High School Sports

Hope to host pre-reunion Bearcat bash

Chris Hope will be busy in October and won't be able to attend his 10-year Rock Hill High School reunion.

Hope is the starting safety for the Tennessee Titans and it's not like he's going to ask coach Jeff Fisher for a weekend off.

But not all is lost -- Hope has thought of a way to sort of solve the problem. He's throwing -- let's call it a pre-class reunion -- on June 21 at the Palmetto Room in the middle of downtown Rock Hill.

Hope is footing the bill and you can bet the place will be rocking. Two of Hope's longtime friends and fellow graduates and another former classmate from high school are pulling it together. Hope is in Tennessee getting ready for summer training camp, which starts in late July.

"I really hate I can't come to the reunion, so this is my way of catching up with everybody from my graduating class," Hope said. "This is not about Chris Hope, not about me at all.

"People know my story and to me it's boring. I play in the NFL, but I'm still the Chris Hope who grew up on Saluda Street and went to Castle Heights and Rock Hill High.

"This is about the people in my senior class. I want to know what they are doing, that I'm interested in what they've been doing. Are they married? What kind of work do they do? Do they have kids? I want to let them know that what they are doing in life is important."

Now, don't take that the wrong way. He really is the same kid who never missed a day of school through the 12th grade and with the exception of one B in middle school, made all As.

Hope made a promise when he made the Bearcats' varsity as a freshman that he was going to end up in the NFL and buy his mom, Mary, and dad, Randy, a big house and pay them back for everything they had done for him. He was true to his word.

And how about those academic and athletic All-America honors he won at Florida State? And the Super Bowl ring from when he played for Pittsburgh?

Hope was drafted by the Steelers in the third round in 2002. He became a free agent after the Super Bowl and signed with Tennessee.

He injured his back and missed the final five games last year, but he's back at 100 percent and ready to go.

OK, Chris. That's enough about you, but don't ever tell me again that your life is boring.

Hope's two childhood friends, Katie Wall and Becky Byers (yes, she's still my little girl) are handling nearly every detail of the big bash, which starts at 8 p.m. and runs until 1 a.m.

With the help of Kristin Stacks, who is working with the "real" reunion, they are trying to contact as many Bearcats as possible from the Class of 1998.

To RSVP, got to rhhsco98@yahoo.com and let them know if you are coming. It's semi-formal, for couples and singles, and free. Hope has spared no expense.

Hope wants all of the teachers and coaches at Rock Hill to know they and a guest are invited.

The first 50 former students to register win a door prize. There will be an ongoing trivia contest with prizes and anyone planning to come is asked to submit an old photo.

There will be two big drawings -- one for a Hope jersey, another for two plane tickets, hotel accommodations and two tickets to a Titans home game this season.

The event will be catered and those coming will be entertained by a DJ. A videographer has been hired to record the party and will have order forms for DVDs. A photographer has been lined up and photos will be made available for sale on the Web.

There's a rumor going around that because a large crowd is expected, a limo service is being considered to shuttle party-goers from the parking lots around town to the front door of the Palmetto Room. Hope said if that can't be worked out, he'll try to find an alternate mode of transportation to deliver his guests.

And of course, the theme will be in Bearcats' garnet and black.

"We're also going to vote on superlatives," Hope said. "We're trying to make this as fun as we can for anyone from our class who wants to come. I'm probably more excited to see everyone as they are about seeing me. Lots of times when I'm home, I'll see someone I went to school with and they will shy away from me.

"It's like they don't think I'll talk to them. That's so far from the truth. When that happens, I like to walk up to them with a smile on my face and ask how they have been doing. I want all of them to know they can always stop me and talk."

As bad as Hope wants it to happen, he's sure to get cornered and asked about the NFL. And to keep people from grabbing him all night and slowing him from circulating, Hope was pressured by Katie and Becky to stop between 10-11 p.m. for photos with anyone who wishes to have their picture taken with the football star.

Talking him into that one was hard and he reluctantly agreed to do it. But after all, he's still the same guy who grew up on Saluda Street and went to Castle Heights and Rock Hill.

As much as he hates to talk about it, the only difference is he's a little more famous.