Thom Gossom Jr. Walk-on

ISBN 13: 9780681960435

Walk-on

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9780681960435: Walk-on
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On a beautiful sunny day in October, black students from all over campus joined together in a march on the president s office to demand change at Auburn University. Resentment had been simmering for a while, after earlier discussions had been held asking for reforms at the university. There had been no answer.

If silence was supposed to be an answer, the students were not going to accept it.

Thom Gossom Jr. did not set out to be a groundbreaker. He did not apply to Auburn University with the goal of being the first black athlete to graduate from the almost all-white college. He just knew that he wanted to play football and he wanted to play football at Auburn. A gifted athlete and good student, Gossom was accepted to Auburn University in 1970 and forever left the comfort of his segregated hometown boyhood to enter into a world of privilege that was just starting to grapple with desegregation. Loneliness, anger, jealousy and overt racism awaited him on and off the football field. As Gossom fought for his place on the team and on campus he became part of the movement to make the world a better place for those who were to come after him, and in doing so, became a part of history.

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About the Author:

Born in Birmingham Alabama, Thom Gossom, Jr. received his Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Auburn University, and a Master of Arts in Communication from The University of Montevallo. After a couple of cups of coffee in the NFL, Gossom began his career at BellSouth in the Public Relations office.

Gossom s upcoming project is his Slice Of Life collection of life stories, A Slice Of Life, Another Slice Of Life and The Rest of The Pie.

An accomplished actor, Gossom has appeared on television in Boston Legal, In The Heat of The Night, ER, Cold Case, and NYPD Blue. Film credits include, Fight Club, Jeepers Creepers 2, and Miss Ever's Boys.

Visit the author's website: bestgurl.com

Review:

During the fall of 1970, the college football world was buzzing about an early season showdown between Southern Cal and Alabama. USC was preparing to visit Birmingham with the first integrated football team to ever play a game in the state. The Crimson Tide was led by Paul Bear Bryant. On that hot night, seven years after Governor George Wallace stood in the school house door in Tuscaloosa to prevent blacks from enrolling at the university, Trojans running back Sam Cunningham, an African-American, slashed through the Tide defense, rushing for 135 yards in leading USC to a 42-21 win over Alabama and forever changing the racial make up of football teams in the SEC. Meanwhile, a few hours south in Auburn, another black player was quietly making history. Birmingham native Thomas Gossom arrived on the Plains that summer with nothing more than a suitcase and a dream. There was no scholarship offer or friends waiting for him at the rundown bus station in Auburn when he arrived.

Setting out on foot toward campus, he began a journey that would change the face of Tiger football. Gossom s story is the subject of his new book, Walk-On: My Reluctant Journey to Integration at Auburn University. I recently sat down with Gossom, the first black athlete to graduate from Auburn, to talk about his riveting book that looks at life in the South during integration and how Auburn and its players grappled with the changes. It s a story of a young man who battled loneliness and racism, but ultimately found a home and a place on one of Auburn s most storied teams, the 1972 Amazins. I felt very much isolated and alone, said Gossom. There were nights after a game when everybody else would be dressing up to go out and we would go to the T.V room. We may have been the hero of the game that day, but afterwards there was very little to hang your hat on. I ve even had a couple of guys tell me recently, 'Thomas we just didn t know' and I accept that, says Gossom. We we just kids. --David Rosenblatt Inside The Auburn Tigers.

If you are looking for a different type of civil rights story or if you are seeking a different type of sports tale, then Walk-On is the book for you. Unlike many memoirs connected to the era, Walk-On is not a nuts and bolts civil rights tale about politics, social unrest, or any of the usual suspects. Those elements are certainly there to be sure, but this is a resolutely personal story written after the height of the most extreme upheavals by someone who was not directly involved in those facets of the movement. Those elements most often lurk in the background of Gossom s world until they inevitably rise to the fore and force him to deal with them directly. That is the primary recurrent theme in this book, the theme of how a simple guy with a simple dream walked on and found himself thrust into performing heroics both on the football field and the cultural landscape. Gossom s voice is active and effective, conveying the pain of his isolation, the strength of his resolve, the confusion of balancing two rapidly changing worlds, and the triumph of his success. Although the print does contain a few oversights of proofing that should not have found their way into such a high-profile publication, the book is very well written, engaging, and easily devoured.

Moreover, his choice of using his college football career as a subtly metaphoric vehicle is as natural as it is powerful. Its inevitability is made all the more poignant by the understated matter-of-fact nature in which he notes that it was through football that he tackled the defensive line of the old guard at Auburn in the early 70s. Though he never explicitly says so, Gossom s tone constantly reminds one of a single undeniable fact: in Alabama, college-football has been, is, and always will be king. In spite of all the achievements of previous black sports pioneers. --J --Rev. James Owens, Auburn's first black football player

There have been many books written about Auburn Football, but without question, the best and finest book written about Auburn Football is Thom Gossom's "Walk-On." Without Question. --David Housel, "Down Through the Years With David Housel" 2008 Auburn Football Illustrated

And I thought Thom Gossom had it made in the shade at Auburn. He was, after all, a college football player with all the star status that entails. So my old friend's new book, "Walk-On," due out in September, came as a revelation. It reveals what I should have known: It wasn't easy being black at Auburn in the 1970s, even if you were a football star. Thom became at leader at Auburn, and not just on the field. With other black students, he marched to the president's office to demand improvements, and he stood up to flinty coaches over injustices. Once, like the true gentleman he proved to be, Thom shook Gov. George Wallace's hand when it was offered. He was truly a big man on campus, much bigger than I knew him to be. --Rheta Grimsley Johnson, Syndicated columnist

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