Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008 | Ollie Goulston coaches basketball at Hoover High. He played baseball at Dartmouth College and worked for the Padres as their assistant director of scouting and player development from 1992-94.
His preferred sports, though, aren’t the reasons Goulston hasn’t watched a college football game all season long.
Watching any football game would painfully remind Goulston of what the Hoover community lost when Todd Doxey drowned on July 14 in a swimming accident on the McKenzie River in Oregon.
Tonight’s Holiday Bowl was supposed to be Doxey’s homecoming game as a redshirt freshman defensive back for Oregon against Oklahoma State at Qualcomm Stadium. He was slated to be a backup cornerback this year, but he would have been a starter before long.
“It’s really tough for me, and I know others feel the same way,” Goulston said. “We’re happy that Todd felt Oregon was a such a good place for him. It meant a lot to his family that the coaches and some players came down here (for his funeral). I don’t even know the words to express the emotions I feel for Todd and his family.”
Doxey played football and basketball at Hoover and went to Oregon on a football scholarship following his senior year in 2006-07. He was rated by CalHiSports.com as one of the state’s top multi-sport athletes.
But even though he spent his first year on the Eugene campus as a red-shirt on the scout team, he established himself on and off the field as more than just another promising young player. The same characteristics that made him a quiet leader on the Hoover campus were felt by his college teammates.
In the Holiday Bowl, Oregon sophomore cornerback Talmadge Jackson will wear Doxey’s jersey number, 29, instead of his usual 37. It’s a tribute to a friend and teammate he considered a great athlete and a better person.
At Hoover, Doxey’s interests and influences extended beyond sports.
Just ask Tarnisha Freeman, a junior this year at Hoover. She credits Doxey for setting her life straight as a freshman and putting her on a path that previously didn’t include plans to go to college.
“I’ve improved my grades and my attitude, but it wasn’t just me,”
Freeman said. “He talked to a lot of people he saw skipping class or not doing the right things. He didn’t say anything I hadn’t heard before, but it was different coming from him. You knew Todd cared about you.”
Freeman said it was about midway through her freshman year when she was upset with a teacher and skipped class. Doxey spotted Freeman while he crossed campus.
“He said I had to get to class, and he would walk me there if he had to,” Freeman said. “He said there would be a lot of times in life when you’re upset with teachers and people, but you have to get along to further your life. From then on he was always watching out for me.
“That’s the way Todd was. He didn’t like to see people hurting. If Todd was around, he would make you smile. Everything would be alright.”
Goulston likes to say the influences of Doxey — along with his best friend and basketball teammate JayDee Luster (now at Wyoming) and others — helped changed the culture of the Hoover campus.
In the 2002-03 school year, the year before Doxey and Luster enrolled and Goulston was named the varsity basketball coach, Hoover won only 32 boys and girls varsity contests. That was for the entire school year — the fall, winter and spring sports seasons! — and half of those victories belonged to Hoover’s badminton team.
Now Hoover is a school that decorates its gym by hanging banners for league and CIF titles.
“The whole school was in a malaise,” Goulston said. “Todd, JayDee and others breathed life into the school. They raised expectations. This year our girls volleyball team won a league title. That’s a huge distance to come. It shows you what success in a couple of sports can do20for the whole school.”
Turning around an athletic program at an urban school that has struggled for years isn’t easy, and Goulston credits athletic director Ron Lardizabal for creating an environment that allowed athletes such as Doxey to thrive and impact others.
“It all comes from his leadership,” Goulston said. “He hired me and the football coach (Mike Wright). As coaches we understand from him our responsibilities leading kids. We’re a family here. We all feel we were part of Todd’s success and what he meant to the school.”
From my interviews with Doxey, one answer that stood out was when I asked him to name his favorite athlete. Most kids are influenced by the flashy player that gets the Nike TV commercials or the showboating player whose antics are replayed over and over on ESPN.
Doxey told me his favorite was Brian Dawkins, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Pro Bowl safety. Dawkins is a great player because he’s consistent and workmanlike. He’s not a flashy player. Doxey studied the game enough to know that’s the kind of player he wanted to emulate.
Last summer at a memorial for Doxey, his 10-year-old brother, Bo Rankins, was talking about how much his big brother meant to him.
“I really miss my brother,” he said.
You’re not alone, Bo. We all do.