One of my dearest friends on earth is a man named David Montgomery or, more affectionately, SuperDave.
He received this title at UT when a group of five friends on our dormitory hallway decided we should all have nicknames. Given that our group had two David’s, one might have expected controversy over who would get the coolest nickname, but there was no question that David Montgomery would be dubbed SuperDave. It was simply an accurate description. He could bench press more than 400 pounds, was a natural leader, and was looked up to by everyone on the hallway. The other Dave was relegated to the self-ascribed pseudonym, Low-Octane Dave, I became DynaMike, and Smiley and Dirty rounded out the group.
Collectively, we were known as the Four Horsemen, even though we numbered five and were not anticipating any apocalypse. We were more like the Four Horsemen of the wrestling world. You know, Rick Flair, Arn Anderson…
Suffice it to say that we were 18-year-olds with no one of any wisdom to look out for us. Except, that is, for SuperDave.
SuperDave kept his Bible handy but still embraced even the most idiotic and hell-raising dorm-mates ensnared by accelerated stupidity amidst our first prolonged escape from parental supervision.
I know because I was one of them. All too frequently my freshman year, I found myself with the dismal next-day reminder of the prior night’s excessive alcohol consumption in the form of a brutal hangover. Yet SuperDave always confronted me those mornings in a way that made me feel not so much admonished but rather like I had just fumbled the ball in a championship game and my coach was saying, “Shake it off, you’re still our starter, and I have confidence in you.” Somehow his words communicated how dumb you had just been while at the same time extending grace, making you admire and respect him even more. He made you want to not disappoint him.
SuperDave sometimes took to unconventional ways of getting his point across. If (when) you did something foolish, he might tackle you without warning in the hallway, pin you down (there was no escaping this until he was ready to set you free), and lecture you at length, plucking leg hairs from his victim with the conclusion of each statement to emphasize his points.
Many Greve Hall residents walked the UT campus with large patches of missing leg hair in the late ‘80’s. Although I had received numerous lectures, I had never received the leg hair plucking treatment.
Until, that is…
I had been out with a friend on an especially poorly planned night and was introduced to Jaegermeister, which became the bane of my entire existence. It was like drinking cough syrup but worse. In no time, I was drunk beyond anything I had ever been before, and the foggy memories of getting back to my dorm were not made any clearer when I awoke to David sitting on the edge of my bed staring down at me like a disappointed father.
“Last night wasn’t good.”
I think I grunted.
“You made some bad choices.”
Exasperated with my incoherent state, he tore the sheets off and ripped what felt like a football field length of hair from my leg.
Suddenly, he had my attention!
I yowled as he barked inquiries on why I would do such a thing. Unconvinced despite my assurances that it wouldn’t happen again, he declared that we would be roommates next year, and that was that.
The next year, I moved into his room at the end of the hallway. Coming off of a long summer with a full-time job, I was perhaps a little more responsible. SuperDave, being SuperDave, had spent the summer coaching a grass-cutter football team, and I wasn’t surprised to see how much the kids loved him when I attended my first game.
SuperDave loved his team, too, and dreamed of the games so much that my top-bunk slumbers were almost nightly interrupted by his screaming at the top of his lungs as if standing on the sidelines instead of resting in the lower bunk. I eventually grew used to it, but never doubted that “going for it” on fourth-and-short was a situation he took very seriously in both waking and sleeping states.
I began that second year halfheartedly, picking up old habits that Dave frowned upon and tactfully lectured me over at every opportunity. Then he began to make plans for us on nights I would normally go out with drinking buddies, and he dragged me, not wholly unwillingly, into relationships focused on less liquid forms of fun. I still cherish those friendships today.
The influence of SuperDave’s constant presence was too strong, and I eventually gave up drinking entirely. Though I have never told him, I credit him with saving my life in many ways. At the very least, he steered my life in a direction that lead away from assured self-destruction and toward taking advantage of opportunities.
I am thankful for his presence and influence.
Almost 28 years have passed, and David and I will be meeting in Atlanta this March, joined by our sons, to enjoy the car-crushing splendor of Monster Jam at the Georgia Dome. Even more than seeing the excitement on our kids’ faces, I am looking forward to seeing the best example of a true friend a person could ever have. We will share lots of laughs, lots of memories, and not a drop of alcohol.
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© Michael L. Collins
*Published in the February 10, 2016 edition of The Mountain Press