Not too many people I know can say that they went to school with a guy that has played football for two Division I Southeastern Conference teams however, I am one of the few people that can say that. I watched Brandon Kennedy play for two years at the high school level for my alma mater, Wetumpka High School and like many people he was bigger than me, but unlike most people, he was 6’5″ and weighed somewhere close to 300 lbs. I watched him dominate at the ranks for those two years, I also watched him play at Alabama for a few years and I’ve watched him play for my favorite team, the Tennessee Volunteers. All within the last few years. Kennedy left high school in December of 2014 to head to Tuscaloosa and be a part of the dynasty that Nick Saban has built for the past 11 years, going on 12. But prior to leaving school to enroll at The University of Alabama, he was scheduled to graduate in 2015, a year ahead of me. After he graduated from Alabama a few years back, Brandon decided to leave The Capstone and transfer elsewhere to play out his last two years of eligibility. During his time at Alabama, he won he won a national title. In 2016, my senior year of high school I had the pleasure of interview him for a promotion video project that I was a part of for the football team. Brandon is scheduled to be Tennessee’s starting center in 2019. Honestly, never in a million years did I think I would attend the same high school as a multi-Southeastern Conference football player but I did and I still can’t believe it to this day.
Many across the State of Alabama remember listening to the enthusiastic, deep voice of Rod Bramblett at some point in their lives. Whether it was during your childhood/teenage years or in your adult life. Even if you were a fan of a different school, like myself, you were familiar with the silky smooth voice that Bramblett possessed. Hearing of his passing on Saturday May 25, 2019, left me speechless. Not only by the loss of a broadcasting legend, but also by loss of a great person. This world was a better place because of Rod Bramblett. Rod passed away at a Birmingham, Alabama hospital due to injuries sustained during a car collision earlier that evening. Not only did Rod but his wife, Paula Bramblett was also injured and also succumbed due to injuries sustained. Bramblett took over for Jim Fyffe in 2003. My thoughts and prayers are with Auburn University, its athletic department, and the Bramblett as Rod, represented not only a broadcaster, but also a son, father, mentor and friend to many across the State of Alabama. His compassionate spirit and silky smooth voice. Will not soon be forgotten
The year was 2014 and I had recently been on visits with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks and the Auburn Tigers. I was sitting at home when my mom got a Facebook message from a mutual friend whose son I went to high school with asking if I would be interested in visiting with the Biscuits. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Montgomery Biscuits, they are the Double-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. I couldn’t believe what I had just been told, I was 16 at the time and I knew might only get the opportunity once, so I took the offer up. I would be in the press box at Riverwalk Stadium, the same stadium which at one time saw the likes of Evan Longoria, BJ Upton and David Price grace its diamond. I would attend the game on June 3rd, 2014 vs. the Huntsville Stars and I could hardly wait. The Huntsville Stars were the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. I had been to Riverwalk Stadium before but I had never been in the press box there. When the day finally got here, I was thrilled and headed to the stadium as soon as I could. When I got to the press box I was greeted by Aaron Vargas, who was The Voice of the Biscuits at the time. The Biscuits went on to win the game that night. If you have an opportunity at chasing your dream at a higher level, take it you never know if you’ll get that opportunity again but also remain grateful and humble.
Next piece: A Visit with the Auburn-Montgomery Warhawks.
Around this time in 2014, I received a Facebook message from Randy Belyeu, the Wetumpka High School Softball coach at time. I knew it must’ve been important because he never messaged me out of the blue. The message read: “Hey Braxton, it’s Coach Belyeu give me a call when you get the chance.” Immediately I picked up my phone and dialed his number. He picked up and we talked for a while and then he said “I’ve been in touch with Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama, and they would love to have you up there for a baseball game, just pull up their schedule and pick the home game you want to attend.” I knew this was the start of something special. I glanced at the schedule and chose the April 13, 2014 home game vs. Murray State Racers. Once I had the game picked out I immediately started practicing. Before I knew it, the weekend was here. We left Wetumpka on a Saturday in time for the Sunday game. We spent the night at University Inn just miles from Rudy Abbott Field. Sunday morning, I woke up quickly and rushed out of the hotel room as I had to meet former Jacksonville State Baseball coach Rudy Abbott that morning and I refused to be late. After I met Coach Abbott, we headed over to the baseball field. I was only expecting to announce half the game at the most, but I ended up announcing the entire game. Never give up on your dream, even when times get rough God might have something great right around the corner.
Next entry: A Visit With Rod Bramblett and Auburn Baseball.