While I listened to the Anne Arundel Community College Sports Hall of Fame Inductions of Johnny Laycock and Jeff Herrick last Sunday at the Arnold school, thoughts raced through my mind about the impact Laycock had on county sports and physical fitness, not just at the community college.
Skip Brown, the school's former baseball coach, told the story of how he played baseball for Laycock at Annapolis High and how John "gave out uniform numbers according to where guys hit in the batting order . . . and I batted third but had a fondness for No. 7.
"When I traded my No. 3 for No. 7, John wouldn't let me keep it. I learned then that he was in charge. Needless to say, I didn't wear No. 7, but that started a friendship that hasn't ceased."
Laycock is the man who about 30 years ago started the community college's athletic program literally on the ground floor and built it into a model program. His enthusiasm, big ideas and the ability to get around to meeting all the important politicians and county officials who could help his school resulted in a program that did Anne Arundel County proud.
He wasn't a loudmouth, flamboyant kind of guy but rather a gregarious kind who dealt in simplicity and sincerity. That was evident in the anecdote that Brown shared with the crowd Sunday.
"I was out there shaking hands and meeting people," said Laycock, the consummate promoter.
I remember meeting Laycock at probably the county's No. 1 meeting place for VIPs back in those days, the Wagon Wheel Restaurant of "Fitz" Fitzgerald. More deals were cut in that great place than anywhere else in the county, and John got his share for the community college.
When he needed political help for a community college project, his personable, almost lovable, style usually got it for him. He truly loved, and still does today, Anne Arundel Community College, so it was only fitting that Athletic Director Buddy Beardmore, Dr. Tony Pappas Jr. and the rest of the Hall of Fame committee made John the charter member.
What a lot of people outside the inner workings of the community college don't know are the contributions this smiling guy made to the overall good of the county.
Herrick, the school's first All-American football player and also a standout baseball player, is a product of one of the many wonderful concepts developed by Laycock. Physical education department chairman Brown brought that to light in his personal introduction of Laycock on Sunday.
After pointing to Johnny's tireless efforts and politicking to see that the community college got top-notch facilities, such as the swimming pool, lighted football and soccer stadium, multipurpose gymnasium, 15 lighted tennis courts and baseball stadium, Brown cited the man's other major but maybe not so well-known contributions.
"If it wasn't for this man, I don't believe the athletic program would be where it is today. He set the foundation," said Brown, who met Laycock 34 years ago as a student and player for the latter at Annapolis Junior High.
"His unselfish concern for his students and staff is something that I think all of us will remember for many years."
Brown cited Laycock's starting up the physical education major program at Anne Arundel. It has produced nearly 40 teacher-coaches, including Herrick, who is head football coach at Broadneck High and teaches physical education at Severna Park elementary and middle schools.
"That is really a tribute to John because he had the foresight to start the phys-ed majors program and get it going," Brown said. "John also was responsible for the PACE program, which is Prescribed Active Cardiac Exercise for heart patients; the seniors program, which has ballooned into one of the biggest programs on campus; the swimming program (lifeguard certification and pool spa classes); not to mention a large intramural program."
The seniors program enables county senior citizens the opportunity to get proper, supervised exercise.
Had he been able to come up with additional money when the pool was first built, it would have been well ahead of its time.
"John wanted an underwater walkway in glass, so you could walk along the sides of the pool and watch the swimmers underwater," said semiretired longtime county architect Howard Wheeler. "The ideas he had back then would be considered state of the art today, but he couldn't get the funding for them."
That always disappointed Laycock because he had visions of an Olympic-caliber pool, but what the school ended up with is not too shabby to this day.
"It's always amazed me that we don't have more pools in this county with everybody being so close to the bay and water," said Johnny, who is an avid sailor.
"We still need to have high school swimming, and I had that in mind back when we built the pool, but I think you will see it come to pass in the future."
A lot came to pass at Anne Arundel under this guy who started an intramural program that soon grew into 22 varsity sports, 11 men's and 11 women's. The Pioneers' athletic program began in 1961, and Laycock ran it and kept building it until his retirement in 1986.
"It hurts me that we no longer have football at the college," Laycock said. "But I guess they had no choice."
The school didn't have a choice, with Montgomery-Rockville the only state junior college still fielding a team. It was no longer financially and logistically feasible to field a community college football team. AACC President Dr. Thomas Florestano, an avid college football fan and supporter, alluded to that Sunday in his opening remarks.
But the fact that Laycock, while in retirement, is bothered by no football shows his genuine, never-ending concern for the school that always will be his school.
His genuine caring style will be his legacy because it was real and it was what made Anne Arundel Community College the great school it is today.
"The one thing that always stood out with John was his overwhelming concern for his students first and his staff second," Brown said as he introduced Johnny into the hall Sunday. "Everything that was done was done with all of us in mind.
"He knew that if he kept his staff satisfied, they would perform better for his students. That in essence is what happened. I know he made my job a no-lose situation."
Brown also told the story about the time his dad died while Brown was a junior high school student at Annapolis.
Laycock was a physical education teacher at the junior high and coached baseball at the high school. Brown, who later was picked by Laycock to coach the Pioneers' baseball team, was a volunteer for Laycock at the Annapolis YMCA.
When Skip's dad died, Laycock called him a couple of days after the funeral and told him that he had to go play in a church softball league and that he would come pick him up.
"I thought that was kind of strange that he would call me and tell me that I had a softball game that night, but it served a very valuable purpose," said Brown.
"It showed his concern for me and the reality that I had to get my mind off things. He always took care of me and many others. That was typical of John."