November 19, 1998
Fred Hoover’s career working the sidelines at Clemson football games started seven years prior to the existence of Howard’s Rock. It is a fitting comparison because Hoover’s career has been solid as a rock. When it comes to reliability, and long term excellence in his chosen field it is hard to find an equal in Clemson athletic history.
Tonight’s game will be his 445th consecutive football game as the Clemson athletic trainer for the school’s highest profile sport. He has never missed a game in a career that dates to September 19, 1959, a Clemson football game at North Carolina that resulted in a Tiger victory, a key win on the way to a bowl season and ACC Championship.
Now 68 and in excellent health, Hoover has announced this will be his final game on the Clemson sidelines.
“This is a hard decision to make because this has been a special place to work for the last 40 years,” said Hoover. “The Clemson family has been very good to me and my family.”
Hoover plans to spend more time with his wife, Elva, their children and grandchildren.
While the Clemson family has been good to Hoover, so has his family and he is quick to point out that he could not have had such a distinguished career without the contributions of his wife and two offspring, Catherine and Bryan.
“I can’t thank my wife and my children enough,” said Hoover recently.
“I have a very understanding wife. The hours and time commitment in this profession are extensive. She has always been there to support me, especially all those times I needed a sounding board when I had a tough decision to make. My entire family has always been behind me in everything I was doing. I am proud of my children and what they have accomplished. I am very proud that they are both graduates of Clemson University.”
With 40 years of experience in the field and with a performance level at a high level, Hoover is one of the most respected men in the country in his field, by his peers, his coaches and student-athletes.
“Fred Hoover is simply an establishment,” said Head Coach Tommy West. “Every coach, player, administrator and Clemson fan respects the commitment and loyalty he has shown to this University for a long period of time. Fred has given to Clemson University and the athletic department as much as any person I know. It has been an honor to work with him and I appreciate all the help he has given me during my years as the head coach and as an assistant coach.”
“Fred Hoover is a man who is respected everywhere in this country,” said Athletic Director Bobby Robinson. “He has made a significant contribution to his field and has certainly been recognized nationally for his accomplishments by his peers. He has had a positive effect on thousands of Clemson student-athletes and the students who have worked in his training room.”
Professionally, Hoover has held just about every administrative post with the National Athletic Trainers Association, including Chairman of the Board. In 1981, he was enshrined in the Citizens Savings-Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame for his work in his chosen field. In 1982, Hoover was inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame. How many people are inducted into a Hall of Fame, then work for the organization for 16 more years?
In 1983, Hoover was the recipient of the Distinguished Service to Sports Medicine Award given by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. In 1987, he was awarded the South Carolina Hall of Fame Distinguished Service to Sports Award. He was made an honorary member of the Clemson Alumni Physicians Society in 1990. In 1994, the South Carolina Trainers Association created the Fred Hoover Award for excellence in Athletic Training.
The native of Jacksonville, FL graduated from Florida State in 1953. He served as trainer at his alma mater for two stints, 1952-53 and 1957-58, before coming to Clemson in 1959. How did a 40 year career at Clemson begin?
“I first met Frank Howard at a football clinic in Florida in 1959,” recalled Hoover, the last active employee in the Clemson Athletic Department who was hired by the legendary football coach. “I was on the docket as a speaker on football training techniques and Coach Howard followed my speech. When I was finished he said he wanted to talk to me.”
It must have been an outstanding dissertation, because Howard decided right there that he was interested in hiring Hoover as his full-time football trainer at Clemson. Hoover met Howard later that day in a hotel room. Hoover was able to show his expertise to Howard in that first meeting.
“When I went into his room, Coach Howard was having trouble with a section of his false teeth. He had a spur and it was irritating the roof of his mouth. I had an emery board in the car, so I wore down the spur until it was smooth. He put it in and it was just like new.”
Hoover had a big lead over the field when he fixed Howard’s supplemental choppers. He and Elva went to Clemson for an interview and liked what they saw. In June of 1959, Hoover accepted the job.
“Before I left, Coach Howard brought me over to the IPTAY office so I could join. I gave them $10 (the annual donation in those days). When I came back three weeks later to start work, the fiscal year changed, so he hit me up again for another $10. That’s why my number of years in IPTAY is actually one more than the number of years I have worked at Clemson.”
It was an active first year for Hoover. The Tigers had an outstanding 1959 season, winning the ACC Championship and advancing to the first Bluebonnet Bowl, a victory over seventh-ranked TCU, one of the highest ranked wins in Clemson history. Supervising the trip came under Hoover’s job description. It was the first of 16 bowl trips for Hoover.
Times have changed at Clemson and in the training room. There was one man with whom Hoover worked everyday that first year and for 18 more who he will never forget. “It is impossible to single out any people over 40 years, but Herman McGee certainly had a big influence on me in my years at Clemson.
“He was a wonderful man who was dedicated to this athletic department. He was a person everyone respected. He knew how to deal with people. Herman was the equipment manager and the trainer before I got here. We worked very closely together. I think about those days with Herman a lot.”
Training staffs were not as large as they are today. In the spring, Hoover would work both basketball and spring football practice. On some days in February he would tape the basketball players early in the day, go to football practice, then come back to Fike Fieldhouse take a shower, change into his jacket and tie and then work the basketball game that night.
“Dan at Dan’s Drive-in used to bring me a cheeseburger in the training room just before tipoff and that would be my dinner.”
This double duty never allowed Hoover to enjoy the ACC Tournament, until 1962. “I used to go with the basketball team to the ACC Tournament, but Coach Howard told me to come back after we were eliminated so I could be back on Friday for Spring football practice.” Clemson lost in the first round of the ACC Tournament most seasons, so Hoover never got to enjoy the basketball tournament with the rest of the Tiger administrators.
Fred Hoover has seen it all in 40 years. He refuses to single out any player as his favorite, but the 1978 and 1981 football seasons have been the most memorable.
“In 1978 we won the ACC Championship by beating Maryland in College Park and that victory meant a trip to the Gator Bowl, that was our best season in 19 years.”
It would be virtually impossible to top a National Championship season. “In 1981 we never really talked about winning the National Championship until the last game, we just took it one game at a time.” That day and night certainly were memorable. Earlier in the day, Hoover had to adjust his pregame meal for one of the players, Cliff Austin. It seems Austin had been stuck in the hotel elevator for two hours and had to have his own pregame meal, which Hoover arranged. Austin would score a key touchdown late in the game.
While, Clemson fans all over the world celebrated the 22-15 win over Nebraska, Hoover was hard at work. “I was dehydrated on that last drive,” recalled Tiger quarterback Homer Jordan. “I passed out after the game. Doc Hoover helped me off the field and hooked me up to an IV in the locker room right after the game. I remember him joking with me, asking me if I wanted a cheeseburger.”
Hoover is noted for his dedication to his profession and his corresponding consecutive Clemson football games worked. He is the Cal Ripken of trainers. The closest he came to missing a game took place in 1982 when his mother-in-law passed away the week of the Western Carolina game. He drove his family to Illinois for a Thursday funeral. He drove all night to return to Clemson by 6:00 AM on Saturday and was at the stadium by 9:30 AM for the 1:00 PM game.
While his streak does include 445 consecutive games (including tonight), he has missed 98 percent of one game. In the 1996 Georgia Tech game in Death Valley, the 417th game of the streak, he was too close to the action on the game’s second play, a running play by the Tigers Kelton Dunnican. Dunnican and Georgia Tech tacklers crashed into Hoover and knocked him unconscious.
Hoover was taken from the sideline via stretcher and transported to the Oconee Memorial Hospital in Seneca. He spent the night there under observation, and was released the next day. It was the first time Hoover was injured during a game.
After Hoover was examined and tested at the hospital, he returned to his room to view the second half of Clemson’s thrilling victory over Georgia Tech. At one moment in the third period he told a nurse, “You know this is the first time I’ve ever watched Clemson play on television.” The nurse, who did not know Hoover’s position with the University, replied, “Gee, you’re not much of a Clemson fan, are you.”
No one has ever uttered a more incorrect statement in the history of Oconee Memorial Hospital.
The Hoover Era In his 40 seasons as Clemson’s athletic trainer Fred Hoover has:
Worked with 38 of Clemson’s 46 football All-Americans. Workedwith 16 of Clemson’s 18 first-round NFL draft picks. Worked with 16future NFL All-Pro players. Coordinated the training room needs forall 17 of Clemson’s Super Bowl Champion players. Worked with 110future NFL players. Worked 16 bowl games Worked with 11 ACCChampionship teams Worked in 13 Top 25 seasons Served 903 Clemsonfootball lettermen (entering this year) Worked under sevendifferent head football coaches. He has supervised the trainingactivities at an estimated 4,500 Clemson football practices Rundown the hill with the Clemson football team 207 times (fell justonce). Worked 445 consecutive Clemson football games enteringtonight’s South Carolina game.
Quotes on Fred Hoover “I’ve been fortunate to know Fred Hoover for over 30 years, and I have worked closely with him on the NATA Convention Committee for 15 years. He is a good friend and one of the most respected trainers in the country. Clemson and the Athletic Training Profession are losing an icon–those grandchildren, however, are gaining a full-time grandfather–do you think they will be just a little spoiled?” – Dean Weber, University of Arkansas
“Since I first met Fred in 1959, Fred has been a friend and mentor. He has been an inspiration and leader to me personally, the athletic training profession as a whole and to countless Tiger athletes and fans. Clemson and those of us who know Fred will miss him, but as for all a time comes, when we must move on after 40 years, Fred apparently feels the time has come. Now, he, Elva and the grandson can attend a few more car races.” – Chris Patrick, University of Florida
Story by Tim Bourret
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