Note: The following appears in the NC State football gameday program.
My mom and dad came to the Upstate for the 1992 ACC Baseball Tournament in nearby Greenville. On the way from the parking lot to the stadium on Saturday afternoon, my dad tripped on a rock, fell on his left arm and broke it.
What a way to start a vacation.
But fortunately, the Clemson Family came to the rescue.
When my dad made it to the stadium in some real pain, I sought out Clemson Athletic Trainer Fred Hoover. “Doc” immediately ran some arm movement tests he had probably done on 1,000 Clemson student-athletes over his 30 years (at the time) in charge of the athletic training needs.
He said we needed an X-ray and guided us through the entire process. That process included going to see Dr. Larry Bowman, who was early in his Clemson career as the team orthopedic surgeon.
Both men could not have been nicer to my dad, who had never broken a bone in his body.
Hoover checked on my dad the entire week he was at Clemson for that “vacation.” He even continued to check on him after he traveled back to Connecticut.
That is one of hundreds of stories people reflected on over the last month, as Hoover passed away at age 92 on Sept. 5 shortly after watching (from his home) his beloved Tigers open the season with a 41-10 win at Georgia Tech.
As the sports information director for my first 10 years in that position and Hoover’s last 10 years as athletic trainer, I saw why he was considered the “Father of Sports Medicine in South Carolina.”
The first thing I think of is his work ethic. From 1959-98, he was in that training room every morning, most of the time at 6 a.m., doing everything he could for Clemson student-athletes to get back on the field. Most of that time was devoted to the care of Clemson football players.
I calculated that he worked over 4,500 practices with over 1,000 different football student-athletes during that time. He was a common denominator on the staffs of seven different Tiger head coaches (Frank Howard, Hootie Ingram, Red Parker, Charley Pell, Danny Ford, Ken Hatfield, Tommy West).
They all held Hoover in high regard and trusted his decisions on whether one of the players could play on Saturday.
Hoover never missed a Tiger football game in 40 years (1959-98). He was there for 446 consecutive games over that time. However, he did not finish every game. That leads to my favorite story.
During the 1996 Georgia Tech game in Death Valley, the 417th game of his streak, he was too close to the action on the game’s second play, a running play by Kelton Dunnican. He and Georgia Tech tacklers crashed into Hoover and knocked him unconscious.
Hoover was taken from the sideline via stretcher and transported to Oconee Memorial Hospital in Seneca. After Hoover was examined and various tests were run at the hospital, he returned to his room to view the second half of Clemson’s thrilling victory over the Yellow Jackets.
At one moment in the third quarter, he told a nurse, “This is the first time I’ve ever watched Clemson play on television.” The nurse, who did not know Hoover’s position with Clemson 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.
Hoover received every possible honor during his distinguished career. He was enshrined in the Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame in 1981. In 1982, he was inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame. He worked another 16 years for the school after his induction.
A leader in his profession, Hoover served many administrative positions with the National Athletic Trainers Association, including chair.
In 1983, Hoover was the recipient of the Distinguished Service to Sports Medicine Award, given by American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. Four years later, he was honored by the state of South Carolina Hall of Fame with the organization’s Distinguished Service to Sports Award. In 1990, he was made an honorary member of the Clemson Alumni Physicians Society.
In 1994, the South Carolina Athletic Trainers Association created the Fred Hoover Award for Excellence in Athletic Training.
The honor most of us believe meant the most to him was his induction into the state of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame this past spring. Many of his former student workers and full-time assistants, including his successor, Danny Poole, who had just as legendary a Clemson career, were in attendance. And he gave a terrific acceptance speech.
I have personally witnessed many people in this community who represent the meaning of Clemson Family. Hoover is right at the top of the list.