I went head over heels to cover Shrine Bowl

Published 7:31 pm Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The incident was pushed deep into the recesses of my mind — until recently.

A few weeks ago, I asked some friends to name their favorite cartoon characters. I got the usual replies — Calvin, Marvin the Martian, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Super Chicken.

Then, it happened. A friend and former co-worker said his favorite cartoon character was — TA DA! — me. He recalled an incident at the 1990 Shrine Bowl game in Charlotte in which I was involved. His post on Facebook rekindled another friend and former co-worker’s remembrance of that incident.

Perhaps they consider me a cartoon character because that incident was broadcast on TV and I was somewhat animated during that broadcast and the subsequent videotaping of said incident by some of my so-called friends at the time.

It was December 1990. I was in Charlotte to cover the Shrine Bowl game, which would showcase the talents of West Craven High School running back Lee Becton, who later set records at the University of Notre Dame. Becton, whom I covered during his sophomore, junior and senior years, was a running back for the North Carolina squad.

North Carolina won the 1990 Shrine Bowl by a 10-7 score, with Becton scoring the only North Carolina touchdown on a five-yard run.

The night before the Saturday game, it snowed in Charlotte. I was there to watch the snow fall. When I arrived at Memorial Stadium in Charlotte the next morning, crews had already pushed the snow off the tarp that covered the field. The snow was piled behind the sidelines and next to walls around the field. There was plenty of snow around the perimeter of the field.

I was on the North Carolina sideline, camera in hand. South Carolina was on offense. I was taking photographs, when I wasn’t writing notes and stats in my reporter’s notebook. South Carolina had a big, fast running back. He weighed about 220 pounds. I positioned myself right next to the sideline, looking through the camera’s viewfinder and trying to focus on that running back. As luck would have it, the play was a running play coming my way.

As I looked through the viewfinder, I realized the running back was getting closer and closer to me.

“I’m going to get a great picture,” I thought.

I got a lot more.

The North Carolina defense forced the running back toward the sideline. The running back did not run into the defense. Instead, he ran out of bounds and over me. That’s right, he ran over me.

He sent me flying into a pile of the snow.

The TV cameras sent that image over the airwaves.

I survived the hit.

After the game, the South Carolina running back came over to me, asked if I was OK and told me I put the best hit on him that day. I knew the feeling. He put the best hit on me that day.

I stayed with some friends, a married couple and their children, in Troy on Saturday night. After dinner, they said they had something to show me. It was a videotape of the incident.

When I returned to Washington the next day, several friends said they also witnessed the incident and captured it on videotape.

So, if I am to be compared to a cartoon character because of that incident, just call me Wyle E. Coyote. He gets injured all the time in incidents involving the Road Runner.

Nearly 22 years later, I am still waiting for ESPN to show footage of me stopping that South Carolina running back in his tracks.


Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. On Dec. 8, 1990, he fell head over heels in love with all-star football games.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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