O'Brien's boys to be recognized
By Michael Butler
John Edward O’Brien became an institution in Tallassee. He coached football, basketball and baseball at Tallassee High School.
O’Brien is the namesake for the stadium where THS plays its football games, the same arena that his Tiger teams went unbeaten during a seven-season stretch. On Saturday, June 11, the late coach will be remembered by his former players at “Hot” O’Brien Stadium.
Bill Patterson played on O’Brien’s last football team in 1958. O’Brien came out of retirement to coach again in the late ‘50s.
“After a 4-5 season in ’58, we begged him to stay,” said Patterson. The next season the team went 7-3. “He said, ‘Bill, it’s not like it used to be, and I’m going to move on.’ He turned it over to Jackie Davis.”
O’Brien’s last team was the 1959 Tallassee baseball team. Patterson played on the squad, as did Kenny Fomby.
“Coach O’Brien was a teacher,” Fomby said. “He wouldn’t raise his voice and pitch a fit.”
Eddie Frank Britt enrolled in Tallassee in 1947. He lived in Reeltown.
“Reeltown did not have a football team,” Britt noted. “That was seven miles from the river bridge to my house where I grew up and many a night I would walk. The walking home was sometimes scary because I was the only one on the road at dark.
“The teacherage was over by the school. Ben Davis dated a lady from over there. Their night out was Wednesday. They’d pick me up a lot of times. During those times, there weren’t many vehicles on the road. I had a ride in the morning with a barber, Versel Baker.”
During Britt’s first year on the gridiron at THS, O’Brien’s purple and gold unit ended its unbeaten streak at 57. It came on Nov. 14, 1947 with a 21-7 setback at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery vs. Sidney Lanier, a night Britt recalls vividly.
“I did not play that night. I had a hurt leg, but I do remember about 10,000 spectators. At that time, Lanier was the only public high school in Montgomery. They had about 135 players out. We had about 35.”
Britt would go on to become an all-state football player. He also played basketball for O’Brien and would attempt to make a certain number of free throws at the end of each practice before leaving.
“After I’d gone around about three times, I couldn’t ring anything. Coach O’Brien said, ‘Hey Eddie, give me the ball. I need to go home and eat supper.’ I never did get my shots in.
”O’Brien was real devoted to the game and to young people. He really liked young people. He was a wonderful coach, friend and person.”
Former players and families are invited to come and reminisce at the field house on Saturday morning beginning at 10:00.
“Anybody who played any sport for him can show and family members too,” Patterson added. “We’ll have some refreshments. Then we’re going to have our walk around and then a ceremony.”
The O'Brien Streak