I was fortunate to learn football at various levels of play including elementary and high school, elite amateur, college and professionally. So, I met hundreds of teammates over the 25 or so years of organized sports participation. Unfortunately, there are teammates at each level who are no longer living.
I vividly remember my high school teammate Peter Grathwohl. Although sometimes difficult emotionally to know that he is gone, it is good to remember his genius. I saw Peter Grathwohl only a handful of occasions after our high school careers. So, what I know of him is mostly from long ago. Heck, I remember he was born a day after I was! Pete died on January 16 in Columbia, Missouri.
I spent my earlier years at Grant elementary school in Columbia where my mother was the school’s physical education teacher. Like all sixth graders did in Columbia then, I matriculated to seventh grade at West Junior High School and remained there until ninth grade. The other public junior high schools in the city were Jefferson and Oakland.
Confronted with my teenage years, meeting new friends and being a part of a successful sport culture were significant aspects of my youth development. It was at West that I met Pete. Like Pete, I participated in several of the sports that were offered at school. Pete and I were teammates in basketball and track and field, and both started in the backfield on the ninth-grade football team. Against other area schools our sports teams were very successful.
My personal connection to Pete is limited to the time as teammates in junior and senior high school. He was the type of teammate that every competitive team needs. An alpha male type, whose braggadocio was displayed by above average athletic performances. He could shoot and rebound in basketball and was a brute in football. Pete was larger, taller, stronger and faster than most of us at that time. Consequently, he was very confident in his ability. I knew Pete to be a leader who was vocal and influential. When he spoke, we listened. He also led by example having an emotional impact on our teams. The girls liked him too!
When we matriculated to Hickman High School, it was the only public high school in Columbia. Oh, what a time to watch Columbia Hickman High School sports! Pete was a baseball player as well. He was known for his prowess in both football and baseball.
Both Kewpie football and baseball were successful. Pete contributed to our varsity team as a junior and senior but was relegated to tight end on offense and end on defense. We needed him to play both ways because he was so talented. He was better as a defender. To follow the Kewpie football team was magical.
By the time we started tenth grade at Hickman, several of our teammates caught up to Pete’s size. So many of us were faster and more talented as candidates for playing in the backfield. He moved from fullback to tight end on offense because we had several talented backs at the time. I played quarterback for three years at Hickman in our veer offense. Believe it or not I kicked extra points and returned punts as well.
Head football coach Tom Travis and his staff were fortunate to collect all the athletic talent in Columbia from the other junior high schools as well. With Gerry Ellis, Dave Williams, the Newman brothers (Mike, Terry and David) and Stanley Hughes (now Abdullah Mulazim), it was going to be hard to break the lineup at the running back position.
Pete became the defensive leader and the only captain we had who played both ways. He was among a talented and athletic group of high school players. We would eventually win the 1974 State Football Championship as seniors after a season going undefeated our junior year in 1973.
Like many of our teammates, Pete and I were both fortunate to play football at the college level. He at Northeast Missouri State; I played at Mizzou.
The reality of the end of life comes so fast. I heard he lived a quality life. Regardless, I will miss my teammate Pete J Grathwohl.