His mind is cracker-jack sharp but the frame of our favorite orthopedic surgeon is failing him now, a casualty of hard work and 80-plus years, roughly a half century of that used to heal the wear and tear on his patients, including thousands of student athletes at Louisiana Tech when he was its team doctor from 1973-2013.
The University’s most recent recognition of Dr. Billy Bundrick was Saturday when a life-sized statue of “Dr. B” was unveiled and dedicated by the softball field named in his honor — Dr. Billy Bundrick Field.
The players affectionately call the field “The Billy,” a playful nickname its honoree heartedly approves of since Dr. B has always been about competition and winning and spreading the joy.
The University could dedicate 10 statues and probably still fall short of recognizing all Dr. B has done for the school. A three-time football letter winner and the team’s captain in 1959, Dr. B made a career of taking one for the team. Dr. B, his remarkable and imminently likeable assistant Spanky McCoy, and longtime Tech athletic trainer Sam Wilkinson formed a mortal but formidable holy trinity to combat frayed nerves, hurt feelings, busted ligaments, and broken bones for three decades.
“It’s unbelievable how good Dr. Bundrick was to Louisiana Tech and how much he’s meant to us,” Wilkinson said.
Former athletic director Jim Oakes, who, as Tech’s lead football manager in the mid-’70s had a front row seat to Dr. Bundrick’s influence, called his friend “the greatest sports medicine doctor to ever serve a university athletic program.”
Dr. B is a Tech Athletics Hall of Famer, a former Alumnus of the Year, and everything in between.
“The numerous honors he’s earned only scratch the surface of his significance to us,” University President Dr. Les Guice said. “His greatest contribution has been in the service of others.”
He did it one knee and one back and one foot at the time, each stitch a soft-spoken encouragement.
Dr. B’s biggest fan, physically and figuratively, is likely Karl Malone, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer; his family’s donation made the statue a reality. Bundrick has been an advisor to Malone, a quiet encourager and his most trusted confidant, since before Malone was the famous “Mailman.” In the flamboyant NBA, Karl always had a posse of one: Dr. B.
If that’s hard to understand, or if you’ve never seen a 6-foot-9 teardrop, you could have seen one Saturday as Malone’s emotion for his friend was evident.
“You,” Malone said to a smiling Dr. B, “are my hero.” He spoke for many in the crowd.
Walking to the soccer pitch next door or to The Billy, Tech’s student athletes would be wise to consider the statue and copy what it represents, a monument to caring and leaving it all on the field, the definition in bronze of a selfless and smooth operator.