Back in my freshman year of college, my roommate Jon had gotten involved with an on-campus Christian group that was also associated with – I think – Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Jon invited me to an event they organized and I was game. It wasn’t the kind of thing we often did, but I seem to remember a potential romantic relationship for one of us was at play.
The event was an old fashioned BBQ with hay rides and everything on a farm outside of Gainesville. Really outside: I can remember how bright the stars were out there. The most notable part, however, was that this BBQ was hosted at the personal home of Sonny Tillman, the founder of Sonny’s BBQ. He is something of a legend in those parts. Guess he had a soft spot for FCA and provided his farm and all the Sonny’s food we could eat. And I was ready for it. Doing a lot of cycling in those days, I could put away some calories. As I went through the line, I loaded up my plate with everything I could: pulled pork, beans, garlic bread – oh and ribs! I have to have ribs! My plate was full and then some, and I had to walk carefully back to a table.
By chance, I happened to cross paths with Sonny himself as I was delicately navigating the crowded barn. He looked down at my overloaded plate and then at the 150 pound awkward 18-year-old holding it and said, in at least six syllables of deep southern drawl, “Hungry, boy?”
I grinned sheepishly and said, “Yeah.”
He said, “You better finish that plate, you hear?”
And in one of the proud moments of my life up to that point, I did.