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winter 2018
Unleashed

Unleashed

College honors Mike Ayers with field naming and dedication (bonus Jud Heldreth ’93 tribute to Ayers)

The grandchildren of Julie and Mike Ayers — Max, Amelia, Avery, Madison and Ezra (with the help of his dad Dr. Travis Ayers) — unveiled the bust of Mike Ayers at the new gateway field entrance to Gibbs Stadium. During the event held Oct. 27, the college named the field at Gibbs Stadium in Ayers’ honor. A number of generous donors made the Mike Ayers Field naming and dedication project possible. Others have continued to pay tribute to Ayers by contributing to the Mike Ayers Endowed Scholarship Fund. For more information about how you can contribute to the scholarship fund and honor Ayers, please contact the Department of Athletics at 864-597-4090 or visit wofford.edu/give.

Tribute to Mike Ayers from Jud Heldreth ’93

The setting was a January football banquet. I was a high school senior trying to decide where to go to college and each of my opportunities were big universities. The keynote speaker that night was Coach Mike Ayers (never heard of him) from Wofford College (never considered it) and my three prioritized thoughts were what was for dinner, our basketball game the next night and what was for dessert. I had absolutely no reason to expect the following hour would change my life forever. Oh how it did!

Coach Ayers took the podium, calm, cool and collected. He removed his glasses (with no script or notes at all) and explained what the first minutes of every morning is like for Mike Ayers. He began with some simple affirmations, acknowledgement of blessings, daily goals and positive imagery. Then he picked up the energy a bit. He removed his dress coat and raised his voice to a level just to make certain everyone was at attention. He then started telling the "Mike in the mirror" how things were going to go that particular day. Next the tie was removed, the perspiration increased and the voice level kicked up another notch. More intense conversation with the mirror (now in Marine drill instructor mode) ensued and by the conclusion of the dramatized morning ritual everyone in the room was ready to play whatever or go wherever or do what Coach Ayers demanded. It was the most inspired I had ever been and our football season had ended a few weeks back so I was disappointed. My only thought was that I wanted to be where that Coach was and all other college options were erased from possibility.

Everyone that knows me (and many that do not) knows my Dad played football, baseball and basketball at Wofford and even coached football and baseball for the Terriers.

Here's the craziest part of this story....

I had NEVER, not once, set foot on Wofford's campus. Growing up, Dad was a teacher, coach, athletic director, eventual school administrator and Mom also worked in the school system. My three older siblings played three sports each so we never had the time to make trips to Wofford.

Coach Ayers had such an impact on me that I signed with Wofford the next week. Many thought I was foolish to have chosen a school that I had never visited. Moreover, after that banquet speech, the very first time I actually made it to campus was when I reported to pre-season camp in August. And from that day on Coach became a catalyst for so many aspects in my life.

He showed me that being a leader required courage to stay the path while constantly encouraging but administering tough love toward others. He hugged me when my Grandparents passed away in my junior and senior years (the same embrace I gave him following a game the Saturday after his Father passed away). He taught me life lessons during a few games that were lasting "corrections" to my character. Many more lessons were learned off the field and out of season. His beautiful wife Julie was and is such an amazing woman and one of my favorite people. His three beautiful children were acolytes in our wedding. So many stories and so many memories but the most tangible effects Coach had on my life are the ones I live every day.

He is the sole reason Wofford is home for me. He is the reason I met my wife. He is the reason Talmage Skinner officiated our wedding. He is the reason I experienced the best professors, administration and overall staff higher education has to offer. He is the reason I have my very best friends in life. He is the reason we get together throughout the year and especially during football season. He is the reason I had the honor to know Lee Hanning. He is the reason my children have grown up knowing Wofford. He is the reason my Dad and Mom had the opportunity to fall back in love with Wofford.
Everyone has those moments in life that can only be described as "God things". One short speech at a high school sports banquet changed my life forever. I'll never know why I deserved such a magnificent blessing but I am grateful to God every day!