half hour. Bryant already had resigned as coach. He told Hannah it was finally time to do some fishing with his grandchildren - some relaxation he never managed to work in before. A few weeks later, Bryant was dead. "He had more influence on me - and all of us - than could ever be realized at the time," Hannah said. "When I think about it, so much of who I am was formed during those years. That was the most special time. "I love living in Tampa. But Alabama, that's where I'm from." And that's why being honored in Alabama was so special for Hannah. He was home.

In her first three WNBA seasons, Chicago Sky forward Candice Dupree (Wharton) was 1-for-17 from 3-point range. But long-distance shooting wasn't a key part of her game at Temple University or in her early professional career. Then Chicago added 6-foot-6 center Sylvia Fowles, formerly of LSU. After concentrating on her perimeter game, leaving primary inside duty to Fowles, Dupree already is 5-for-8 on 3-pointers this season. The Sky (3-1) has the best start in franchise history. Dupree is averaging 15 points per game. Former Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Ken Riley, now a dean at Winter Haven High School, had 65 career interceptions while playing from 1969-83, the fifth-highest total in NFL history. He played in Super Bowl XVI. Yet he has not been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Riley, who coached at his alma mater of Florida A&M University and played at Bartow's Union Academy before integration, has received recent support from an unlikely source - some Winter Haven students. Nick Harper and Jordan Powell, the ringleaders, researched Riley's career, collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition and contacted some Hall of Fame voters, including Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune. Riley, a quiet man, generally shrugs when asked about the longtime snub for Canton. Already, he is in the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame and FAMU Hall of Fame. But he recently told the Lakeland Ledger the gesture by his students was "heartwarming" and "if I don't make it [Canton], I'll be in their hall of fame."

Mark Dickson (Jesuit), one of the top professional players to ever emerge from the Tampa Bay area, has started a tennis academy in Sarasota, where he has lived for the past 26 years. Dickson, an ATP touring pro who won 10 titles and reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals in singles and doubles, said his concept emphasizes family, respect and sportsmanship - all qualities that marked his career. The academy offers private lessons, summer camps and an after-school program. For information, call (941) 356-4932 or log onto www.markdicksontennis.com. Happy birthday to former Bucs offensive tackle Dave Reavis, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers, got scooped up by Tampa Bay in the expansion draft and landed smack in the middle of the franchise's 0-and-26 start. It got better, though, and Reavis was a key figure on the Bucs' first three playoff teams. Reavis, now an real-estate investor in Colorado, turns 59 today.

Here's the answer to Thursday's trivia question: Golf has twice held the PGA Championship in Florida. PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens hosted both and those winners were Jack Nicklaus in 1971 and Larry Nelson in 1987. The Wake-Up Call is taking a summer break, but Adam Adkins will periodically bring you updates of local sports news and happenings until we resume in July.
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