“Fear the Stripes” is the cliché born for the new generation of football fans at the University of Central Arkansas.
And for good reason. The synthetic turf of the stadium’s gridiron is adorned with colors of purple and gray — UCA’s colors — in stripes five yards apart.
UCA athletic director Brad Teague maintains that only three football stadiums in the country are showing off stripes this season. A host of colleges have opted for color on their respective fields, but these are solid renderings.
Only time will tell if this infatuation with color will translate into touchdowns, if not first downs. UCA players have taken a keen liking to the hues on the field. And so has Coach Clint Conque who is “excited about the new turf.”
But what of those gridiron heroes of long past — the storied players like Guy “Big Dan” Estes for whom the UCA stadium is named?
What would he make of it?
Big Dan isn’t around any more. Only the lore of this great player remains and the name of Estes Stadium perpetuates.
That piece of real estate on the campus has given scads of footballers over the years opportunities to excel. Many were fortunate enough to feel Guy Estes’ influence.
The essence of the big fellow remains entrenched in the history of UCA athletics. Even trough he was primarily a mathematics instructor, Estes gave much of his time to molding football, baseball and basketball teams.
Estes came out of Bellefonte High School in 1907, the same year incidentally, the Arkansas Legislature created Arkansas Normal School, now known as UCA. He was highly recruited by the Arkansas Razorbacks. He stood 6-foot-3 and weighed in at 240 pounds. He bedazzled Razorback coach Hugo Bezdek and starred for four years under the noted coach’s tutelage.
The story goes that when Bezdek told him he would start at right guard, Estes replied: “Where’s right guard?”
The big fellow, the Arkansas media wrote, was a “phenom,” a colorful sports word in vogue at the time. He starred as a lineman but he also carried the ball and scored six touchdowns one season.
Estes was routinely referred to as “one of the strongest and fastest” men on the field. In the Razorbacks’ 50-0 victory over Washington University, the Arkansas Gazette wrote that “Estes, the big lineman, was in the limelight more than any other single man in the game.”
Estes began his coaching career at State Agriculture School in Monticello. He coached and taught for one year before moving to Conway in 1915, according to archivist Jimmy Bryant’s records at UCA. Estes looked forward to many years of coaching the Bears but World War I interrupted.
In the Army, he surprised no one when he quickly rose to the rank of captain. After his tour of duty, he returned to his coaching job in Conway.
It was said that on campus the big fellow was respected and revered. The 1920 yearbook “The Scroll” lauded him and dedicated the issue to Estes, who was described as always kind and gentle, yet firm and unyielding with his teams. Their joys were his joys and their sorrows his sorrows.”
Estes’ coaching system was novel for the time. In preparation for the 1922 football season he loaded up his team and drove the players to Petit Jean Mountain where they trained vigorously.
He was known to have marched his team to Thornberg in Perry County, some 30 miles distant, for a two-week camp. The players marched back to Conway after the training session.
And because he was an avid outdoorsman, Estes allowed his players the privilege of hunting — and even berry picking — between two-a-day practices.
The coach also had carved a reputation as a good citizen, well-liked and respected. He and his wife were often seen at local social functions. So it was a tremendous blow to the college and the people of Conway when the Estes’ automobile was struck by a Missouri Pacific train at the Prairie Street crossing, injuring the coach severely and killing his 34-year-old wife, Elizabeth. The news of her death shocked the community. The Log Cabin, in its Dec. 30, 1925, edition said “Probably no more universally beloved young married couple had ever made their home in Conway than coach and Mrs. Estes, and as the tragic news of the terrible occurrence was flashed over the city, it stunned the community with grief.
Estes recovered from his injuries and resumed coaching the Bears until he retired in 1933. He died Nov. 13, 1944, while duck hunting near Mayflower.
Estes was named to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1964 and the University of Central Arkansas Hall of Fame in 2001.
He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Conway.