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Houston County Living

War Eagle and Godspeed

Jul 23, 2021 09:59AM ● By Alexa Tebben
Sometimes one person can be the difference needed to help you achieve all you have ever dreamed. That’s how Steve Aydelott feels about Auburn Coach Pat Dye.

Having grown up in South Alabama, Steve was a football fan through and through. Here calls first 
 meeting Coach Dye in 1982 during a tour of Auburn. After two years at Holmes Junior College in Mississippi, Steve was ready to play foot ball at an accredited four-year college. Originally an Alabama fan, he surprised himself by feeling that he did not belong at Alabama when he toured the campus. Instead, he packed his bags and headed to Auburn to meet Coach Dye. He recalls of the visit, “Coach Dye walked out of the tunnel to greet me and put his arm around me to say, ‘Son, you will fit in here.’” Steve recalls the meeting with a reassuring confidence that he had found where he belonged. “I felt like I was at home,” he says proudly. And at home he was...although it may have seemed more like boot camp at times.

 Coach Dye pushed his team to strive for greatness. He believed that motivation coupled with hard work can out-do any talent, and he was determined to see his team prove him right. “He was very direct and straightforward,” Steve says. “He let us know he had confidence in us. That was something that nobody had ever said tome that no matter how much the other team may appear to be superior to you, if you have the right mental attitude, you can outplay them.” Coach Dye’s unparalleled confidence in his team was perhaps their biggest motivator, although he most certainly made them work for their success

Steve recalls Coach Dye’s tough love and various punishments that he believes were necessary for the 
 team to become as disciplined and determined as they did. Never one to beat around the bush, Coach Dye did not hesitate to put his players through the ringer if he believed they needed it. Steve tells me how he rode home from a game with his parents one day and the disappointment Coach Dye conveyed that Steve did not finish out the day alongside his team. Asa punishment, he had Steve push a7-mansled for 200 yards. “It only takes once,” Steve says laughing as he admits he never rode home with his parents again. “Coach Dye would make sure he got your attention when it came to discipline.”

 Steve explains that the team had a yearly qualification practice at the start of every season. He recalls the season of 1983 when Greg Pratt, a fullback from the previous season, had trained intensely over the summer in hopes of becoming a starter. During the qualification practice, Greg began to slowdown and even relied on other teammates who physically carried him to finish the set of exercises he could not complete alone. Greg passed out on the field and was whisked away to be treated out of sight of his confused teammates. They were later told that Greg, their beloved teammate and friend, had suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 20.“We were all very saddened by his sudden death,” Steve says, still shaken up over 30years later. “We all went to his funeral. I think that created a strong bond among us that even strengthened the bond that we already had and really galvanized our resolve to do something great that year."

The Auburn football team honored Greg Pratt’s memory and did not let his hard work go to waste. They made a name of their team that season when they won the SEC Championship and the NCAA National Championship. They never forgot Greg, and the impact he left on his team inspired them to achieve their goals and make him proud.

The years went by, and soon Steve’s college football career came to an end. “We all had to start careers,” 
 he says. Following his riveting college years, Steve used his dual construction and architectural degree to pursue construction that he is now licensed to practice in 23 states. “We mainly design and build church facilities. That’s what I decided I wanted to do back in 2008,”Steve says. He is the President of S.O.A. Premier Church Expansion Firm and speaks fondly of his company. “We strive to be the best design construction firm for the religious sector of construction business. We travel all over the Southeast renovating and building churches.” But it is not only his love of contracting that drives him to be the best that he can be. Steve largely attributes his career success to Pat Dye, the man who coached and trained him through the most critical college years of his life.

 Although he lost touch with some of the team after college, Steve kept in contact with former roommates 
 Jay Jacobs and Jimmy Bone, and the men visited each other when their schedules aligned. The teammates who pursued pro football or coaching positions could not attend games or social gatherings with their former teammates during football season. In the last 10years, Steve tells me, everyone has retired or left the football world and can now attend games and events with their friends. “It’s pretty neat getting everyone back together,” Steve says fondly.

On June 1, 2020,after a life of coaching and inspiring young men to be the best they could be, Coach Pat
  Dye passed away. The legacy he left behind and the men he greatly influenced speak volumes of the type of man he was. The 1983Auburnfootball team gathered for a memorial service to honor their coach after his passing. Steve describes it like a family reunion. They told stories, made jokes, laughed, cried and honored the man who made a family out of a team. Steve relays his gratitude for Coach Dye by attributing his current success to the man who pushed him to greatness. Steve’s football career and his life since have been greatly enriched because of Coach Dye’s influence, motivation and belief in his team’s potential. Coach Dye believed you could accomplish anything you work hard enough for, and it resonated with his team. “That mindset,” Steve says, “it worked on the field and it works even to this day.”

 Although Coach Dye’s legacy has come to an end, his memory and light lives on in those he touched while he was here. And no matter how many years may pass, his team will never forget the man he was and the men he helped them become.

Photography by: provided own and Tinika Bennett Photography