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Hartline was one caring grand parent

There is just something special about a grandchild who can bring out emotional outbursts that most grown men seldom exhibit.

When my grandson was born nearly five years ago, I was fine at the hospital, acting all tough on the exterior. However, when I saw my son carry that tiny bundle out of the delivery room and held him close to me, I lost it. I just couldn't hold back the emotion, the tears came from out of nowhere.

And remember, I'm not a big, tough, football or military hero, I'm just a guy who gets paid to go to ball games and write about the players and coaches who make those headlines.

One of the first coaches I ever met was Ronnie Hartline, the first football coach at MacArthur, who lost his life Monday at the age of 76.

When I first met Coach Hartline, it was at Lew Johnson's Restaurant where my wife was a hostess/cashier. He was an amazing encyclopedia of football knowledge as I learned after just a few days sitting at a booth eating breakfast while he and the others drank coffee.

And, that was even before I started hearing about just how great a football player he was from Lew Johnson, Bill Dixon, the late Constitution photographer and others who witnessed his prep and college heroics. 

When I joined the staff here at The Constitution, my job as a "cub" reporter was often to cover MacArthur football and I loved it.

 Those days visiting the Mac coaches office were fun, listening to Coach Hartline trading barbs with Kenny McSwane, Johnny Kitchens, Mike Moore, Hartwell Menefee, Bob Sanders and many others who showed up in that oft-cramped office for the obligatory game of Hearts.

And, there's no telling how many Friday nights I spent at venerable Ron Stephens Stadium, covering the Highlanders. 

You see, Coach Hartline didn't mind playing at the old facility, in fact, he relished playing there because he had many great games himself on that lush natural turf and it just seemed like a good fit at the time. 

For years, Coach Hartline was my source for stories on the Highlanders and he was always helpful, even though he didn't really enjoy being quoted, always leery that he'd give the opposition bulletin board fodder. 

One thing was constant, in all my years of knowing Coach Hartline, never did he brag about his own ability on the football field. He always gave credit to his teammates, first those at Lawton High and then at the University of Oklahoma. The guy who gave me the opportunity to handle this beat, former sports editor Herb Jacobs, penned a great piece yesterday that covered Ronnie Hartline the football great, and if you haven't read it yet, I urge you to do so. 

Today I wanted to take a different track and talk about the one thing we had in common, being a proud grandparent.

As one might expect, after Coach Hartline retired I saw much less of him, but every now and then I'd see him out at the golf course knocking the ball a mile down the fairway, or mowing lawns for friends across Lawton. 

Within the last year or so I saw even less of Coach Hartline and as I soon learned it was because he was facing medical issues. 

Just three weeks or so ago, my phone rang and it was Coach Hartline. We proceeded to go down memory lane, talking about the good old days when he had players like Billy Daniels, Art Mata, Norm Easter, Jimmy Madden, Ricky Rainbolt, Vaughn Lusby, and the Fishers  Reggie and Rod  along with other Mac players who I grew to know and love just like the coach.

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