Longtime friends still part of Knox County athletics

Knox County, Tenn. (WBIR)--Larry Graham and Ernie Israel have been friends for 36 years.They met while coaching elementary school basketball in the 1970's. Larry was at Karns and Ernie at Brickey when they met. Larry then became a P.E. teacher at Gibbs Elementary where he spent 27 years. Ernie moved on to Powell Middle where he also stayed 27 years.

They coached against each other but never kept a tally. They couldn't tell me who won the most games.

Between them they have more than 70 years of experience teaching and coaching in Knox County. Larry says it's in his blood, his dad taught math in Knox County for more than 40 years. Ernie had a different reason for becoming a teacher.

"My mother, when I graduated high school one of my friends said what are you gonna do this summer, I said nothing, she said wrong, you're gonna go to University of Tennessee major in physical education cause you like sports but you're not gonna make a living at it so you're gonna go teach P.E.," Israel said.

Listening to your mom pays off. Now 12 years after retiring, Larry and Ernie are still involved, helping out at every Knox County elementary school track meet, including Friday's Elite Championships at Hardin Valley Academy.

"Well we used to time it," Israel said of the duo's role at the track meets. "But now they've got this system that times the whole thing, takes a picture at the final, so high tech put us out of business," Israel said laughing.

They're still needed to make sure everyone knows where to go and to offer some encouragement... or a hug for an injured runner.

For Larry and Ernie the best part has always been the kids.

"They bless you more than you bless them, truth be known, that's true," Israel said.

"I got much more from them than I ever gave them," Graham added.


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