Yockel remembered for more than just his stats
Friday, August 09, 2013 8:04 PM
Vincent Yockel was on his way to becoming one of Clemson University's most celebrated basketball players.
Yockel's future wife, Nancy, though, had no idea who he was, as a Tigers junior, while on a blind date with him.
"I remember when he got out of the car, I remembered saying to myself, 'Oh my Lord; he's so tall, and I'm so short,'" Nancy recalled. "And with him being from the North (New Jersey), I could hardly understand a word he said. It was awful. And, I didn't even get his last name."
The day after that blind date, Nancy happened to see her father - a South Carolina fan, no less - looking at a newspaper's sports section, and there was a picture of none other than Vince.
"Wasn't he the guy you went on the date with last night?" Nancy's father asked. "And my parents grew to love him, which was unusual because my dad liked nobody I dated."
That was just one extra bit of intrigue to a high school girl already smitten with the man she would one day be married to for 56 years."My father only liked Vince, so I HAD to marry him. I didn't have a choice," Nancy said, laughing.
Vincent Yockel, who recently died of heart failure in Greenwood at age 77, was the Tigers' first first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honoree on the hardwood. Lured to Clemson by none other than ex-Tigers gridiron great and College Football Hall of Famer Banks McFadden, Yockel still owns the third-best scoring average on a per-game basis (18.2 points in 74 contests), and is one of five Clemson players to have averaged 20 points per game for a season (20.9 as a sophomore in 1955-56).
"He was sort of a teddy bear off the court, but he could be very aggressive on the court," Nancy said. "I remember, after one of the first times I dated him, I remember some little kids racing to get his autograph. I was so impressed that all these boys wanted to get his autograph.
"I remembered the first time watching him dribble a ball on the court, and I was like, 'Oh, my goodness,'" she added.
But what endeared Nancy to her future husband, a Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame member since 1982, was not his dominance on the court. Rather, it was how Vince craved all things Southern.
"He fell in love with my mom's southern cooking," Nancy said.
In the early 1990s, the Yockels moved to Greenwood because of Vince's work in the textile industry, of which Vince also played in the Textile League.
Although Vince had 32 games with at least 20 points for Clemson - fourth most for a Tiger, by the way - those are simply stats on a sheet of paper to Nancy.
Maybe what they say is true about one's life accomplishments, that your legacy's permanent imprint is upon your family.
"He loved his family more than anything," Nancy said. "As long as he had his family around him, it didn't matter where he was."
That includes five children: all Clemson graduates. And also, the 11 grandchildren (six boys, five girls).
Since Vince's death, the outpouring from Greenwood fans and the Clemson fan base has been overwhelming to Nancy.
"It's been amazing, absolutely amazing," Nancy said. "I didn't expect all this."
Maybe so. But when it comes to paying tribute to Yockel, Clemson fans and friends of his would not expect anything less.
Chancey is sports editor at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 223-1813; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @IJSCOTTCHANCEY . Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.