In 1972, a youthful Danny Joe Gregory was an outstanding player on the TCHS football team while just a junior.

Our look at local football players who were a cut above the crowd, this week looks at a fellow that everybody in Hartsville seems to know — Danny Joe Gregory!

Gregory is as much a Hartsville fixture as our courthouse, and a mule named Buford has to take a little credit for his fame!

But, first things first.

In 1972, high school junior Danny Joe Gregory was right at six feet tall and weighed a whopping 165 pounds. And he was a darn good football player.

How good? As a junior he was the team quarterback and played other positions as well.

The late coach Jim Satterfield said of him, “Danny Joe Gregory was the free spirit of the team; he was just a hard-nosed, tough football player, not very big, who played quarterback and linebacker.”

In that year, the team ran up an undefeated season with head coach Tony Mayors and Satterfield as assistant coach. They would go on to win the Class AA Mid-State Conference Championship and a state championship — the school’s first title since the 1922 team 50 years earlier!

As the quarterback and the team’s “free spirit,” Danny Joe would be recognized for his contribution to that title.

He was named to the All-Midstate first team and named the Midstate AA Player of the Year!

Tennessean sportswriter Larry Woody wrote, “Danny Joe Gregory, a junior quarterback who can run, throw, punt, play in the defensive secondary and probably march in the band if need be, is the Jackets’ offensive and defensive leader!”

An example of his all-around good nature and upbeat personality was displayed just before the final game of the 1972 season, the game for the title. Danny Joe went up to Coach Satterfield and said, “Coach, stop worrying. We’re gonna beat them 12-0!” and slapped him on the back. And that is just what they did!

It comes as no surprise that Gregory did as good a job his senior year at TCHS. Once again he was the quarterback and one of the team captains.

In the 1973 season, Danny Joe, now a full six feet tall and weighing in at 170 pounds (a gain of five pounds if you are keeping count) was once again named the Tennessean’s Midstate Player of the Year!

The team had another undefeated season in regular play and then lost in the final game of the playoffs in overtime — a hard-fought and tough game.

He was also named an “Outstanding Senior” by the teachers of the school and featured in the high school annual.

A brief career at Middle Tennessee State University saw him play on the Blue Raiders’ team for two seasons.

We know all of this about Danny Joe, not just because he is still fondly remembered by fellow players and those of us who watched him on the Creekbank, but because his mother kept every article written about him and every photo taken of Danny Joe in his football uniform.

Two large scrapbooks are filled to the brim with clippings, photos, cards and notes, and also an invitation to the Nashville Banner’s annual Banquet of Champions, where Danny Joe got to meet baseball legend Hank Aaron. Let Danny Joe tell you the story of how he managed to get a signed baseball from Hank!

The scrapbooks are now part of our county archives, a recent gift from Danny Joe, and they will forever be a part of our history.

As for Danny Joe himself, he has never left Hartsville. I guess his heart is here and he certainly is in the heart of its residents — which leads us to that mule named Buford.

When Jim Satterfield called Danny Joe a “free spirit,” he hit the nail on the head and it is the free spirit in Danny Joe that led him to train his mule Buford to wear a pair of overalls!

Picture if you can, a 500-pound mule wearing a pair of overalls!

And because he enjoys making people laugh, every year Danny Joe and his mule are a part of Hartsville’s Christmas parade. Maybe he can train Buford to catch a football for the annual alumni game!

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