“Touchdown Tony: Running With a Purpose” by Tony Nathan
Football (American), college, memoir, autobiography, race, Alabama
September 15, 2015
4 of 5 stars (very good)
Football fans may know of Tony Nathan because of his college career with the University of Alabama or during his professional career with the Miami Dolphins. Maybe he is recognized because he was on Crimson Tide’s national championship team in 1978 or for his key roles in helping the Dolphins win two conference championships in the 1980’s. He has also been a coach for the Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens.
However, after reading “Touchdown Tony”, one will realize that none of those accomplishments are Nathan’s proudest moments. His story of what he experienced during his childhood and his high school years will make a reader realize how grounded Nathan’s values are to make him the man he is today. He writes about those times, and his times at the University of Alabama, with a great deal of pride. Not necessarily about what he accomplished on the football field, but about the values instilled into him by his family, his coaches and his environment.
His years at Woodlawn High School make for the best reading in the book. This was during the time when integration of schools was just beginning in Birmingham, Alabama and there was much tension in the air. Nathan writes about those times with a breath of fresh air. He doesn’t hold any grudges, airs any dirty laundry or complains about what he endured. Instead he recalls his time at Woodlawn with fondness. He talks about the excellent relationship he had with Jeff Rutledge, a white quarterback who was a star at a rival school that beat Woodlawn in a championship game. It seemed only fitting that the two of them would later be teammates at Alabama.
While the book does address the issue of race in the 1970’s, the story that touched Nathan the most was not something in his school or on the field, but observing the interactions of ordinary citizens, both black and white, in the immediate aftermath of the championship game Woodlawn lost. Nathan wrote about observing people interacting with each other in a manner that transcended race. Whether it was congratulating fans of the winning team or consoling fans of the losing team, he felt it was something special to just observe. That was a very unique perspective to look at how people of different races would interact – something I would not expect to find in an autobiography of an athlete.
Nathan also writes of his faith, his family and his love for his wife Johnnie in a manner that the reader will see how grounded he is in his values. Because he developed these values in his younger years, the book concentrates on that portion of his life. While Nathan does write about his years with the Dolphins and as a coach, the bulk of the book is about his years growing up and going to school in Alabama. It is a refreshing account of those times and a book that would be enjoyed by anybody.
I wish to thank Howard Books for providing an advance review copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Pace of the book:
This was a very quick read as Nathan’s telling of his experience growing up and playing for the high school and college teams was very conversational. It felt like you could be sitting on the porch listening to him reminisce about those times.
Do I recommend?
This book will be appealing to a broad range of readers. One doesn’t have to be a football fan to be inspired by Nathan’s enthusiasm for both his life and his faith. However, the football sections, especially those about his days on the Crimson Tide, will be thoroughly enjoyed by those who follow the game.
Book Format Read:
Buying links: (pre-order links at time of posting)