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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Ty’s Story: Charleston Great Ty Storey Returns to Razorback Stadium to Play His Former Team, Part 3


Note to Readers: This is part three of a five part series on Ty Storey’s return to Fayetteville to play against his former team as quarterback of Western Kentucky University. The series will conclude on November 10, the day after the Razorbacks game with Western Kentucky. The Resident Press would like to thank Ty Storey, Steve Cox, the University of Arkansas, University of Tulsa, Western Kentucky University, and others for making this series possible.

Today is travel day for Western Kentucky, and Ty Storey and his WKU teammates will leave today for Fayetteville and their game Saturday with the Razorbacks. By now, Ty is probably feeling the excitement and the uncertainty of returning to Razorback Stadium to play against Arkansas.

Make no mistake. This is not just a Ty Storey homecoming trip for Western Kentucky. WKU is a very good football team and they are coming to Fayetteville to defeat the Razorbacks and to get their sixth win on the season, making them bowl eligible. The HIlltoppers are favored to defeat Arkansas behind Storey and a strong passing game. But with all of that said, the back story of this game cannot be denied. Ty Storey, who battled for four years to start at quarterback at Arkansas, and was eventually told that he did not factor into the team’s plans for this year, will return to Razorback Stadium with a chance to make a statement of his own. According to Saturdaydownsouth.com, coach Chad Morris told Ty, “We got a plan. We’re out on the road recruiting, and will be; there are options that we have.”

As of the date of this publication, Ty has passed this year for 1,477 yards. He has thrown seven touchdown passes and five interceptions. He is just three completions shy at this point in the season with Western Kentucky than he was overall at Arkansas. He has thrown seven touchdown passes compared to eleven overall at Arkansas. Ty’s passer rating is 22% higher at WKU than it was overall at Arkansas. And if Western Kentucky wins tomorrow, Ty Storey will likely play in a bowl game at the end of the season.

Throughout the entire transfer experience, Ty Storey, and the Storey family have been the epitome of class. There has not been one public negative word or statement directed at the University of Arkansas, Chad Morris, the Arkansas fan base, or his former teammates. Ty is a true champion, and when adversity confronted him in December 2018, Ty reacted like true champions do. He took a bad situation and turned it into a positive. The true champion formed his own plan, went to work, and now it is paying off for him.

How will the crowd react at Razorback Stadium? How will it feel playing against his former teammates? I am sure all of these questions, plus a blur of memories from his past, both in Charleston and the University of Arkansas will flood his mind over the next 24 hours. At the team’s hotel tonight, Ty Storey will have a hard time not thinking about his time at Arkansas and the events that have him in Fayetteville tonight, with a visiting team, in the visiting team’s hotel, making final preparations with the game plan to win against the Razorbacks. And tomorrow morning, he will be on the WKU team bus, heading to Razorback Stadium and the visitors locker room. Going to his locker at the stadium, getting dressed, getting taped, and spending those last few quiet minutes before the team takes the field for warm-up. All of this, just as Steve Cox did 43 years ago.

Undoubtedly, Ty’s mind will be racing tonight, thinking about the memories, both good and not so good, of playing at Razorback Stadium. But there is probably one memory that will surely come to mind when Ty steps on the field tomorrow. A memory of another day last year when he stepped onto the field to warm up to start a game against LSU, and three Charleston legends came together at that moment in a place of destiny.

It was a cold November 2018 night in Fayetteville, and the Razorbacks were about to host the LSU Tigers at Donald W. Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium. Starting at quarterback that night for the Hogs was Ty Storey.

Ty’s journey to Razorback Stadium that night began with his childhood days growing up in Charleston and playing for Charleston High School. Upon reflecting on those days, Ty said, “Charleston was a prototypical, southern town, it’s all about football. It was a great town to grow up in, and having my dad there to coach and be there every part of the way was really cool. Just a small town. To grow up there was really about you and your career growing up. That means a lot.”

Steve Cox said often that moving to and growing up in Charleston was the greatest thing that happened to him. In asking Ty what Charleston means to him, he said, “I grew up there (Charleston). My dad was coach there. I was in about the fourth grade when he got out (of coaching). Just a great experience, and just a small town feeling, and Charleston really cares a lot about their high school students and their football team, for sure. So, it was a really good experience.”

During pregame of the LSU game, Storey and the rest of his Razorbacks teammates were warming up for the gam;, another Charleston legend, Steve Cox, was escorting yet another Charleston legend on to the field at Razorbacks Stadium. Steve and others were accompanying Mr. Joe Dick Burt of Charleston on to the field where for many years he had attended as perhaps the most loyal Razorbacks football fan in its history. Mr. Burt, 98 years of age at the time, was being given the opportunity to be on the field at Razorback Stadium and experience the atmosphere of a home Razorbacks game. No one deserved this opportunity more than Mr. Burt.

Mr. Burt, a man who served his country in World War II in the United States Army, as part of the occupation forces in Germany, and who served as part of the military police in Germany, was being honored for having attended every Razorbacks home football game in Fayetteville since the opening of the stadium in 1938.

To put all of this into perspective, the University of Arkansas football stadium was originally referred to as “The Hill” and was located in the middle of the campus in the vicinity of present day Mullins Library. In 1938, the new stadium opened on its present site and was named “University Stadium.” Just a few weeks later, the stadium was renamed “Bailey Stadium” after then Arkansas governor Carl Edward Bailey. Bailey was subsequently defeated in the next gubernatorial election just two years later, and the stadium was renamed to “Razorback Stadium.”

On September 24, 1938, Arkansas hosted Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) in the new University Stadium. Arkansas won that day 27-7. And in the stands that day, in the newly opened University Stadium, was Mr. Joe D. Burt of Charleston. Since that day, Mr. Burt has not missed a home Razorbacks football game in Fayetteville. Not one game in the past 81 years.

In my conversations with Steve Cox, he always spoke highly of Ty Storey and the kind of person Ty is and how he always has appreciated those who have helped him and influenced him throughout his life. Steve shared with me that on this night, as Ty Storey was warming up to start a game against LSU, he saw Mr. Burt walking on to the field. Ty stopped his warm-up and ran over to see Mr. Burt to say hello to a great, long time friend. Ty and Mr. Burt are shown above in a picture that was taken at that moment. This epitomizes the kind of person Ty Storey is, how much he loves the people of Charleston, and how much Mr. Burt means to him. When thinking back to that night before the LSU game, Ty shared, “When you know a guy like that (Mr. Burt) who has done so much for the community I grew up in, and really made me who I am, you’ve got to pay your respect to him. Again, you can’t say enough to express the kind of guy he is, so, that was the least I could do. I wanted to acknowledge him and tell him I hoped he was having a good night.”

When I asked Ty if he recalled what he and Mr. Burt talked about that night on the field at Razorback Stadium, Ty said, “Yeah, he was pretty pumped. The crowd was getting there. Just a “Hi, great to see you”, and told him I hoped everything was all good with him. You could tell he was excited and just happy to be there. It was just a great night. The energy in that stadium, and to get to see him and to see that he was enjoying himself was awesome.”

I asked Ty what Mr. Burt means to him. Ty responded, “He was always around. Especially, I know, he did a lot for the school (Charleston High School). I know, my dad talked a lot about him, what a great guy he is, and just everything he did for that community (Charleston), not just the school, but the community. I heard nothing but great things from him. I know he’s been battling through some stuff right now, but hopefully he can come out (for the Western Kentucky game). He’s just a great guy. Have seen nothing but great things from him.”

I had the honor of speaking with Mr. Burt in a telephone interview that he graciously granted. His son, Bill Burt, helped arrange the interview and assisted with the questions as Mr. Burt, now age 99, has a little difficulty hearing.

Many things stood out to me in our conversation. Mr. Burt is a great man who served his country as part of the greatest generation of Americans. He has served and supported his beloved community of Charleston, and has been a positive influence on so many children who have grown up to thank him for the guidance and support he has given them that has lasted a lifetime. But at the end of our conversation, he said one thing that I thought was most poignant. He said, “There is one thing I want to add. That night in Razorback Stadium when I got to be on the field and see Ty in a Razorbacks uniform, meet the coaches, the head coach, the athletic director, and the players, it was the greatest night of my life”.

And for both Ty Storey and Steve Cox, I would guess it was a night that they too will never forget. Time has a way of bringing everything together. On that night, three men, Ty Storey, Steve Cox, and Joe Dick Burt, all from Charleston, met at the place of Razorbacks Stadium where all three had come from different directions and different times, but all three had this one place in common. Time brought all three together again for one special moment. A special moment that will always be in the hearts and minds of three generations of Charleston greats.

Postscript: I had the honor of interviewing Mr. Burt about three weeks before the publication of this story. Mr. Burt, who had a little difficulty with hearing, graciously consented to the interview with the assistance of his son, Bill Burt. I interviewed Ty Storey about a week ago. The very next day after Ty’s interview, I received word that Mr. Joe Dick Burt had passed away. Last Saturday’s home Razorbacks football game versus Mississippi State was the first home game in Fayetteville Mr. Burt had not attended in 81 years.

I and many other people who had their lives touched by Mr. Burt, even if it had been for just a brief moment as it was with my interview, are saddened to hear of his passing, and we extend our most heartfelt sympathy to his family. I hope that this article, in some small way, pays tribute to the great man Mr. Burt was and the great influence he had on so many children who grew up in Charleston.

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