College Gameday is the hub for all things college football every Saturday in the fall. From celebrity guests to hoards of fans clamoring for their wild sign to get on TV, it marks the start of another day of football around the country.
With all due respect to guys like Rece Davis, Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit, it is Lee Corso who stands above the rest. On August 7, Corso celebrates turning 83 years young, and the former football coach is still one of college football’s most iconic figures.
Catch phrases like “Not so fast, my friend!” and calling almost everyone around him “sweetheart,” Corso’s unique, colorful personality only seems to get better with age.
To honor another year of Corso’s legendary headgear picks, football insight and hilarious personality, here are five things you may not know about the old ball coach.
A few of these should give you added appreciation for the allure of the great “Sunshine Scooter.”
1. The Brooklyn Dodgers offered him a pro baseball contract
The son of Italian immigrants, Corso grew up in south Florida, where he attended Miami Jackson Senior High School. When he graduated in 1953, professional baseball’s Dodgers offered Corso a $5,000 signing bonus in the hopes he would one day replace Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese.
Corso decided against baseball, opting to stay home and attend Florida State. At 142 pounds, all he did was play both quarterback and defensive back for the Seminoles, setting the FSU record with 14 interceptions in his career earning the nickname “Sunshine Scooter” due to his speed on the field.
Imagine shortstop Lee Corso scooping a ground ball and throwing over to Jackie Robinson for the out at first.
2. Corso had a famous college roommate
In his second year at Florida State, some handsome kid became Lee’s new roommate.
“Boy, he was good-looking,” Corso said. “I used to send him to the student union as bait. He’d come back with two girls, one good-looking and the other… ehhh.”
That handsome kid’s nickname was Buddy — later, he became much more well known as actor Burt Reynolds.
3. Corso makes all of your yellow No. 2 pencils
Well, kind of.
In the offseason when he’s not slinging predictions left and right, Corso is the Director of Business Development for Dixon Ticonderoga. Since 1992, Corso has worked for the company known for its arts supplies and those wooden pencils with green lettering we all had to use taking tests back in the day.
It’s a genius scheme, actually — Corso can be seen waving a yellow Dixon Ticonderoga pencil during all of his College Gameday appearances. Free advertising at its finest.
4. Not even a stroke can stop Coach
On May 6, 2009, Corso suffered a stroke that resulted in partial paralysis and a loss of speech. The three-time Emmy winner who made his living telling the college football world who’s going to win, could no longer talk.
Like his playing and coaching career before him, Corso defied the odds and returned to the Gameday set just four months later.
“Retire?” Corso once blurted out. “Huh? Why would I want to do that? I’m never going to quit. I’m going to keep doing this as long as I can. Let me tell you something, I fly first class on airplanes. I stay in first-class hotels. I eat first-class meals. I get to see the best college game of the week and I get to talk football. Then I get on a plane and fly first class back home.
“And they pay me a helluva lot of money.”
5. No one has more fun than Lee Corso
When you have the charisma and good character of Lee Corso, you deserve all the fame and notoriety that comes your way.
It was never easy for Lee, who’s college coaching career landed him at Indiana, Louisville and Northern Illinois, which only amounted to a 73-85-6 record. He’s continuing to push forward enjoying every moment of life.
At 83-years-old, there is still no one who does it like Lee Corso.
Happy birthday, Coach.