For years, every Friday night ended the same for local radio and television personality Allen Smothers.
Long after every Socastee fan had left the stadium for a more comfortable place on their sofa, Smothers and his radio partner Andy Lanier’s were putting a bow on a long work day – doing so watching the Braves football team they both loved.
“Before we left the stadium each night after a ball game, he would tell me the same thing,” Smothers said. “Andy would tell me he loved me. And I loved him too.”
Stern yet affectionate, it was Lanier’s graciousness that allowed him to become held in such high regard by the Socastee community. But his reputation extended far beyond Socastee, his acclaim well known at Coastal Carolina University as well as the University of Georgia, the local transplant from Blakely, Ga., steadfastly rooting on his beloved Bulldogs.
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Red, black, silver and white seeping through his pores, the 70-year-old Lanier made his way to the Georgia Dome a few weeks ago to cheer on his beloved Bulldogs. As fate would have it, the local man’s final memories were registered watching one of the things for which he was most passionate.
During the Sept. 3 football game, Lanier suffered a brain aneurysm that days later would take his life.
“When I got the e-mail about him suffering an aneurysm at the Georgia football game and knew (his family) would not be able to bring him off life support, it hit me stronger than just about anything,” Smothers said. “The last time I felt pain like that was when one of my good friends, Bill Clary, passed a decade ago. It is hard to put into words exactly how to react or respond.
“If there is a silver lining, it is that the last thing he saw here was one of his favorite things in the world, Georgia football. His last memory, his last vision was one of the things he loved most.”
The Coastal Carolina Bulldogs
Upon moving to the area in an effort to begin building the Coastal Carolina football program from the ground up, former Chanticleers head man David Bennett ran across a small token of information to which he found greatly interesting.
“I started learning about the Coastal Carolina Bulldogs, a club team that (Lanier) had started and coached,” Bennett said. “A lot of people credit me with starting football at Coastal Carolina. But Andy was first.”
After a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force, Lanier settled on the Grand Strand and began assisting in a number of recreational leagues. As several of his players graduated high school and enrolled at Coastal Carolina, the idea of a club football team was raised.
After poking and prodding by his former pupils, he eventually gave in. However, the team lacked funding, equipment and support by the CCU administration.
Lanier would call Clemson and South Carolina, seeking donations in the form of outdated equipment. Much to his chagrin, the two instate schools chose not to help.
After (the late University of Georgia equipment manager Howard Beavers), Coach Dooley and Georgia were so generous, we just had to become the Bulldogs. That was my preference anyway.
Former Coastal Carolina club football coach Andy Lanier in a University of Georgia 2010 football program prior to the Bulldogs’ game with Coastal Carolina
But where there’s a will, there’s a way. And oddly, the way pointed south toward Athens, Ga.
The Bulldogs football program, then under the direction of Vince Dooley, provided the fledgling club football program with a truckload of goods – ranging from helmets, shoulder pads and jerseys, to game pants and other accessories.
“After (the late University of Georgia equipment manager Howard Beavers), Coach Dooley and Georgia were so generous, we just had to become the Bulldogs,” Lanier said in a University of Georgia 2010 football program prior to the team’s game with Coastal Carolina. “That was my preference anyway.”
Lanier coached the team from 1987-88. Though brief, the impact was profound, and Bennett did his part to pay homage to the coach and the first gridiron squad to call Coastal Carolina University home.
“Our inaugural year we honored them, we wanted them to feel a part of the Coastal Carolina University family,” the current River Bluff High School coach and athletic director said. “When we played the University of Charleston (W. Va.), we invited them into the locker room to talk with us before the game.”
Standout players during certain games received the “ChantDog Award,” merging the influence of the club squad with the actual football program. “We didn’t award many (players get the award), but we certainly wanted to recognize the contribution of that team, and how it helped build (CCU football) to what it had become.”
‘Once a Brave, always a Brave’
The goal was never to have to endure a stint in in-school suspension – better known to most as ISS.
However, if there was a positive, it was that Lanier was waiting, eager to offer guidance and wisdom to students who – even for a brief moment –had lost their way.
“Kids would go to Andy’s room, and you never heard of a violent incident or any type of trouble hailing from there,” Smothers said. “He was an old military guy ... he knew how to discipline kids all while relating to them and not lashing out.”
Many of the students came to love Lanier for his ability to guide them back on the right path. For others he became a member of the family, a staple for fall Friday nights.
(Andy Lanier) was the type of guy you felt comfortable around, and he really complimented our program well. ... We wanted to honor him, and let all know he’s a Brave ... and always will be.
Socastee football coach Doug Illing
For Smothers, the local man is largely responsible for his devotion to high school football and prep athletics as a whole.
“When I first moved here in 1986, there was only one school on the radio, and that was Conway,” he said. “But he approached Bob Johnson about airing Socastee football, to which Johnson replied, ‘Do you have a play-by-play guy?,’ to which he remarked, ‘I got a guy.’”
The two of them would spend several years covering Socastee football – in both the good and lean times. For Smothers, it has led to a number of other opportunities, including calling the annual Beach Ball Classic prep basketball tournament and Coastal Carolina athletic events.
“I loved him like a brother. He was a mentor, a father figure, and close friend,” he said.
For the rest of the season, the Socastee football team is wearing decals on the back of their helmets honoring Lanier. Though only knowing him for a few years, current coach Doug Illing said it was the least the team could do to honor someone they believe is “a Socastee legend.”
“When I first came, he was one of the first people I met,” Illing said. “He told me what Socastee was about, and what ‘once a Brave, always a Brave’ means.
“Lanier was the type of guy you felt comfortable around, and he really complimented our program well. ... We wanted to honor him, and let all know he’s a Brave ... and always will be.”