By Rubin E. Grant
Buddy Anderson had no idea his wife was baking chicken for Sunday dinner.
So, when Linda Anderson told him the chicken was done, Buddy Anderson was caught off guard.
“Usually when she bakes chicken, I can smell it,” Anderson said Tuesday evening. “But I didn’t smell anything. So I went upstairs and opened the aftershave I use and I couldn’t smell it, either.”
Anderson knew immediately something was askew. He also knew that loss of smell was one of the symptoms of COVID-19.
So, Monday morning the legendary Vestavia Hills football coach and his wife went to get tested for the coronavirus. The test result came back positive for both.
“All of this is strange,” Anderson said. “I don’t where the virus came from. It’s invisible.
“I’ve had a little cough, but before the start of every football season I have a cough because I’m talking to my team so much. Neither of us have had a fever. She had a little rash, which is another symptom, and she threw up a couple of times.
“It’s going to take some time for us to get to feeling better.”
With Anderson testing positive and several players testing positive, too, Vestavia Hills announced in a statement Tuesday that it was suspending football practice through Aug. 20.
“Over the past several days, Vestavia Hills High School athletics staff [has] been monitoring several students and coaches in the varsity football program who recently tested positive for COVID-19 or were in close contact with individuals who tested positive,” the statement read.
“As a result, the football program will not practice again until Aug. 21, the day the season was originally set to begin.”
The Rebels canceled their first two games of season “due to the inability of the team to practice for an extended period.” Vestavia Hills was scheduled to open the season on Aug. 21 against Mountain Brook and play Homewood on Aug. 28.
School officials confirmed all other school athletics practices and events are taking place as scheduled.
“I called my players because I wanted them to hear it from me, so when I did that, they went to work to put out a press release,” Anderson said.
“I hate that for the kids. We tried to identity the things to help them stay safe and healthy. Their health is most important to us. We had gone all summer — from June 8 until last Monday — without a positive test, but we had a player test positive last Monday. Then another and then two more. We felt like it was best to stop.”
The Rebels will try to replace one of the two non-region contests that was canceled with another game during Week 5, originally scheduled to be an open week.
Vestavia Hills’ first game of the 2020 season now will be a Class 7A, Region 3 contest against Hoover on Sept. 4.
“We’re going to take two weeks off and then start back practicing and hopefully play the rest of the season,” Anderson said. “But only God knows for sure.”
Earlier this summer, Anderson, 70, announced he was retiring at the end of the 2020 season, his 43rd as the Rebels’ head coach. He is a National High School Hall of Fame inductee and the winningest coach in the state with a 342-154 record.
Despite contracting COVID-19, Anderson said he is at peace with his decision to coach one final season.
“If we don’t play, it will be emotional for me,” he said. “If we do play, it will be emotional at the end. But none of this has taken God by surprise. He knew this day was coming.”