Looking back … Memories of the Red Wave & the Scholarship Oaks

Published 6:24 pm Friday, October 6, 2023

When Bill Hixon signed a scholarship to play football at Troy State Teacher’s College in 1951, the young athlete signed on for more than he expected.

Bill Hixon

Hixon was one of the first, if not the first, Pike County football player to sign with the college and did so with little or no fanfare.

“Back then nobody paid much attention to things like that,” Hixon said. “If it was a big thing, nobody told me.”

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As a senior at Pike County High School, Hixon was named to the 33-man all state squad.

Hixon reasoned that his all-state selection caught the eye of the Troy State coach.

Hixon said Jim Grantham was his coach and he told him right quick that he had been a big fish in a little pond but he was about to be a little fish in a big pond.

“He slapped me down in a hurry but I didn’t let it get me down,” Hixon said. “I just knew I had to work extra hard.”

Hixon proudly suited up at center for the Red Wave not knowing that the athletic facilities weren’t the best in the world.

The dressing room was in the basement of Bibb Graves Hall and would be standing in three inches of water on a rainy day.

“We had these wire cubby holes to put our stuff in and there were some weights lying around for those who wanted to use them but I don’t remember anybody using them,” Hixon said.

The team didn’t chalk up many games in the win column.

“Oh, we won a few games here and there but it didn’t really seem to matter to people whether we won or not,” Hixon said. “People just weren’t into football like they are now. I just don’t remember as much about the game as I should.”

However, he did remember a game the Red Wave played against the Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee.

“We went strictly for the money and it’s a good thing we did or we would have been sorely disappointed,” Hixon said. “They drummed us 75 to 6 or something close to that.

“But, we were country boys and we had a big time on that big, beautiful campus. We had never seen anything like it and they fed us steaks before the game. We weren’t used to that so that might have been the reason we were sluggish during the game.”

The team came back to Troy on the old unreliable bus with Red Wave emblazoned on the side knowing that the world outside Pike County was a very different place.

When the season was over, the players set about earning the scholarships they had been given.

Hixon was first assigned to the work detail that was responsible for planting trees on campus. They loaded us up in an old pickup truck and took us out to the Pea River Swamp,” Hixon said. “We took scoops and dug up little water oaks and brought them back and planted them all over the campus. They’ve done away with some of the water oaks but some are still standing.”

Hixon received a letter from his “Uncle Sam” and he took an unexpected leave from college. He sustained a knee injury while in the Army that kept him from playing football.

Hixon was disappointed that his football playing days were over but took great pride in suiting up for the Red Wave nine. Being a part of college athletics was good enough for him.

So, when the football players climbed on the old pickup truck for the swamp, Hixon boarded the baseball bus, probably glad his scholarship days were over.

(The late Bill Hixon (May 28, 2020), of Banks, was an outstanding Pike County cattleman and farmer and a member and officer of the Pike County Cattleman’s Association. He served on the board of directors of the South Alabama Electric Corp. Throughout his life, Hixon remained loyal to his alma mater.)

(This article by Jaine Treadwell was reprinted from the Troy State University 110th Anniversary Keepsake Edition – Sunday, March 40, 1997.)