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Glenn Bass 2017

He had the hands of a star shortstop, the fleet feet of a sprinter, and the heart of a champion.

Those were a few reasons Glenn Bass excelled as a high school, college and pro athlete before becoming a Presbyterian pastor.

It all started in Wilson, where Bass was weaned on youth sports and developed into an all-conference prep football, basketball, and baseball player. Then, in a sterling sequel, he burgeoned into a two-sport All-America at East Carolina and finally flourished as a standout wide receiver with the AFL Buffalo Bills.

Fittingly, that circuitous athletic route culminated with election to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

Despite a sparkling high school resume, Bass wasn’t widely recruited. But perceptive East Carolina coaches offered him a combo baseball-football scholarship and wound up with a prize catch bigger than any bass fisherman ever made.

An All-America shortstop, team captain and .300-plus hitter, Bass helped East Carolina claim the 1961 National NAIA baseball championship.

In football, Bass ran rampant. He ripped off the school’s longest kickoff return —102 yards—and starred at running back, averaging over 8 yards per carry one season. He captained the 7-3 Pirates team in 1960, made third-team All-America despite being hurt part of the fall, and was the All-American Bowl MVP.

In 1974 he was inducted in the ECU Sports Hall of Fame.

His versatility created options: Play pro baseball or pro football? Bass chose the latter,  was drafted by St. Louis (NFL) and San Diego ( AFL),  signed with the Chargers and wound up shuffling off to Buffalo via a trade.

He was an instant impact player with the Bills, catching 50 passes and winning the team MVP award as a rookie. Another sparkling season unfolded in 1964 when he amassed 897 receiving yards, an eye-popping 20.9 yards per- reception, to help the Bills win the first of two straight AFL championships.

Bass also played on three division title teams in Buffalo and one with Houston during a successful career interrupted by injuries.

Fast Bass had a second gear he called “scared fast,” which explains how he gained 241 yards on 8 receptions in one memorable game.

“Speed. Speed. Speed,” said Wray Carlton, a former Bills star reflecting on his first impression of Bass. “He had everything you looked for in a receiver. He was a great athlete, a great team player, a great human being.”

Bass, who served in the Marine Reserves while playing pro ball, drew strength from his profound Christian faith. Philippians 4:13: —“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” — is among his favorite Bible verses.

While his athletic accomplishments are many,  Bass’  biggest contribution no doubt has been as a husband, father for two children, grandfather to three grandchildren, and ministering congregations for 37 years — including 21 years in Tallahassee, Fla.

While serving the church, he also nurtured Florida State football teams, lead Bible Studies and counseled some of Coach Bobby Bowden’s players.

Though retired —so to speak — Bass, at 78, preaches two sermons each Sunday at an active retirement village in Tallahassee, Fla.

“I feel so blessed,” said the pastor and Hall of Famer on and off the athletic field.

— A.J. Carr

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