"Pride, hustle and desire" trees replanted at Buchholz
When legendary high school football coach Jesse B. Heard became the first athletic director at Buchholz High School in the early 1970s, he built the foundation of the football program on three principles – pride, hustle and desire.
To make sure those principles would be around as long as the school existed, Heard, along with players, parents and supporters of the program, planted three pine trees named “pride, hustle and desire” in the spring of 1971 behind the goal post on the east end of the school’s practice football field that includes a track and field track.
The trees planted in 1971 had to be removed recently once a new track was installed because it was determined the trees were diseased.
The school contacted Heard and former players and supporters of the program and decided to replant three long leaf pine trees to replace the original trees, and held a dedication ceremony on Thursday during halftime of the Black and Gold spring football scrimmage to celebrate the replanting of the trees.
“Those trees are a part of the tradition of Buchholz football,” said George Atohi, the school’s athletic director, in a telephone interview with The Guardian. “It’s a football team thing.”
One of the most significant aspects of the legacy of the trees is that they represent growth and maturity, Atohi said, adding that players will see each other grow in life as they see the growth of the trees.
Growth served as a major inspiration for the planting of the trees in the first place, Heard said.
“Those trees were the tallest trees out here until they were cut down,” said Heard, who attended the scrimmage and spoke during the dedication ceremony. “My players from back then have seen each other grow as they saw those trees grow and mature, and now these players will be able to do the same. Those trees grew for 50 years and stood about 70 feet tall.”
Former Buchholz players from the early 1970s attended the scrimmage and dedication ceremony to reminisce and shoot the breeze with their former coach, including Simon Cromwell, who played running back from 1974-75; Leroy Robinson, who played offensive guard from 1974-75; Danny Thorn, a defensive back and first team captain who played from 1971-73 and Bobby Vinson, who played offensive guard and nose guard on defense from 1973-74.
Gunnar Paulson was the first hire Heard made at Buchholz to serve as an assistant coach, and he was present at the scrimmage also.
“He was out here shoveling dirt that day we planted the original trees in 1971,” Heard said of Paulson.
Paulson said “pride, hustle and desire” are the cornerstones of the football program at Buchholz.
“They (the trees) represent what it means to be a part of this program and what the program stands for,” said Paulson, a member of the Alachua County School Board. “This legacy is not like any other.”
Heard said the first letters of the names of the trees are “phd,” and like the attainment of a Ph.D. is the highest level of academic success a student can achieve, pride, hustle and desire can help players achieve the highest level of success on the football field and in life.
Prior to becoming the athletic director and head football coach at Buchholz when the school was built in 1971, Heard was the head football coach at former all-Black Lincoln High School from 1961-70 where he amassed an incredibly high winning percentage. He played fullback college in college at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee under legendary Rattlers’ coach Jake Gaither in the same backfield with Willie Galimore and Aldophus "Rocket" Frazier, two speedsters who went on to play professional football. Heard, a 1957 FAMU graduate, had a brief stint in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers before a knee injury ended his playing career.
Heard was instrumental in the formation of football jamborees and high school playoffs in Florida. He coached dozens of players at Lincoln and Buchholz who signed scholarships to play college football, with several of them going on to have professional careers.
Buchholz football coach Mark Whittemore introduced Heard to the crowd before the dedication ceremony.
“We appreciate coach Heard and what he means to this program,” Whittemore said.