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Chillicothe News - Chillicothe, MO
  • 'Sweet' Memories: Man reflects on 50 years since Parade named him to first All-American team

  • As Parade released its 50th anniversary edition of its issue of the first All-American high school football team in 1964, one Chillicothe resident reflects on his personal connection to the issue.
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  • As Parade released its 50th anniversary edition of its issue of the first All-American high school football team in 1964, one Chillicothe resident reflects on his personal connection to the issue.
    Clarence Theodore "Ted" Sweets, of Chillicothe, was the only Missourian to be named to Parade's 1964 All-American team. Ted said he first began playing football his freshman year at Butler High School in Butler, Mo., because he was "just a young kid, you know. I liked sports."
    In addition to football, Ted participated in baseball, basketball and track at Butler High. His athletic ability, however, was most noted for his football accomplishments. As a running back his freshman year in 1960, Ted scored 23 touchdowns. He went on to score 34 touchdowns his sophomore season, breaking the Missouri record at that point for the number of touchdowns scored in one season by one player.
    Ted, who was raised by his grandparents, said he recalls that throughout his four seasons of high school football, his grandmother, Helen Sweets, never missed a single game.
    "I remember one time that I was playing, I think I'd already ran two or three touchdowns on this team and I was going for the fourth one," Ted said. "I looked back to see where everybody was at, and all of a sudden I was looking up at the lights. I couldn't figure out how I was down on the ground. Some lady had come out of the stands and tackled me because she decided I wasn't going to run another touchdown on their team. So, here comes my grandmother, and you know the older ladies always have their purses under their arms, and she comes running down on the field ready to beat this lady with her purse. I told my coach, I said, 'Get my grandmother off the field.'"
    During his junior year, Ted scored 20 touchdowns, and senior year he scored 14. By that point, he said opposing teams were beginning to learn how to block him, some coaches even assigning up to three or four players to block him at once. That didn't diminish the fact that Ted ended his high school football career with a total of 91 touchdowns. He said he gives credit for his success to his teammates and coaches.
    "If it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't have gotten all these touchdowns," Ted explained. "I had a good line. I had good teammates. My coach (Marvin Kinnett) was excellent. He taught me how to walk and everything else. I used to walk with my feet out. He taught me to walk straight."
    From 1960 to 1963, the four years Ted played football for Butler High, he was the only black football player. These years marked the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. Though Ted was the only black football player on his team, he said his teammates and coaches did not really treat him differently. He shared stories, however, of rival teams and other people who did treat him differently.
    Page 2 of 3 - "Ted was always well-accepted," his wife, Joan, said. "His teammates to this day they never saw any of that (racial differences). They did go places where they were not allowed to use the school facilities because he was on the team. The Butler supporters would have to line from the bus to the field so he could get on the field. They would not be allowed to use the showers, they'd have to ride back to Butler in their uniforms. They went one place one time and they refused to serve him in the restaurant and the whole team got up and walked out."
    Despite these negative encounters, Ted ended his high school football career on a high note. He was named to Parade's All-American high school football team in 1964, and was the only football player from Missouri who was named to the team. He also received the original jersey he played in, No. 48, as a keepsake. He went on to attend Fort Scott Community College in Fort Scott, Kan., playing football for two years there. After finishing two years of college, Ted moved to Canada to play professional football for the Toronto Rifles. After one season, however, he quit due to knee injuries involving cartilage and ligament damage.
    "They wanted to do surgery, but I wouldn't let them," Ted said. So, instead, he quit to spend more time with his wife and two children. "I figured it was time to get a real job."
    Ted moved with his wife and daughters to California, in the Palmdale/Lancaster area just outside of Los Angeles. There, he worked for several aircraft companies helping to build airplanes. He also worked with several other adults to establish Pop Warner football in the area, becoming an assistant coach for several years.
    In the late 1960s, he and his wife divorced, and Ted moved back to Butler, Mo. He worked in roofing for awhile, and even tried out for the Kansas City Chiefs.
    "I ran around with Otis Taylor, Buck Buchanan, Bobby Bell...all the old-timers," Ted recalled.
    Ted met Joan in 1974 through a mutual college friend. The couple married in 1991 and moved to Chillicothe; Joan worked at Morningside Center. Together, the two began a limousine business, "Sweet Ride Limousine," establishing the first limousine company in Chillicothe.
    "I wouldn't say it was a mutual decision," Joan laughed. "Ted went to an auction to get a vehicle and came home with a limousine."
    The couple managed the company for nearly 20 years before Ted retired due to health complications.
    In 2007, the Butler High School football team retired jersey No. 48, Ted's jersey. A more modern jersey with that number had been on display in the school, commemorating Ted's accomplishments as a football player there. The school had a ceremony, and many people came to support Ted, including former teammates and fans.
    Page 3 of 3 - "When they retired his jersey there were people that came to that that didn't really know Ted very well," Joan said. "There were people that showed up and said, 'I used to drive, however many miles, just to watch you play, and it's a pleasure to come and be a part of this tonight.' One guy came up to him and asked him for his autograph. He said, 'I was a young boy when you played, and that shaped how I did when I got to school. You were a role model.'"
    Reflecting on his football career and his accomplishments, having looked back at his trophies, certificates and other memorabilia, Ted said he is proud.
    "You know, I never really thought about it until now, and I started looking at this stuff, and I'm thinking, 'Wow, I did all of this?'" Ted said. "But back then, you know, it just came naturally. I didn't like bragging on it because I just thought it was common, you know. I had a God gift, that's the way I looked at it. But now, I look at this and wow...amazing."
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