By CHRIS HOBBS
CATAWBA – Even if he wanted to (and he doesn’t), it’d be difficult for retired Bandys High head football coach Randy Lowman to step completely away from his legacy at his alma mater.
Legacy, though, is the kind of word that makes Lowman — who turns 63 next month — cringe.
In his mind, the best description of what he did at Bandys was he played, coached his own sons and later coached with them, spent a lot of time with some of his best friends (his coaching staff) and won some football games.
But as he walks into Butler Stadium tonight to watch sons Kyle (assistant) and Trent (head coach) battle Fred T. Foard, the sign across the top of the pressbox signifies how the community feels about him.
In big green block letters on a white background it says: Randy Lowman Field.
Tonight’s game at 7:30 p.m. there will be the 48th the school, which opened in 1959, has played since Randy Lowman retired.
When he retired in 2012, he had been in uniform (No. 44) or coaching as an assistant or head coach in 452 of the 651 varsity games the Trojans had played (69.4 percent of all games in school history at that time).
They’re playing game No. 699 tonight. And like he really always was about, Randy Lowman hopes to just blend in with the crowd, have a good time and watch his boys.
In large measure, trying to have good times has become a big part of Randy Lowman’s life in retirement.
He remarried five years ago.
He has four little granddaughters, some step-grandchildren and a bunch of buddies who share a passion he rediscovered after he got out of coaching.
Riding motorcycles has always been one of his loves, but playing music is, well, music to his heart.
When Lowman was about 13 or 14, he had a guitar and took some lessons – “just enough to strum along,” he says – but then football became such a central part of his life that the only keys he cared to learn were when blocks (he was a tailback) were to be made.
After he retired, Lowman said he found a guitar at his house and put new strings on it. Before long, a bunch of his buddies were often at his house — ‘jamming’ for lack of a better term – and Lowman really enjoyed it.
He turned a 30 x 30 shop built on his property to be a motorcycle shop into a place to play, complete with even a small stage.
“The idea of turning it into a music building came from (former Bandys athlete and coach) Mark Story,” Lowman said. “It was built to kind of be a storage slash motorcycle slash garage slash man cave.”
Six core guys from Catawba County fast became Lowman’s music team, so to speak – Doug Webb (guitar/vocals), Kevin Saunders (guitar/vocals), Danny “Fats” Harbinson (keyboard/vocals), Larry Simmons (bass/vocals), Kelly Poovey (guitar/vocals) and Randy Hobbs (mandolin-vocals — in the interest of full disclosure, the older brother of the author of this story).
“For more than two years, just a bunch of us would come over and play,” Lowman said.
When Simmons opened a restaurant in Conover, the idea was thrown out for the informal band to play live there. But the band didn’t have a name.
“The Cozmic Cowboys had a band 40 years ago, so let’s just use that name,” Lowman said the band decided, as Hobbs and Simmons had been original members of that group.
They now play at sites when someone calls them and asks them, provided all of their schedules will allow. Their songs are generally blue grass and country for a few hours at a time.
Somewhere in that mix of Saturday night gigs, Lowman found perhaps another thing he was meant to do.
“There’s not nearly as many critics,” he said when comparing playing guitar and singing to coaching football. “There’s not as many people trying to tell you what to do.
“It’s fun. It’s a rush… I never thought I’d do something like this. It’s no pressure. We just have fun.”
The band has taken this month off and will play a few times in September, including at one charity event.
“We’re not out looking… we’re not out knocking on doors,” Lowman said.
When they do play and see the crowd — many of them friends from their school days — having a good time, Lowman said it’s the best of times.
“I am (now) getting associated with a lot of folks that never knew there was a football game played on Friday night (that he coached in),” he said. “I am enjoying meeting those people.
“When you are doing it (coaching), it’s like that’s the only thing in the world. I’ve enjoyed being a little more kicked back. It’s a lower pressure atmosphere…
“This is a cool thing for me. I’m pretty much just another name, I’m just another guy, another one of the old guys.
“I’m not held to any standards and that is a cool thing right now. There were times (when coaching) I couldn’t go the barbershop, the grocery store, the campground without being asked ‘How are we going to be and are we gonna beat Maiden?’
“You would avoid those places not to have to deal with it.”
With a guitar back in hand, Lowman – who coached and taught at Bandys for 35 years after playing college football at Lenoir-Rhyne University — enjoys playing a different tune.
He talks a bit of football if his sons reach out and ask, but otherwise has left the sport for good.
His wife, Patty, keeps him – and most of the other band members – on their toes. And, truth be told, Lowman says, she was the reason his guitar days started. When they reconnected after not having seen each other since attending Bandys, Lowman wanted her to notice him.
“I knew Patty liked musicians and she used to date a musician,” Lowman said, chuckling.
She helps keep him busy and well-grounded in life beyond what made him an icon in the Bandys community.
“I did it to the point that I didn’t feel like I had anything else to get done,” Lowman said of deciding to step away from coaching after the Trojans went 9-5 in 2012 (Trent was then named the head coach). “It is a lot of games and I am proud of it. I feel good about it, about what I have been a part of it. I was just a part of it with good coaches and good players.
“You’re never ever sure if you got it (the football program) to where you’d like it to be. A lot of times, we ran on the bare minimums as far as facilities and funds if you look at other programs.
“I kinda went in hoping that I would not get fired for not winning enough football games.”
Bandys was 21-38-1 after Lowman’s first six seasons and turned the corner quickly in 1993 by going 10-3 with a team that outperformed its raw talent by playing so well together.
Over the next 20 seasons, the Trojans were 185-80 with three conference titles, two co-titles and three appearances in state title games as Lowman closed with a career record of 206-118-1.
He remembers the day he retired – Dec. 31, 2012 – but doesn’t often look back.
“I ain’t doing much of anything,” he said. “I’m having fun, riding my motorcycle and playing with grandchildren…
“We’re both at home (he and Patty) and I’m just being the old guy, drawing Social Security and piddling around the house.”
Some days, he rides his motorcycle. On others, he works on a home project or helps an old buddy by driving him to appointments at the Veteran’s Hospital in Salisbury.
Whatever he’s doing, Lowman is trying to enjoy the moment(s), especially those when he’s a Cozmic Cowboy singing songs like the Marshall Tucker hit “Can’t Ya See”.
Said Lowman: “(Being in a band) is not something I really planned to do. I picked it (music) up to have something to do, and I guess it became a habit. Might be a bad habit…
“When you are our age (of the band members), we’ll do it as long as we are able to. We’re just having fun.
“We don’t have to do it to make a living… we’re just old friends hanging out and doing what we like.”