Going a Long Way to Support His New Team
Fans will go a long way to support their team. As a charter bus driver who was not on the job, Ron Rodney took it to another level by driving his own car 1,100 miles from Greenville, S.C., to Austin Texas with his two grandchildren to watch South Carolina’s track & field student-athletes compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championships earlier this month.
“I was with them when we went down to the (NCAA) East Regionals,” Rodney said. “I got to watch quite a bit. When I saw them run, and I saw (junior) Quincy (Hall) run, I told him that the only thing I regret is that I don’t have my grandkids with me to see you run. He told me I ought to bring them out to nationals. He thought maybe I was driving the team out there, but I wasn’t. That’s when it clicked for me. I’ll just go out and take the kids with me. We had a great time!
“I haven’t done any long trips with them. I don’t know a lot about track & field, so I was thinking, I hope they like it! One is 9 (Alex Sullivan) and the other is 11 (Myles Sullivan). When I had met the South Carolina track & field team, they were all so nice, and I thought this might be the time to do something. I never had anyone to really cheer for, so now there was somebody to cheer for! We took two days to do it, and it was about 10 hours per day.”
Rodney has driven buses for many universities’ athletics teams while working part-time for Champion Coach charter bus company, including several trips with South Carolina’s track & field program over the last couple of years. Originally from Ohio, the 65-year-old is retired after 30 years of work at Michelin Tire.
“I get to see a lot of sporting events, and that’s what I love about it,” Rodney said. “I drive a lot with teams from Syracuse, South Carolina, Florida, and Duke. I drive for a lot of different sports. I enjoy the college teams. I love being around the kids.”
“He’s a good guy. I think some of our kids are attached to him,” said track & field head coach Curtis Frye. “We have followers, but it’s usually former athletes or parents of former athletes. Never have we had a support person come on their own and pay their own way like he did. That’s pretty special. We have a special group of kids, too. Once you meet them, I think they’re infectious.”
“I’m just flattered that someone feels good enough about or program to adopt our kids like that.”
– Coach Curtis Frye
Having been around Coach Frye and the track & field student-athletes the last couple years, Rodney became a fan of the team.
“I love the whole team. I have a lot of respect for all the coaches in seeing how they teach the kids, especially Coach Frye,” Rodney said. “He invites the bus driver to be part of the team. He lets us sit in on his meetings and eat with him. I have tremendous respect for the kind of person he is, and that seems to follow suit all the way down the line.”
“I’m just flattered that someone feels good enough about or program to adopt our kids like that,” Frye said. “I’m thrilled!”
While he doesn’t always get a chance to see as much of some sporting events as he wants when he’s on the job, he does his best.
“I have to get them where they’re going,” Rodney said. “When we were in Arkansas for the (SEC) Championships, we had the buses parked way up there, so I had to run in so I could watch them. Then I’d have to leave early so I could run back to get the bus to come back and get them. It was about a quarter of a mile away, so I really had to run!”
As for his road trip with the grandkids, it was a success for everyone involved as not only did the grandchildren enjoy it, but South Carolina’s Quincy Hall (400m hurdles) and Wadeline Jonathas (400m) won national championships in their event.
“They loved it,” Rodney said. “They were yelling really loud!
“We got to see Quincy and Wadeline in their races. I told the kids not to worry if they’re not in first place coming around the last turn. When they get to the end, they can get to the lead. I couldn’t believe I told them that, because now they’d better do it, and they did!”
Despite the long drive round trip, Rodney said he never thought of flying and having quality time with the grandkids was well worth it.
“I love driving, and I don’t like to fly. I’m used to being on the road,” Rodney said. “I’d probably do something like this again because it turned out so well!”