Wyche earns ‘I Fan the Flame’ award

PICKENS — Gifted athlete, legendary coach, astute businessman, public servant, Christian family man, sports broadcast analyst, consummate volunteer, mentor, magician, enlightened teacher, master of motivation, accomplished speaker… These are just a few of the terms used to describe Sam Wyche, the Pickens Revitalization Association’s seventh “I Fan the Flame” award winner.

Wyche grew up in the Atlanta area. After attaining degrees from Furman University and the University of South Carolina, he spent 27 years playing and coaching in the NFL. He has the distinction of both coaching a team and playing in different Super Bowls. After a number of years founding and managing a chain of sporting goods stores, Wyche and his wife Jane moved back to Pickens in 1999, where they had lived in the mid-60s.

“Jane is a native of Pickens,” Wyche said. “She was a cheerleader at Pickens High and selected ‘Miss Pickens’ in 1960.

“This town is just a great place to live,” he continued. “It offered us friends and family, great natural beauty, a convenient location… We could have moved anywhere, but Pickens felt most like home.”

While still in demand as a public speaker who entertains and motivates corporate, youth, association, civic and government groups, Wyche still finds time to give back to Pickens in many ways. Just a few of his past and current endeavors include helping coach Pickens High football for five years, continuing to mentor many of those players after they graduate and substitute teaching in the Pickens school system. He volunteers, with his wife, at both the Parenting Place and Pendleton Place. Wyche is the spokesperson, along with Atlanta Brave Chipper Jones, for the Rally Foundation, which raises money for child cancer research. He is on the board of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and, locally, Meals On Wheels, where he is the founder of the Pickens-Easley High School Food Fight Bowl. The annual event involves area youth in raising funds to support the organization’s charitable efforts. He is about to complete a four-year term as county councilman for Pickens and all of District 3. He still finds time for golf, tennis, biking and riding his Harley.

“Perhaps two of my most rewarding local accomplishments were right here in the county,” he noted. “I traded some of my time and, in return, Grasshopper Corporation donated eight commercial grass mowers, and all the backup equipment, to the four Pickens County high schools. Also, with the large size of the new high school campuses, I saw a need and arranged for each of the schools to have a four-passenger and a cargo-hauling golf cart.”