The Buccaneer Bridge
By Wayne Wood
“Brigid Meadow was the most aggressive & competitive athlete-boy or girl-who ever came through Berry High School” said Ron Jones who was the brother-in-law of legendary Buc Coach Bob Finley. Ron added that Coach Finley often thought the same opinion. Considering the illustrious 30-year athletic history of the Bucs made that a loaded statement.
I first came in contact with Brigid when she was a student at Simmons Jr. High School (now middle) in Hoover in the late 1980’s. This was 2 years after I had her older sister Julie in my 7th grade history class. I remember Julie as a quiet sweet girl. I secretly kept it to myself but I remember looking at her & thinking if she was a boy she could make a good football player. Julie tried out for the girls basketball team but didn’t make it (never understood why even then).
The latter part of Julie’s 8th grade year revealed the fact that her younger sister, Brigid, was coming out for spring football. (I never knew Julie had any younger siblings then.) This was the first time a girl tried out for football at Simmons. At the time, we had the 6th graders (upcoming 7th grade) practice with the 7th grade (upcoming 8th graders).
We issued only helmet & shoulder pads with limited contact back then. However, the boys wanted to show this girl that this decision was a mistake. I do remember Mrs. Meadow once caught me alone in the gym & explain her concerns about her “baby” playing football.
Of course, Brigid had to dress in the girls locker. At the time, she had very short hair & a few girls told me this later the time she went into the locker room and freaked out a couple of dressing girls who thought it was a boy coming in! We got through those issues in time.
We as coaches always exercised caution in hitting drills and in this case were especially on the lookout for this girls’ safety. She wasn’t coming out just for kicker (although she was a good soccer player) but flanker & outside linebacker. In time, the boys saw that she could take a hit & deliver one back as well. They soon gained respect for Brigid.
Into the 1988 season, it became obvious that Brigid was going to contribute as a player & she did. She could’ve played any sport with her athletic ability & hard work ethic. Playing basketball & soccer were her first sport loves but football fit into her schedule back then. By the time her 8th grade football season arrived, she had become a kind of celebrity. There were news articles written about her & a few local TV stations did sports feature reports.
In the spring of her 8th grade year, we learned that her younger brother, Joe Bear, was coming out for 6th grade spring football. I thought this was going to be a great situation & asked Bridge (that was my name for her) about him. She said, “Nah coach. He’s just a little ole fat boy. He ain’t gonna do anything.” That kind of tempered my anxious excitement a bit.
It did take about 3 years to get Joe Bear in shape. I worked with him in 1992 when he was a Berry Buc 9th grader. By the time he was a sophomore. he had improved greatly & contributed on the varsity. He was a force as an inside linebacker his junior & senior years making all-state & signing to play college football. He was also the state heavyweight wrestling champion in 1995.
Younger brother Murray was 2 years behind Joe Bear. He was a bit leaner & was also an outstanding football lineman & wrestling champion for the Hoover Bucs. Murray had Julie’s personality in a way.
But back to the Bridge. She wanted to play football at Berry as a freshman but Coach Finley wouldn’t allow that. Ron Jones later told me that Coach Finley actually second guessed himself believing Brigid could’ve played on the varsity level. However, she did play basketball for him eventually becoming the first 9th grader to start for his varsity girls basketball team playing point guard.
By this time, Julie had improved & was a force on the varsity Lady Bucs team. She was a junior with Brigid being a freshman. One thing about Brigid was her extreme intensity & sometimes fiery temper. At times, if a call went against her she might blow up & get a technical foul.
Ron Ingram once told me of a time during a summer league basketball game with Brigid playing & Coach Finley on the sidelines. She was called for a foul & was about to slam the ball on the floor making matters worse. Just as she was about slam the ball, she caught the glaring eyes & tight jaw look of Coach Finley out of the corner of her eye. In one complete motion, she wheeled around to gently give the ball to the ref with a smile on her face!
She came to love Coach Finley who exercised extreme patience with Brigid. He taught her about character, integrity, attitude work ethic & compassion in everything she did while working with her on basketball skills. The two Meadow girls became like daughters to Coach Finley & Ron Jones (his assistant coach).
I could truly write a book about Bridge & her siblings. I did get her to contribute her story about Coach Finley in the book I composed about him. There was a funny story about the time during the summer when Brigid had to drive from a soccer tournament in north Alabama to arrive late at a basketball camp on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University where the Lady Bucs were participating.
Early one morning, Brigid awoke to see her car rolled in blue & white toilet paper-the colors of the team they were to play that day. Coach Finley suggested that maybe the other team did it & helped her clean up her car.Thinking members of the opposing team did it, Brigid played the game with extra incentive. It didn’t take much to get her temper going anyway.
Halfway through the game she broke her finger but played on after having it wrapped. She was too fired up & the Lady Bucs won the game. Months later, she was riding with Ron Jones to a college for a media promotion for an upcoming basketball tournament. He finally confessed that it was he & Coach Finley who had actually rolled her car back in the summer & teased her for the look on her face. They had a big laugh about it.
The Lady Bucs had great success in basketball during Brigid’s time at Berry. Her play in soccer helped gain the Bucs three state championships during her time as well. I got to see a lot of interaction between Coach Finley & Brigid. He was a very patient person.
There were times when Coach Finley might make a quiet statement for my hearing only with the team present. Once was as we were getting off the bus for a game at Hewitt-Trussville. Brigid was always the “life of the party” on a road trip being loud & rowdy at times. As she was the last one off the bus, Coach Finley muttered to me: A Bridge Too Far. A Bridge over Troubled Waters and sometimes she troubles my waters!” This was from an old war movie title & a hit rock song from years past. That always tickled me. Brigid likes to tell how Coach Finley use to play against her in practice in playful way trying to antagonize her. It tickled her seeing him do this though.
Brigid was in the last class to graduate from Berry High in 1994. She signed to play basketball & soccer at Wofford College in South Carolina going on to have a great career.
It was so neat in that after she graduated from college, she came to Simmons as a language arts teacher & coach ending up on the same 7th grade academic team with me. I would sometimes tell others a “Brigid Story.” Once she complained to me yet I explained that someone had to tell the “Legend of the Bridge!”
After she transferred to Bumpus Middle School, Brigid eventually taught & coached at Clay-Chalkville briefly before ending up at Vestavia Hills High School as an English teacher & soccer coach where she has been for several years (having great championship success for the Lady Rebels).
I was proud to attend her wedding to Shane Littleton (a former Buc football & baseball player). I remember years later, that Brigid brought her first baby boy to Simmons. He had to be about a year old. She told me to watch as she had the little fellow use his hands to grip onto each of her index fingers as she hoisted him high above her head. It was an awesome sight but not really surprising knowing her.
Brigid & Shane had two more boys (they both look like her younger brother Murray). Like hundreds of other former students, many of her former teachers & coaches are quite proud of her. Though she may be coaching the VHHS Rebels, she will always be the Buccaneer Bridge to me.