It all adds up

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 17, 2004

Greenville High School math teacher Ronnie Faulk has spent 39 years in the Butler County Public School System.

His investment has proven to pay great dividends.

"Greenville has been an excellent system to me," Faulk said. "It gave me a good education, gave me a job when I came back home, and I've always had good cooperation with the people that are running the schools. I've had good people to work with the whole time I've been here and I've enjoyed working with all of them. We've had some excellent head coaches come through in football. Greenville's always been a good place to work."

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Faulk spent his childhood and adolescence in Greenville before leaving to tour the world while serving his country. He later returned home to further his education and begin a career that has made him a hometown legend.

Early Days

Faulk, 61, was born at the old Speir's Hospital in Greenville and later went on to attend Greenville Elementary School. He remembered it being a peaceful community to grow up in.

"There was very little crime," Faulk said. "In fact, you didn't hear of anybody doing wrong back in those days. It wasn't anything unusual for people to not lock their homes. Children would go out and ramble the streets any time day or night and no one would bother them."

During his elementary days, Faulk played every recreational sport offered in Greenville. His competitive nature, which he still possesses today, was evident from the time he stepped onto the gridiron, diamond or hard court.

Faulk played catcher for Greenville's Little League Baseball teams throughout his childhood and was chosen as an All-Star each year he competed. He recalled playing in an All-Star tournament held at Memorial Stadium in Selma and the sacrifices he and his teammates made to be a part of the team.

"We slept under the stadium in old Army cots and went out to Craig Field, which was an Air Force base then, and that's where we ate our meals," Faulk said. "We stayed there until we got knocked out of the tournament."

Faulk also recalled the road trips his All-Star teams made as well.

"We went on an old Boy Scout bus and when we started going up and down the hills in Sylacauga, we had to get out of the bus when we went up the hill," Faulk said. "They would pull the bus up the hill and we would get back on it and ride down the hill."

Faulk also played in Greenville's Grass Cutter Football League, which is similar to today's Pee-Wee Football Leagues. He played running back, linebacker and defensive back as a youth.

"I grew up watching boys play football that were extremely good," Faulk said.

Faulk remembered watching local athletes such as Bobby Wadsden, who went on to play for Auburn University and local businessman Earnest Dean excel on the gridiron. He said watching those players inspired him to continue playing football.

Faulk also played guard in community basketball and ran track. He also enjoyed playing tennis with his friends on the weekends.

For fun, Faulk and his friends would also attend movies at the historical Ritz Theatre.

"Believe it or not, you could take a quarter and use it to go to the movies," Faulk said. "It was 10 cents for a ticket, 10 cents to buy a drink and a nickel for a candy bar. You could go over there and stay all day long. You could sit through the movie one time and sit through it again. That's about all there was in Greenville."

Faulk did say there were a few places in the Camellia City to go out to eat.

"At the top of the hill, where the water tower is, there was Tom's Caf/," Faulk said. "Out on Hwy. 31 south there was a Pan-Am service station that had a snack bar inside. A lot of children used to go there."

High School Days

Faulk continued to be a multi-sport athlete while at Greenville High School. He found his most success on the gridiron.

"I played to play in ballgames and because I enjoyed it," Faulk said. "Generally if you enjoy it, it's because you were good at it or at least that's the way I feel about it."

During his freshman and sophomore years, Faulk played on the Tigers' B-team. He later became a starter on the varsity squad his junior and senior years.

As a junior, Faulk was voted as the Defensive Player of the Week by the Alabama Sports Writers Association following a 41-0 loss to Robert E. Lee, which had won the Class 4A state title numerous times throughout the years.

"I played my heart out that game," Faulk said. "I was in on about every tackle we had made. They could have beaten us 500 to nothing."

Faulk ran for 1,094 yards during his senior year. He exceeded the 1,000-yard mark on the last play in the last game of the season against Luverne when he scampered 98 yards for a touchdown.

Following his senior season, Faulk was voted as a High School All-American Honorable Mention by several sports magazines, to every All-State team throughout Alabama and by many newspapers as the state's Best Running Back. He was also voted to play in the North/South football game in Tuscaloosa.

While playing high school football, Faulk also became known as one of the fastest men in Alabama. He ran a 4.35 second 40-yard dash.

Faulk helped lead the south to a 13-0 shutout over the north in the All-Star game with his defensive performance and offensive blocking. He recalled throwing the lead block for quarterback Jimmy Sidle of Banks, who later played for Auburn, on an option play, which led to a huge run and score.

In addition to playing in the North/South game, Faulk had the opportunity to play with Bob Ritter, who went on to play for Missouri; Thomas West, who later played for Florida State; Jerry Snell, who played for Georgia; Phillip Creel, who played for Auburn; Jimmy Foshee, who went on to play for Alabama and many more athletes that went on to play at the collegiate level.

Throughout his four-year high school career, Faulk also found success on the baseball diamond as Greenville High's catcher. He batted .333 and belted at least two homeruns each year.

"I didn't do anything outstanding in baseball, but I was consistent," Faulk said.

Faulk also played on the basketball team while at GHS. Although he was a guard, he was known for his defensive performance.

"We were average," Faulk said. "We won half or a little more than half of our ballgames each year."

Prior to graduating in 1961, Faulk signed a football scholarship to play for Auburn University.

Auburn Bound

As soon as Faulk stepped foot on Auburn's campus, he began working with the Tigers' varsity team as a member of the freshman squad. Although they were the youngest players on campus, he said the freshman bunch beat up on the upperclassmen.

"We only played three games and played the varsity at practice," Faulk said. "We whipped the varsity's tail just about everyday. Coach (Shug) Jordan would get so mad. They would run three plays and have gained one yard."

The Tigers' freshman team played the Alabama, Georgia and Florida freshman teams.

Faulk played starting defensive back for the Tigers and served as second-string tailback. He backed up Tucker Fredrickson, who later became an All-American running back with the Tigers and was a first-round pick in the National Football League (NFL) by the New York Giants in 1965.

He said his claim to fame throughout his short college football career was being the first Auburn player to intercept a pass thrown by Alabama quarterback Joe Namath, who later became an All-American and an NFL great.

"By the time he had threw that ball, it had rained and I looked like a mudpuppy," Faulk said. "I had mud from one end to the other. When he threw the ball, I just broke on it and caught it."

Following one season with the Tigers, Faulk decided to end his college football career.

"It was a great experience," Faulk said. "I burned myself out so to speak. Then I got away from it for a while and I wanted to get back in it."

Life Across Seas

Faulk worked as a roofer in Montgomery when he left Auburn, while he contemplated going back to the gridiron.

"I did it to stay in shape because I hadn't given up on football yet, but I was tired," Faulk said.

Following a year as a roofer, Faulk made the decision to join the United States Air Force. In February of 1963 he reported to boot camp in San Antonio, Texas, where he later earned the title of squad leader.

"I had some buddies going in and I figured it would settle me down and it did," Faulk said. "The discipline I went through in basic training and while I was working in the Air Force settled me down and I knew exactly what I had to do when I got back."

While in the Air Force, Faulk earned the rank of staff sergeant in a communication outfit serving as a Non-Morse Operator. His duty was to copy radio signals that cluttered up the airwaves.

Faulk spent a majority of his four years in the service overseas. He was stationed for 21 months on the Island of Crete, Greece and later spent 17 months in Karamasel, Turkey, which is 90 kilometers from Istanbul.

While serving in Turkey, Faulk was in charge of a 52-man communications outfit.

"My job was to make sure they did their job," Faulk said.

While in the service, Faulk had the opportunity to explore many places. He took boats deep-sea fishing in the Mediterranean Sea, skied the mountains in Turkey and a fellow serviceman bought an old World War I ambulance while on the Island of Crete and they used it to go to Athens and explore the island.

Faulk also represented the Air Force in several Amateur Athletic Union sanctioned track meets while in the service. He competed against the Greeks in the events, which were held twice a year. He claimed second place medals all four times he competed.

Back to School

Following his four-year enlistment with the Air Force, Faulk joined his brother at Troy University in 1967 to complete his college degree while on the GI Bill. During this time, he also worked part time with Sears Roebuck.

During this time, Faulk returned to his alma mater to watch the Tigers on the gridiron when he literally ran into the woman he has spent the past 36 years of his life with, his wife Billie. The two married on Aug. 25, 1968, about a year after meeting.

Faulk graduated with a double major in math and social studies in 1971. Following his graduation, he was offered a manager's position with Sears.

"I discovered I didn't like selling," Faulk said.

After a year, Faulk decided to get into teaching.

Faulk accepted a teaching and coaching job with Greenville Academy in 1973. While at GA, Faulk served as a math and history teacher and head baseball coach and assistant football coach under Greenville native Jim Autrey for three years. He also served as head basketball coach for one season.

"Then I knew that I wanted to be a teacher," Faulk said. "I love working with children. I don't give a rip if I'm head coach or not, as long as I get to work with children. That's the way that I've always been."

In order to be able to teach in

the public school system, Faulk began work on his teaching certificate during the three years spent at GA.

In 1976, Faulk accepted a teaching and coaching position at Highland Home High School. During his seven years at Highland Home, he served as assistant football coach, defensive coordinator, assistant baseball coach and head basketball coach.

While at Highland Home, the football team defeated Luverne for the first time in 42 years.

"When the ballgame was over, I was about at the 40-yard line and it took me 40 minutes to make it to the dressing room," Faulk said. "Every time I took a step, someone from Highland Home would grab me, hug me and kiss me."

Tiger Country

Faulk returned home for good in 1983 after accepting a position at his alma mater.

His decision to work closer to home was an easy decision to make.

"I was leaving home and my children would be asleep and when I would get back home, they would be asleep again," Faulk said. "There were three, four and five days straight I wouldn't see them awake. So I put in an application, was offered a job and I took it. I care about my girls very much."

During his 21-year career at Greenville High, Faulk has served as assistant football coach, assistant and head baseball coach, track coach and tennis coach.

In 1984, Greenville suffered a 10-7 loss to Emma Samson in the Alabama High School Athletic Association's Class 5A state championship game. The Tigers bounced back some years later and won the Class 5A title in 1987 and 1994.

"When we won the first title, I jumped up and down until I gave out of breath and I had people stop and ask me if I was having a heart attack," Faulk said. "It was nice for the people of Greenville and for the people in the school. The second championship was no less of a thrill."

Even though Faulk's career at Greenville High School has been exciting, all things have to come to end. For the beloved teacher, this year is it.

"I've got one more year, then I'm going to retire," Faulk said. "I'm kind of getting tired."

Although Faulk has coached all throughout his teaching career, he has never strived to advance to the next playing field.

"My goal was never to be Bear Bryant, Shug Jordan, Wallace Butts or anybody like that," Faulk said. "It never has been and never will be, as long as I got to work with children. That's what I enjoy. I want to teach them the fundamentals and watch them grow into athletes."

The only goal Faulk has strived to fulfill throughout the years is to teach the children life lessons.

"I hope I helped somebody grow up quicker than I did and know when they left high school basically what they wanted to do," Faulk said. "Hopefully, I gave them the desire to excel in whatever they go after."

Faulk and his wife have two daughters, Peyton and Alice.