Before Stuart Scott was a ground-breaking sportscaster, he was a foot-stomping step master. Most of us know him as an ESPN personality that forged new paths in sports journalism. But where did that swagger come from? When did the first inklings of his specialness start to take shape? For some, it would be his time at UNC-Chapel Hill as a club football player, college radio host and fraternity member.
The arena or set then was not an Orlando TV station or an NBA court, but Great Hall at UNC’s Student Union or a hallway at Morrison dorm, Lenoir Hall, the campus cafeteria, or the wall across from the undergraduate library where Black students were likely to be clustered.
Stuart and I were line brothers who pledged the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity together. Our line was called the “12 Masters of the Mix” at the Mu Zeta chapter at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. While we didn’t stay in constant contact, the bond that even a few fleeting years in college can bring, especially on a Southern, predominantly White campus in the nation's oldest Black fraternity, is strong and memorable.
As many of us who knew him then reconnected and reflected over the last couple of days, there were reveals about the icon worth sharing that make the words “What you are to be, you are becoming” ring true.
This was also the era at UNC of Michael Jordan, two years ahead of Stu, Kenny Smith and other figures who would loom large in the American sports landscape. But we knew they would blow-up. For Stu, the indicators were a little different about what kind of well-loved personality he would become.
Talented Step Master: Almost as soon as he became an Alpha, he was a beast with his step game. He was creating new ones and breathing life into old ones. People like Tremel Faison Spaulding and Willa-Jo Greene will tell you of his fascination with the musical West Side Story. So much so he based an entire step routine upon it, including an amazing triple back flip.
Said Willa-Jo “We danced [the musical] out in the lobby of Morrison [dorm] as freshmen. I did not know much choreography, so mostly I was just singing the lyrics and cheering him on…I can see him now jumping on the round bench now and gripping the pillar.”
Everyday Jokester: I saw Stuart purposely fall for a laugh so many times it wasn’t even funny. But it was, every time. Others like Rhonda Hubbard Beatty, tell of him taking it to the heights of street theater, literally. She recalls “He fell down in the street…he didn’t move…a bus was coming, we were terrified!” Of course, he got up just in time for safety, and a big laugh. They had been “Stu’d”.
Big Hearted Guy: To a person among UNC Black alumni, this was a constant description. An ex-girlfriend remarked “His parents raised him right. Always a gentleman.” Others had tales of good deeds, being a great Resident Advisor, making people feel welcome. Just like he did on Sports Center.
His longtime friend and Alpha brother from those days who remained tight with him through the successes and struggles until this past Sunday, was Fred Tindal. Fred’s FB post simply said, with a heavy sigh, “I'm not good at this posting stuff…Stu has left a big void in all our lives and he will be eternally missed.” Solid words from a man who knew Stu’s joy and pain all too well.
The loss of Stuart Scott is a big loss for millions of folks and especially his family. And he will remain an inspiration.
For me, it was simply the first-time loss in my life of a genuine homie, from way back.
So, 06! Go Heels! RIP Stu.
Information on Stuart Scott's Omega Chapter ceremony for members of Alpha Phi Alpha can be found here.
-Follow Wyatt Closs on Twitter: @wyclo