What's the deal with ... Austin Peay?

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
2:33
PM ET
Austin PeayJim Brown/US Presswire
We know about the big boys. But what about the little guys? Throughout the 2012 college football season, Playbook Fandom will take a look at some of the less recognizable schools you might see on scoreboards and TV screens.

"Let's Go Peay!" "Let's Go Peay!" It's a well-known call -- the last word is pronounced "p," after all -- and it gained a bit of semi-recent national attention when the Austin Peay State University basketball team reached the NCAA tournament in 2008.

But there's more to this Tennessee school than a clever chant and a basketball program that's made six trips to the tourney. Before the FCS & Ohio Valley Conference Governors face No. 15 Virginia Tech Saturday afternoon, Playbook takes a look at what makes this public institution noteworthy:

• First, Mr. Peay: He was the governor of Tennessee in the mid-1920s, a major reformer of state government. He was also a resident of Clarksville, the state's fifth-largest city, and established the school in 1927. Hence "Austin Peay" and "Governors."

• Fast-forward to now and the campus today, which is home to more than 10,000 students ... and several sinkholes. Which the school embraces. Yes, the "karst" landscape (budding geology buffs can read about that term here) lends itself to what the campus calls "bowls" -- like this rather impressive one.

• Football-wise, the team's coach is Rick Christophel, an Ohio native who played quarterback at APSU in the 1970s -- then was followed there by brothers Randy and Rob, who also played QB for the Governors.

• In terms of past success, APSU has seen considerably more in basketball than football; the latter's last Ohio Valley Conference championship came in 1977. The team also has lost 13 games in a row to FBS opponents, although the Governors did go into Manhattan, Kan., and surprise the Kansas State Wildcats in 1987.

• New to the active roster (after transferring last year from Southern Miss) is offensive lineman O.C. Brown, whose "The Blind Side"-like experience while at Memphis' Manassas High School was the starting point for the Oscar-winning documentary, "Undefeated." Also on the team from that squad: junior receiver Terrence Oliver and freshman running back Omar Williams.

• For one summer, in 2006, the Tennessee Titans spent some training-camp time at APSU. That marked the first sighting in Titans blue of eventual offensive rookie of the year Vince Young.

[+] EnlargeRoger Staubach
AP Photo/NFL PhotosAPSU alum Percy Howard (81) only played in eight NFL games, but made a big catch in the biggest one.
• Notable non-sports alumni include St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital CEO William E. Evans, Cracker Barrel co-founder Bill Heydel and "The Biggest Loser" personal trainer Bob Harper.

• Notable sports alumni: Bonnie Sloan, the first APSU player in the NFL -- and the first deaf player in NFL history; Trenton Hassell, a Clarksville native who played nine years in the NBA; Percy Howard, a basketball player-turned-football receiver whose only career touchdown catch came in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl X, and kept his Dallas Cowboys in the game; and ...

• ... four current baseball players -- Los Angeles Dodgers starting catcher/budding comedian A.J. Ellis, Colorado Rockies reliever Matt Reynolds, and Seattle Mariners relievers Shawn Kelley and former All-Star George Sherrill -- three of whom (Ellis, Kelley and Reynolds) are married to former APSU volleyball players.
Patrick Dorsey works for SportsNation. He has worked for the Web and newspapers, had a cup of craft service coffee in film school, and played in one Division III golf tournament (he shot 105).

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