It’s the reason athletes say they all began playing sports as children.
For the five inductees present at Friday’s Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame ceremony, it was also a common theme on why they felt the need to pursue their sports in high school, college and beyond.
“I’m overwhelmed with all of the folks that are here keeping sports up and being productive,” Craig King said. “I don’t know what else to tell you. I think sports are a way of life. It can take you down a journey, and it’s a lot of life experience — things that happen in sports.”
For all of them, sports were a part of their early youth.
In the case of Brian Audia, there’s documented proof — in the form of early video from he was a toddler.
“Growing up, that’s basically all I did was play ball,” Audia said. “My dad has those mini-8, or something-millimeter, tapes from way back in the day. When I was 3, (I was) dribbling a basketball for five minutes with my right hand, then five minutes with my left hand dribbling around a court. My whole life, I’ve just been enthralled with sports.”
Audia’s father, Dave, was a longtime coach in a variety of sports at Sequoyah High School before retiring from his full-time duties in 2004. His brother, Kelly, was Sequoyah’s volleyball coach before leaving in 2010.
“My dad would play with me every day, either shooting hoops or (caught) when I practiced pitching,” Brian Audia added. “He was always there. My brother, Kelly, who is two years younger than me, was a terrific athlete himself. The two of us, every day, were playing ball. It was just something else.”
For George “Cotton” Frady, his introduction to baseball was even more rudimentary.
“My great-grandfather, who was 86 at the time, exposed me to baseball,” Frady said. “My mother worked in the mill at that time. She brought home these thimbles — and, if you worked in the mill, then you know what they are — full of just spun yarn. (My father) took that spun yarn and wrapped it into a ball. Then, he took the old-time friction tape and put it around that, and made it very soft. As a young boy, I could beat that ball to death with a bat. It wouldn’t go all that far, but you could still get the experience of watching the ball, hitting the ball and it was great for my hand-eye coordination.
“That was at 8 years old. I’ll never forget that. I look back, and the gentleman’s name was George Sherman Frady. I look back and I think that was the start of everything for me. I loved him for it.”
Going through high school, Audia and Frady were both standout athletes.
Attending Etowah High School, Audia lettered 14 times in five sports — football, baseball, basketball, golf and track. He even played some soccer, too.
But how did he do it?
“I took up the game of golf,” he said. “My (baseball) coach would let me go play in golf matches whenever we had baseball practice, but not a game, which was incredible because I don’t think my dad, when he was coaching baseball at Sequoyah High School, would ever let his players do that.
“But they allowed me to do that at Etowah, and I threw the discus, and did high jump and long jump. In track and golf, I hardly ever got to practice, but I was at a lot of meets and matches and things like that.”
Audia’s athleticism was well-known, and he was recruited by Division I programs the likes of Georgia Tech or Tennessee. But he wanted to play every sport he could and dreamt of becoming a baseball coach after college.
Ultimately, Audia chose Middle Tennessee State.
“It’s kind of interesting because I ended up playing baseball, and that was my career in college, but the only reason baseball was such a big push for me in college was because I wanted to coach baseball once I got out of college,” Audia said. “I was definitely a much better football player than I was at anything else, and basketball was my second-best sport, so baseball was my third sport. I was offered, but signed a football scholarship to Middle Tennessee State on National Signing Day.”
Audia wasn’t there for very long.
After initially allowing Audia to focus on two sports, the Middle Tennessee football coach went back on his promise, and asked Audia to focus solely on football after the fall of his freshman season. That decision prompted him to transfer to Auburn-Montgomery, an NAIA program.
Audia signed a basketball scholarship and played baseball, his true love all four years he was there. Ironically, though, the move didn’t lead to him pursuing his initial dream.
“The unfunny part about that is I started having success in business during college, and that led into a business career instead of coaching anyway,” he said. “I was really mentored by some strong businessmen in college. They were guys that really invested in me and taught me some entrepreneurial things.”
Frady’s career crossroad came much sooner.
After his high school career at Cherokee, Frady went on to Georgia. The Pittsburgh Pirates then came calling before he ever stepped foot in Athens, but it obviously wasn’t enough to derail Frady’s college education.
“One of the things back then I can remember from the humble background that I came from was getting the opportunity that says go to baseball, then go to college,” Frady said. “I had seen what they do to young boys, because they didn’t just have Class AAA, Class AA. They had all the way down to the instructional leagues.
“Quite frankly, getting on a bus and traveling 500 miles and playing a game, then getting on a bus for 500 miles and playing a game, wasn’t my idea that time. So, I thought I made the right decision going to school.
“Baseball sent me to school, so, in a way, I got paid right then. I looked at it as an opportunity both ways. I couldn’t lose by doing that.”
Frady tore his rotator cuff at the end of his career at Georgia, and the big leagues didn’t come calling for him after he was done as Bulldog. Still, Frady didn’t have any regrets about his decision.
“Quite frankly, I thought they’d be around after college,” Frady said. “Some of them were, but I blew out my arm big time. I had a bad rotator cuff. … You get an opportunity to go around, and you always want the ball. It’s innate in most of the pitchers. When it’s the bottom of the ninth and you have an opportunity to be the guy on the mound, you want that, especially when you are in high school and college.
“You want that kind of thing. It was just too much. It came back to bite me. I didn’t get the chance to play the pro ball I wanted to, but it worked out.”
Though neither Audia nor Frady went on to play sports professionally, both went on to live successful lives as a result of the education they collected from playing sports.
Audia is now a business-planning consultant after starting, running and selling two businesses. Frady, meanwhile, retired after 21 years with Alcan Cable, after getting a job out of college working at Lockheed-Martin.
For both, sports were a means to an ends. More than that, however, it is still very much a way of life.