By Mickey Winfield: PNT staff writer
At 52, Portales resident Jimmy Stratton thought he’d never have the opportunity to play football again. When he heard about the first annual Eastern New Mexico University alumni football game he wanted to play — but there was a slight misunderstanding.
“I thought it was going to be alumni versus alumni,” Stratton said. “I didn’t know it was going to be against the Greyhounds themselves.”
But the thought of playing against men young enough to be his sons didn’t stop Stratton.
“I had already made up my mind to play. It didn’t bother me, I didn’t even think about it,” Stratton said. “It sounded like fun. I was a player and I just wanted another chance to play.”
None of the current Greyhound football players had been born when Stratton strapped on his ENMU helmet in 1973 on the Hounds defensive line. In fact, Stratton played in front of future ENMU defensive coordinator and Portales Ram head coach Glenn Johnson who was playing linebacker at the time for the Hounds. Johnson was on the alumni sideline as well Saturday, but as head coach.
“He played a lot more than I ever could have (at this age),” Johnson said. “I wasn’t surprised (that he came back to play) because that’s the kind of guy he is but I was really surprised that he played as much as he did and as well as he did.”
Stratton, who still lives in Portales, drives a truck after retiring from the National Guard in 2003, and he says his age caught up to him at times during the game.
“I haven’t done anything except sit in a truck since I retired from the National Guard,” Stratton said. “I played till my legs gave out. It was frustrating because I could feel the play developing and I didn’t have the physical capability to do what I knew had to be done.”
Despite his lack of conditioning, though, the alumni old-timer was pleased with his performance.
“Considering age and size I think I did very well,” Stratton said.
The alumni lost the game 28-20, but for several Eastern alumni, including Stratton, it’s an experience they’ll never forget.
“We were all football players,” Stratton said. “We didn’t know each other but like I said, it’s camaraderie. They accepted me as a football player — some of them were a little amazed at my age, and that I was going to be out there but there wasn’t any friction and everybody accepted me as part of the team.”
“I think (his teammates) respected him,” Johnson said.