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Fame for Two | By Eddie Dees

They came from different backgrounds and eras, but two of Fayetteville’s newest Hall of Fame inductees both agree on one thing: football was the key to their success.

Wayne Byrd and Reggie Pinkney were both inducted into their respective college Halls of Fame this fall – Byrd at Appalachian State University and Pinkney at East Carolina University.

Byrd played at the old Fayetteville High School under legendary Coach Buddy Lupper and graduated in 1963. After playing quarterback and defensive back on an undefeated team his senior year, Byrd went to Appalachian and eventually become a teacher and a coach.

“Being a coach is all I ever wanted to be,” he said. “I hadn’t planned on going to Appalachian, but I’m glad I did.”

Appalachian State is glad he did, too.

Byrd started as a defensive back for four years, 1963 to 1966, serving as a two-year captain and earning All-Conference honors twice. He was all-district, all-state and honorable mention All-American his senior year.

He intercepted seven passes in 1965 and in 1966, setting the second best record in school history for single season interceptions. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns against Western Carolina University in 1966, a single game and single season record that still stands.

“High school football instilled a love of the game in me, and I never really thought about doing anything else,” Byrd said. “We had a lot of good football players at Terry Sanford, and I was just fortunate to be a part of that.”

After graduating from Appalachian, Byrd coached a year at Burns High School in Shelby then came back to coach in Cumberland County at Cape Fear High School and at his alma mater. After coaching seven years at the high school level, Byrd returned to Appalachian to work as a graduate assistant coach and study for a master’s degree in school administration.

He returned to Cumberland County, serving as an assistant principal at Pine Forest and Westover high schools for seven years before becoming principal at Pine Forest, a position he held for 17 years.

Byrd credits his wife, Sue, as a big part of his success. The director of the Fayetteville Area Operation Inasmuch, Sue was instrumental in helping find information that helped get her husband nominated for the Hall of Fame honor.

The couple now owns a cabin near Grandfather Mountain, and they are season ticket holders at Appalachian.

“The good Lord has guided my life, and I recognize that I have truly been blessed,” Byrd said.

Pinkney also says that football has been a blessing in his life.

“I’ve been fortunate to have good coaches and some athletic ability,” he said. “Football has helped me in my career. I have gotten the opportunity to travel and meet a lot of people because of it.”

Pinkney played football at Reid Ross High School and graduated in 1973. Coached by John Daskell, Pinkney played running back in high school and switched to defensive back later in his career.

At East Carolina, he was All-Southern Conference as a senior. He set the East Carolina record for interception return yardage and led the team in interceptions. One of his interceptions was a 98-yard return against Richmond University.

Pinkney was a kickoff return specialist, averaging 23.1 yards per return for the Pirates.

“I got a great education at ECU, and I had some great coaches – Sonny Randle and Pat Dye,” Pinkney says. “I learned a lot of football.”

He admits that he has “purple and gold in his veins” to this day.

Drafted by the Detroit Lions, he played in the National Football League for five seasons, two with the Lions and three with the Baltimore Colts.

Pinkney got his master’s degree in education at Fayetteville State University and coached in Cumberland County before going into administration. He is currently the principal of Hillsboro Street Elementary School.

He also has two sons who are both playing collegiate football. His son Patrick is the starting quarterback at East Carolina while another son, Aaron Curry, is starting as a defensive back at Wake Forest University.

“Football has been good for me and for my entire family,” Pinkney said recently. “I taught and coached for six years, and I’ve been in administration for the last 20 years. Life has truly been a thrill.”