Gary Hull is probably the only player that can claim he was the starting quarterback for both Hillsville High School and Carroll County High School. A four-year starter under center, Hull was the starting quarterback for the HHS Indians during his freshmen and sophomore seasons of 1967 and 1968 until Hillsville and Woodlawn high schools consolidated in 1969. He then took over as Carroll County High School’s first starting quarterback during his junior and senior seasons of 1969 and 1970, where he also started at linebacker.
Hull was also a standout on the baseball field and basketball court at HHS and CCHS during his playing days. After graduation, Hull went on to play two years as a quarterback at Ferrum College, then a junior college, before transferring to Samford University in Alabama, where he played one season as a quarterback and one season as a tight end.
After approximately 30 years as a Virginia State Trooper, Hull retired from the force in 2005. He has resided in Clintwood for the past 35 years. This week, we talk to Hull about transitioning from Hillsville High School to Carroll County High School, playing three sports, life as a state trooper and much more.
What year did you graduate from Carroll County High School? June 1971
Family members: Wife: Shelia; Daughter: Ashley Rasnake, son-in-law Adrian; Son: Ryan, daughter-in-law Cindy; Son: Russell; Granddaughter: Erin Rasnake; Grandson: Dawson Rasnake.
What year did you graduate from Samford University? Regrettably I did not graduate from Samford. I lacked about one semester.
Current occupation: Retired from the Virginia State Police in 2005.
As an athlete, what was it like transitioning from the old Hillsville High School to Carroll County High School halfway through your varsity career? For me, the transition was easy. I knew most of the athletes and coaches from Woodlawn High School. It was an exciting time, as we received a new and modern athletic facility and new equipment. We no longer had to use ‘hand-me-down’s’ such as helmets, shoes and other equipment. We had a tremendous amount of support from the student body and the communities as well.
As a three-sport athlete in football, baseball and basketball, you played for probably the two most legendary coaches in the history of Carroll County athletics in Tommy Thompson and Bill Worrell. How much did you take away from those two coaches? These two individuals were very highly people oriented. To be a coach, you have to connect with young people, boys and girls. They taught me the value of teamwork, discipline, honesty, pride and also how to be humble. I feel that I tried to carry these qualities throughout my career with the Virginia State Police, and also throughout my personal life with my wife, children, grandchildren and the community I live in. Both Coach Thompson and Coach Worrell had developed closeness to their players that you do not always see these days in high school. You certainly do not see it as much in college and professional levels. I am truly grateful to have been coached, taught by and have had both of them in my life.
In today’s game, you rarely see a quarterback also starting at linebacker. How tough was it to play both of those positions? It was very demanding playing both positions, especially physically. I loved playing quarterback, and I loved playing defense also. The coaches made it easy, they kept the plays and defenses simple and everyone was able to stay on the same page that way. I also did the kicking and punting. I didn’t move off the field much except at halftime and at the end of the game.
You went on to play quarterback for two years at Ferrum College, and two years at Samford University, one year as a quarterback and one as a tight end. That is a lot of change over a four-year period. How tough were those transitions? The transition from high school to college was different. I was 6’1” and 180 pounds my first year at Ferrum and there were a lot of people that were bigger and faster than I was. The pace of the game was a lot quicker. The toughest part at Ferrum was learning all the formations and plays, to which there were more to learn than in high school. I had a very good coach and mentor in now college legendary Hank Norton at Ferrum. The transition from quarterback to tight-end wasn’t so bad, I already knew the pass patterns, I just had to learn how to run them and learn the blocking schemes on running plays. For me, I think I adjusted pretty well. If I could help the team at that position, that was what I did.
As a pitcher and shortstop for the baseball team, do you ever wish sports were more specialized in those days like they are now so you could concentrate on one sport? No, not really. Back then, if I was not having a good outing at pitching, but was maybe doing good at batting, I was still able to stay in the game. During those times, most of the starters on the baseball team played more than one position. I really enjoyed it except when I got hammered at the pitching position.
How tough did it make it on the Hillsville High School basketball teams to have to travel 30 miles one way to practice at Indian Valley? It was very difficult. We would leave the school around 3:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m., it would take about 45 minutes to 1 hour to get to Indian Valley. Practice for one hour, then make the trip back to the school, then find a way home. It was always dark and you would be tired and hungry and would just want to go to bed when you got home. It was tough on Coach Larry Martin also. We didn’t have the advantage of a home gymnasium like other schools did. It was a blessing when the new school and facilities was built.
As a long-time state trooper in the Clintwood area, how much did playing sports and the lessons you learned from them help in the law enforcement field? I feel that it helped me a lot both physically and mentally. In this area, you more often than not, worked alone. I didn’t have the luxury of having a lot of shift partners or large local departments to work with. Usually there was one Trooper, two county deputies, two town officers working an entire county at one time, so you had to rely on your own training and abilities most of the time. The job of law enforcement can be very demanding when coming in contact with someone who has violated the law and doesn’t want to be apprehended. You add alcohol, drugs and weapons and the stakes of the situation can escalate very rapidly. You sometimes have to make decisions that can affect people’s lives and well-being. The job of a law enforcement officer is a lot more than just writing tickets. I have chased people both in a patrol vehicle, and on foot. I have fought with people, arrested them and I have comforted them during a time of personal loss. I’ve delivered death messages, settled domestic disputes, been shot at and even administered first aid, CPR and almost delivered a baby on two different occasions. Having said all this, I believe having been involved in sports has helped me not only with the physical part of my job, but mentally as far as being disciplined and making sound decisions with the information you have at hand.
Speaking of Clintwood, what is life like in coal country compared to back home in Carroll County? Life here is a little more subdued than in the hustle and bustle of things in Hillsville. You see and follow a lot of coal trucks here, but not as many as there were 20 years ago. We know all of our neighbors here. I don’t know if it is that way in Hillsville now. When I go home for a visit, I hardly see anyone I know anymore.
As a quarterback, how bad do you think you would have abused your cousin, Jim Marshall, if he had have played defensive back against you? Well, Jimmy will probably get me the next time that he sees me, however, I probably would have abused him a lot! He is not the tallest person to play DB and we had some fairly tall receivers when I played and they were fast also. However, none of them were any tougher than Jim was even today. I love that guy!
What was your favorite memory in athletics? My favorite memory was probably my senior year in 1971. We were playing Giles High School at Giles. It was cold, it always seemed cold there any time of the year. We were behind by 7 points with about a minute or less to go in the fourth quarter. We drove the ball about 80 yards and made a touchdown and 2 point conversion to win. However most of our fans had already left thinking we had lost the game. Being able to come back and win like that, when most of the fans had given up on us, for me, was special. I don’t remember playing a game at CCHS that we, the players or coaches ever gave up until the final second was gone.
Who had the best nickname in Carroll County athletics during your playing days? I do not know who had the best, but here are the ones that I remember: Jim Shockley - “slewfoot”; Greg Lowe - “eagle beak”; Joe Gardner - “eagle beak” and “The Nose”; Dennis Green - “green slime”; mine was “Bullwinkle”.
What was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on the field or basketball court? My freshman year at Ferrum College, we were playing Appalachian State - JV, and we were beating them by 30 points by the end of the third quarter. So the second string offense went in at the beginning of the fourth quarter and I was the quarterback. That series, I fumbled the snap, the fullback fumbled the handoff, the tailback fumbled the handoff, so on fourth down, when we were going to the sideline, Coach Jerry Kirk met us and said in so many words, we “didn’t deserve to stand on the sideline with the rest of the team!” He then sent us to sit in the stands the remaining time of the fourth quarter. Guess who we sat in front of? My mother and father, my grandparents, friends from Hillsville who had come to see me play college football for the first time. Needless to say, not any of us took off our helmets!
How much do you miss Carroll County, and how often do you make it back up this way? Well, it is hard to describe how much you miss the place that you were born and raised. I know that when family and friends get to reminiscing, it takes me back to days when I was back in Carroll County. I have lived in Clintwood now for 35 years and this is my home now. My mother still lives in Hillsville and I have a few relatives that still live in the area, however, I do not see any of my old classmates or friends anymore. My wife and I had planned to attend a reunion a couple of years ago, however unforeseen circumstances prevented us from attending. I do try to go back as often as I can, usually about every other month. When you retire, you think that you have plenty of time to do what you want, and usually you do, but I believe that I am busier now than when I was working. Being involved with our church and grandchildren and keeping up with a house and yard, you do not have much down time. With this said, I really enjoyed my time in Carroll County.