From My Losing Season:
“The next morning, [Coach] Mel Thompson, who had never offered me a compliment in my whole life, said in the News and Courier: ‘Pat Conroy gave another great performance. That kid gets more mileage out of his talent than any player I have ever coached.’
Children, heirs of mine.
You may put those words of Mel Thompson’s on my tombstone, and I will smile in joy for all eternity. I take those words to the writing desk every day of my life. When I cannot write or find the words cunning in their refusal to present themselves to me or bend to my will, I read his words again. I say, ‘Mel Thompson, my Ahab, my demanding and melancholy coach, one of the hardest, most authoritarian men I have ever met. The hardest taskmaster, the demon-driven coach of my college days, the dark icon of madness told the world that I got more mileage out of his talent than any player he has ever coached.’
I took Mel’s words and applied them to my future life. I used them as talisman and mantra and omen for what I wanted to become. I took those words of praise and applied them to the writing life I had dreamed about since childhood. I took Mel’s words as metaphor. I soared upon them, gathered strength from then as I stormed out to my life as a writer who wanted to create winged and roaring sentences, the kind that would set the language free and make people come to my house and sit on my knee and listen to the song I was born to sing.”
– Pat Conroy (1945-2016)