Danny Talbott – “Hometown Hero” … RIP

DannyTalbott HERO
BobLee
January19/ 2020

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Jan 20, 2020

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Danny Talbott (1944-2020) … “Hometown Hero”

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If you grew up in Eastern North Carolina in the early 1960s and you followed sports… you heard about Danny Talbott. 

If you followed UNC Football in the mid 1960s… you remember Danny Talbott.

If you grew up in “small town America in the 1960s” hopefully…  you knew “A Danny Talbott”.

If you were a kid who loved sports in the 1950-1960s, you likely read a Chip Hilton story.  Between 1948-1966, a basketball coach named Clair Bee wrote a series of 24 books about a fictional small town high school athlete named “Chip Hilton”.  “Chip” excelled at Football, Basketball and Baseball and led his Valley Falls High School to victories and championships.

“Chip Hilton” was “the package” … in addition to his athletic skills he was the quintessential “All American Boy”. … Chip’s girlfriend Maizy clerked at the drugstore where Chip worked part time as a stock boy.

The Chip Hilton books were alongside The Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew Mysteries.  By todays standards, they were “corny” with predictable plots.  Chip would ALWAYS engineer a game-winning rally … make the “buzzer-beater”… hit the walk-off homer.  There were “life lessons” built-in to the stories consistent with mid-20th century America.

The citizens of Rocky Mount NC did not need to read about Chip Hilton in the early 60s.  They had their very own.  They had Danny Talbott… a 3-sport star who led his Rocky Mount High Blackbirds to multiple sate championships… with Hail Marys… Buzzer-beaters … and Walk-offs.

Danny and a group of his Rocky Mount Blackbirds buddies and his HS coach – Chris Carpenter came to Chapel Hill in 1963.  At UNC, Danny excelled in Football and Baseball and even played Basketball for a year.  He was ACC Player Of The Year in 1965 … and led Walt Rabb UNC Baseballers to Omaha in 1966.

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Danny Talbott passed away today – Jan 19, 2020 – after a 10- year fight with multiple myeloma cancer.  He was 75 years old.

In 2018, UNC Hospitals established The Danny Talbott Cancer Center in conjunction with Nash County / UNC Health.

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I first met Danny Talbott in Fall 1965 in the old Kenan Fieldhouse… where The Blue Zone is now.  He was the “Star QB” for Jim Hickey’s final two years as UNC FB coach.  The ’65 and ’66 teams “struggled” leading to Hickey’s dismissal in Nov 1966.  When healthy, Danny was outstanding but the teams were so-so.

To my knowledge, Danny holds no current records for Carolina Football.  I’m sure numerous Tar Heel QBs over the past 55 years have much gaudier numbers.  Current UNC QB Sam Howell likely has already surpassed Danny’s “numbers” in just one year.

I doubt if either Sam Howell or Mitch Tribisky have ever heard of Danny Talbott.  It’s been 55 years.  Sam and Mitch’s dads were not born when #10 was under center in Kenan Stadium.

QBs at area “hated rivals” – especially “QB U” in West Raleigh likewise have much “gaudier” stats not to mention their ongoing NFL legacies.  Danny had a brief stint with the Redskins in the late 60s … and in minor league baseball with the Orioles… before returning to his hometown – Rocky Mount – to live his adult life contributing to his community and “being a friend”.

So, if Danny Talbott’s Total Sports Legacy doesn’t approach Michael Jordan or even his fellow Rocky Mount native – Phil Ford … not to mention dozens of other notable area athletes over the past 55+ years… why does he merit a BobLeeSays column?

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Earlier this morning I got a phone call – as I knew I would – from a long-time friend of mine and of Danny’s… himself “a Hometown Hero” who admits “I grew up idolizing Danny Talbott”.

Everyone’s life is a series of “…roads diverging in a yellow wood” the ones we take “…makes all the difference”.

For Danny Talbott, to live a full life well beyond his playing days …  To Always & Forever “Be Danny Talbott”.  That’s Special!

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Danny Talbott represented something about “America” that I’m not sure is surviving our country’s ever-evolving socio-cultural evolution.

Danny Talbott was a Small Town America “Hometown Hero”.

 

Small town

 

“Small town” is an arbitrary term.  My hometown had 20,000.  Danny’s Rocky Mount was closer to 40,000 “back then”.  Paul Miller’s Ayden was less than 5,000 back in the mid 60s.  Eastern NC (East of I-95) had dozens of such municipalities “back then”.

Some, like Greenville and Wilmington, have prospered to become “Metro Areas”.  Others, like my Kinston and Danny’s Rocky Mount have never really recovered from the Demise of The Tobacco  Industry.  Their local economies are stagnant.   When kids go off to college they usually don’t come back.

Back in the 60s – Rocky Mount – Kinston – Greenville – New Bern – Wilson – Goldsboro etc were proud thriving communities … straight out of “a Happy Days” episode.  Where “Father Knows Best” and there were “Beaver Cleavers” in every neighborhood.

Church steeples – Soda fountains – Rickety wooden bleachers 

… and Hometown Heroes.

For sure it was NOT “just an Eastern NC thing”.  There were 20-30-40 such communities across NC – Shelby – Hickory – Rockingham – Asheboro – Henderson – Oxford – Valdese – Albemarle – Clinton – Reidsville … etc etc etc.   And 1000’s more across America.  Think “Hoosiers”.

NOTE: Yes… this was pre-Civil Rights Act.  There were – and still are – “serious social issues”.  Unlike apparently everyone on social media, I don’t have the answers to “those issues”.

Every town had a “Main Street” with an annual Christmas Parade… and there were “Friday Night Lights”.  OK, maybe not to the fervor of Texas… but local high school sports teams were “a big deal”.

If you grew up in such a hometown in the early-mid 1960s… I hope you had “a Danny Talbott”…. A Hometown Hero you could be proud of …

Whether “he made it” to the pros … or if his high school heroics were the best it got – he made you proud.  Maybe your town named something for him… or maybe not.

If your town has a “Floyd’s Barber Shop” and “Floyd” is still fogging a mirror, I bet he “remembers that one game when…..”.  Even if the fog of 50 years has obscured a few details.

I got to know Danny better during The Bunting Era at UNC.  He and Myrlene attended every game and always came by Kenan’s Choo Choo Lounge at halftime.  On one especially memorable occasion in October 2004 a few of the guys hung around to watch the 2nd half on TV.

They were three former UNC QBs – Gayle (and Margie) Bomar … Albert (and Jackie) Long… Danny (and Myrlene) Talbott… and one Internet Legend.  

Between us we had seen A LOT of Football … but nothing quite like That 2004 Game’s Ending.  If you haven’t figured it out yet … IT was the TA McLendon’s Knee Game.   YOWSA!  … like the 50,000 in Kenan and a regional TV audience, we were stunned as Referee Jim Knight ruled TA’s knee was down… overruling what woulda been the winning TD for NC State.  It was Danny who broke the silence … “Well boys, I guess John (Bunting) just saved his job…”.

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I plan to be in Rocky Mount later this week.  I’ll see a lot of old familiar faces. It will be SRO for sure.

Chip Hilton had his buddies – “Biggie,” “Soapy,” “Speed” and “Fireball”.   For Danny Talbott it will be Marion – CQ – Brent – Billy – Wrennie – Digit – etc etc etc … The room will be full of Blackbirds and Tar Heels aplenty.  They will share “Remember that time that Danny …” stories.

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Hometown Heroes – like Old Soldiers – Never Die.  They Live Forever.  Thru those wonderful “Remember Whens…” they leave for us.

Thanks for The Memories, DT…

Danny Talbott.

More BobLeeSays – CLICK

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Bruce Sharer
Bruce Sharer
8 months ago

Makes me wish for the “good old day”, except for the country’s unresolved, ever-evolving socio-cultural evolution. At least Rocky Mount made progress in the 1970s. I was fortunate to follow Danny’s Blackbird exploits while I was in college, and to play summer league basketball with rising Gryphon star, Phil Ford.

Marshall
Marshall
8 months ago

Thanks for the memories of DT. Our Fayetteville High team tied the conference title with Rocky Mt Danny’s senior year. We had one more tie game than they did so they won the title We tied them 6-6 that year. They went on to win the state. Our 3 sport star was Tommy Bradford that wound up at State on a baseball scholarship. He was the fullback.

Fred
Fred
8 months ago

I’ve looked forward to your tribute to DT. Did not disappoint. We shed a few tears

Don Martello Jr.
Don Martello Jr.
8 months ago

Tears in my eyes reading about Danny Talbott, we can all relate to a hometown hero. I am from Stamford, Connecticut, Andy Robustelli, Bobby Valentine and Chico Vejar come to mind. I met Digit & Beth when I moved here in 2002. Would love to learn more about Digit’s football career back in the day.

PE.ARK
PE.ARK
8 months ago

He was always friendly and warm towards me, even though I was just a kid.
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My mother went to high school with Danny Talbott. She said he was very quiet and shy – you would never have known he was a star athlete.

Jay Light
Jay Light
8 months ago

I loved hearing and reading about Danny Talbot growing up and Roger Staubach. My two true heroes growing up. Excellent piece. I do miss the towns you are describing which at a young age. They were my world and I really didn’t have any idea there was a larger world for a long time. Sometimes, I wish I had stayed it that little town and knew no better. Thanks for the article.

BC.PV
BC.PV
8 months ago

BL, I didn’t know DT but thanks to your writing skills, I was able to go back and appreciate small town sports. When I first began officiating, a couple of times a year, our crew would officiate a game in Lake City, FL. Back then, on Friday nights, the whole town showed up for Lake City football games. And, while we tried not to let the atmosphere influence officiating, I’m sure that most of the crew did not want to walk through the crowd to our cars after the game if LC lost. Luckily for us they were always good… Read more »

Ken
Ken
8 months ago

My teenage years were in the 60’s. Any QB for UNC was my hero even when the teams were not that good. Sad to lose a hero at such an early age

RJ.GSC
RJ.GSC
8 months ago

One of your best ever !
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Thoroughly enjoyed your remembrances —brings back great memories !
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Saw Danny about 3 yrs ago in Chapel Hill..he was moving slowly but said he was still playing “a little tennis”..
Was always a great athlete as a few of my friends had played old man tennis with/against him in league play back home.
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Too many of our ilk going down….

Peru.Near.Kokomo
Peru.Near.Kokomo
8 months ago

BobLee, I just finished reading your piece on Danny! One of your very best ever! It’s one for the ages as it captures the way it really was back in the day! Well done my friend!!!

Thailand
Thailand
8 months ago

With Rick and Vann in the front seat and Danny and I in the back seat. we all drove back to Raleigh from Goldsboro High School (after our barnstorming game) back in the spring of 1970. He and I talked about such things as Jim Gardner and politics. He was Chip Hilton or Chip Hilton was Danny. I remember a warm conversation and a feeling of awe, sitting there with Danny Talbott for about an hour, an hour that I will never forget. . Big Broughton High School chartered 21 buses to Rocky Mount back in the fall of 1961… Read more »

Terry Shinn (teacher)
Terry Shinn (teacher)
8 months ago

I was just becoming a rabid Carolina fan in my early junior high school days when Danny was the QB at Carolina – he was one of the few bright spots of UNC football but it didn’t matter to me what their record was – they were the Tar Heels – Danny Talbott somehow had the name the charisma the mystique that came to epitomize Carolina for me. . Probably he was one of the reasons I knew I was going to Chapel Hill from the time I was in the 7th grade – even though my father was sure… Read more »

Prince.Albert
Prince.Albert
8 months ago

I was a pretty decent all around athlete during my playing days At UNC. But I can assure you that I was absolutely nothing compared to Danny. I have been blessed to have known him as a close friend these past fifty years…..he was the real UNC PRICELESS GEM!!!!!

Tommy Baysden
8 months ago

Danny Talbott was one of the few real heroes l’ve been privileged to know.
He didn’t deserve a downward spiral at the end of his life. But that was what
he was handed and he bore it – like he did everything else – with dignity,
courage and grace. Long live his memory !
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Tommy Baysden
Beaufort, S.C.
Rocky Mount, Class of ‘61

Old Kicker
Old Kicker
8 months ago

Nice tribute BL! I never met DT, but was totally familiar with his legacy as a Rky Mt legend, and then at Carolina. He had many acquaintances here in Washington that will surely miss him. A great guy!

RowdyBlueTarHeeler
RowdyBlueTarHeeler
8 months ago

Wonderful tribute.
Thanks.

Rix Evans
Rix Evans
8 months ago

I was a small child in Rocky Mount in the early 60’s (when Rocky Mount was a “Norman Rockwell” type town). Danny’s uncle, George Talbott, had a barbershop in the Englewood shopping center. There’s a CVS there now. Yes, there was plenty of discussion of what Danny has done lately. It was a men’s only barbershop where the guys sat in a row of chairs along the wall opposite George’s chair. The men told stories and lies, but kept the language and stories “G” rated when us kids were there.

NCSU68GRAD
NCSU68GRAD
8 months ago

Great write-up, BL.
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Touching. Even a staunch ABC’er would almost tear up. He was a true hero without an attitude. Read a lot about him. Sadly, we are almost the same age.
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Found this to supplement what you wrote. As a positive person who tends to quip a line or two to break the tension of the moment, as well as to calm my own nerves and fears, I think it sums him up. Would have loved to have known him personally.
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https://healthtalk.unchealthcare.org/priceless-gem/
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RIP, DT…

Chris
Chris
8 months ago

I had to laugh at the Paul Miller’s Ayden had fewer than 10,000 people line. Ayden has just over half that now and maybe 3,000 at the time I was a kid riding my bike all over town. I shared Paul as my hero then with all the other young boys in town. Thanks for the memory.

Robert Kennel
Robert Kennel
8 months ago

BL, A wonderful eulogy to Danny Talbott. I didn’t know him as I had begun my 45 year professional hiatus from NC. You’ve captured the small town feel for heroes such as Danny which is why I so much appreciate your Eastern NC nostalgia. . All those small towns were generally hot beds for minor league baseball after WWIi. NC was second only to Texas with over 60 teams at one point. . Was also at “McLendon’s Knee” game and even discussed Chuck Amato’s mellowed version of it two weeks ago. He was still hot about the overtime Ohio State… Read more »

Fayettewuf
Fayettewuf
8 months ago
Reply to  Robert Kennel

Mr. Kennel mentioned a name I had not thought of in years. I grew up near Pinetops and heard tales of Dudley Whitley very early. His mother, Elma, was my third grade teacher. Just looked him up in the minor league register and see his high school was listed as Rocky Mount and his college as NC State. Did not know about either. He finished his career with the Tobs. I am pretty sure my Grandaddy took me to see him play and I got to see my first dugout clearing fight.

Will
Will
8 months ago

Rest In Peace DT..remember playing against him his senior year at RM with Jimmy Clack and on that BB team and getting a win for the Kinston Red Devils. Lucky we played them early in the season before they got their BB legs on. DT winning 3 State titles his senior year in baseball, basketball and football..impressive!

Willie T
KHS 65

Doug
Doug
8 months ago

A very nice tribute. The cancer center named for him in Rocky Mt is a testament about his impact for so many people in that town.

Ron Cole
Ron Cole
8 months ago

Oh, my, thanks for this BobLee. Danny was in my class at Carolina. I, of course, had heard of him before moving to Chapel Hill. Enjoyed seeing him play my years there in all sports. He was an incredible athlete, a joy to watch. I still have not forgiven John Naponick for falling on Danny in the east end zone in ’65. Really, really sorry to hear this. Thanks again.

WildatHeart
WildatHeart
8 months ago

Great piece as usual. Danny was an instructor at a football camp I went to when I was in high school. I remember him as being a really nice guy. During my 6th, 7th, 8th grade years I had three “Hometown Heros” that I looked up to and wanted to be like (besides Gil Thorp). All were three sports stars – Paul Sharpe from Ahoskie, Wes Chesson from Edenton, and Jimmy Hardison from Williamston. . Not only were they great athletes but they were straight ‘A’ students which was a big part of the appeal for me. Wes was the… Read more »

Ricky Packard
Ricky Packard
8 months ago

Great article/tribute to Danny.

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