By Rubin E. Grant
Just about every weekday afternoon, Pat Sullivan goes to his office on the third floor of the Samford football building that bears his name, the Sullivan-Cooney Family Field House.
His personal assistant, Darryl DuBose, is right by his side, providing whatever help Sullivan needs.
“He’s my brother,” Sullivan said fondly.
Sullivan is a special adviser to Samford President Andrew Westmoreland for campus and community development. He was the Bulldogs’ head coach for eight years before stepping down after the 2014 season.
Sullivan, 68, also is a cancer survivor. He’s nourished through a feed- ing tube and has an oxygen tank to help him breathe. Both are the results of the radiation treatments that killed the cancer in his throat and damage from a later surgical procedure.
“I’m doing all right,” Sullivan said. “I have my issues to fight every day, but the good Lord has been good to me.”
Sullivan will be honored during the American Cancer Society’s Tee It Up Fore Life 2018 golf tournament at Old Overton Club on June 11.
The tournament is presented by Medical Properties Trust. Participation and donations provide funding for American Cancer Society programs and services.
“One of my close friends, Gary Cooney, has been involved with it and he has had people fight with cancer issues like I have,” Sullivan said. “It’s a worthwhile event and I want to do whatever I can to help.
“The tournament is for a good cause. Obviously, I can’t play, but I’ll start the tournament off. I used to play a lot at courses all over, but I had to stop because of the cancer. I’m looking forward to going out there and seeing a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in a while.”
Libba Hardwick, senior manager of community development for the South Region of the American Cancer Society, is elated to have Sullivan as the honoree.
“Each year we try to choose someone who has been touched by cancer and who is well known in the community,” Hardwick said. “Coach Sullivan has been involved with us for many years and has helped us in the past. I think he’s a great choice as the honoree for our tournament.”
Sullivan is a football legend, a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback at Auburn University and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. In addition to being head coach at Samford, he was head coach at Texas Christian University and an assistant at Auburn and UAB.
Beating the Odds
He was the offensive coordinator at UAB when his battle with cancer began in 2003.
“When I was diagnosed with it, the doctor was talking to me and, like anyone, I was wondering, ‘What does that mean and how long do I have?’” Sullivan said. “Most people with the kind of cancer I had had a life expectancy of five years, but the doctor told me with my physical condition I might live a little longer.”
That was 15 years ago and Sullivan still has an active life, spending time with his wife of 49 years, Jean, their three children and eight grandchildren. When he leaves his Samford office, he heads over to Mountain Brook High School to pick up his grandson Taylor Pankey from school.
“I’m like the Energizer bunny, still kicking along,” Sullivan said. “But I wouldn’t be here if not for my doctors and Jean.”
The Tee It Up Fore Life tournament begins at 11 a.m. June 11 with registration and the opening of the practice range. Lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. and the shotgun start is at 1 p.m. A reception and presentation of awards begins at 5:45 p.m.
People are encouraged to donate through the tournament website at teeitupforelifebham.com.
For sponsorship or registration information, contact community development manager Meredith Rodgers at email@example.com. ❖