As then-producer of the Baylor Radio Network for football and basketball broadcasts, I was impressed to receive a call from Tyler Cox, operations manager of WBAP-AM radio, the flagship station for Baylor University athletics, in March of 1997.
“John, I have a big favor to ask. Our 75th anniversary takes place in May and we’d like to ask Grant Teaff to be our keynote speaker.”
Coach Teaff had retired from being Baylor’s head football coach in 1992 and as athletic director in 1993. At that time, he was in his third year as executive director of the American Football Coaches Association.
When I called Coach Teaff with the invitation, he was excited, telling me that WBAP had intersected with his life many times.
Tyler called me on the morning of the banquet with a challenge. He told me, “While Coach Teaff is an ideal speaker, we had also invited another speaker, but he was not available. Just a moment ago, he called and said he would love to speak at our banquet tonight. Do you think that Coach Teaff would share the podium with another speaker?”
I told him that Coach Teaff would not have any issue, but I would call him to confirm, as a courtesy. I asked, “Who is the other speaker?”
Tyler swallowed deeply and said, “Rush Limbaugh.”
Coach Teaff was immediately gracious and really excited to share the podium with Limbaugh. “Johnny, I only have one request: I want to bat last,” Teaff said.
Next, I called Tyler with the good news, to which he asked, “Is he sure that he wants to follow Rush Limbaugh, one of the most gifted communicators of all time?”
I confirmed the request, and Tyler agreed.
That evening, I sat next to a man who was not familiar with Grant Teaff.
“I sure wouldn’t want to be this Teef (he didn’t know how to pronounce Grant’s name) fellow, following such a big-time speaker.,” he said.
Limbaugh spoke first, and he was as dynamic and eloquent as I would have hoped. He told stories and shared a philosophy that pleased the audience.
Tyler then introduced Coach Teaff, who captivated the audience by sharing how he grew up in Snyder, Texas, listening to legendary broadcasters that included Kern Tips, during his college years, and Baylor legend Frank Fallon.
Coach Teaff said, “I fell in love with football because of WBAP. By age 8, I knew I wanted to play football. By age 10, I knew I wanted to coach football in the Southwest Conference. At the University of Texas!”
Next, he told of four pivotal moments in his life and each one specifically related to WBAP. One was in high school in Snyder, the next was in college at McMurry State, another was while he was an assistant coach at Texas Tech. Finally, he said he was thrilled in 1990 when WBAP became the flagship radio station of the Baylor Radio Network while he was still coaching the Bears.
His shared moments about WBAP captivated the audience, particularly when he said, “Well, I didn’t make it to the University of Texas, but God did lead me to Baylor, where I beat the University of Texas more than any other coach did.”
Coach Teaff left the stage to a standing ovation and I walked over to shake his hand. Knowing that he was prone to exaggerate in some of his speech stories, I said, “Coach you knocked that speech out of the park. Even if some of those incredible stories weren’t true, you were awesome!”
He smiled and told me, “Johnny, every word I said tonight was true. WBAP has intersected with my life in more ways than I could ever imagine. This evening’s banquet presented a personal opportunity for me to say, ‘thank you’ to this amazing radio station.”
Even Limbaugh was impressed. I listened to his radio broadcast the next day when he said, “Ladies and gentleman, last night I was honored to attend and speak at the 75th anniversary of one of our affiliate radio stations — WBAP 820 in Dallas-Fort Worth. I witnessed what I believe may have been the single greatest speech I ever heard in my life by a man named Grant Teaff — the former coach of Baylor University.”
Whether you agreed or disagreed with Limbaugh politically, we should all agree that he had excellent taste in evaluating public speakers. Teaff is more than a living legend. Through his leadership in building character as well as football players, he is a revered national treasure.
Oh, and that man sitting next to me that was concerned about Coach “Teef” speaking after Limbaugh? He looked at me in awe and said, “This Teef guy just blew Rush Limbaugh away!”
John Fletcher is a former Waco resident who owned Fletcher Communications in Waco for 19 years. He owns Fletcher Consulting, a public relations and marketing firm in Hurst, and lives in Arlington.