Picture this scenario: You are standing in front of a room, and people you knew when you were still working take turns praising you, thanking you for something meaningful you did for them back in the day — 30, 40, 50, even 60 years ago. They’re sharing their stories with love and humor, much to the delight of the others in the room. You remember most of the people and some of the stories, no mean feat since you’ve just celebrated your 99th birthday.

This exact scenario played out earlier this year when several Bowdoin graduates spent half an hour on ZOOM calls every Saturday afternoon expressing their appreciation to Bowdoin legend, Mike (“Big Daddy” or “Link”) Linkovich.

Mike Linkovich, a true Bowdoin legend, came to the college in 1954 to serve as an athletic trainer, a position he held for 40 years. He stayed around after “retiring” in 1994 and continued to help out on a volunteer basis for many years.

I wrote about Mike in my “Unsung Hero” column for The Forecaster in 2011. Bill Parkin, Bowdoin Class of 1981, sent that article along to several of his football buddies last fall, and they decided to have weekly ZOOM calls with Mike, who was living at the Mid Coast Senior Health Center Nursing & Rehab at Bodwell in Brunswick.

Most of the ZOOM attendees were Bowdoin graduates who had played football at the college in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I was a bit of an outlier on the calls, having graduated in 1964. I knew of Mike — everybody on campus did — but I played on the golf team, not the football team. I never needed to get my ankles taped, and I never benefitted from Mike’s down-home wisdom.

It was a kick observing these men, now in their sixties, reminisce about their playing days (“you were impossible to block” or “remember that Williams game?” and on and on) when they weren’t thanking Mike and telling him that he was “the greatest” or “the best.” You knew Mike really appreciated being surrounded (virtually) by men whose lives he had shaped and touched.

As icing on the cake, the men decided to prepare a book for Mike, which included some of their favorite memories and stories. Here is a brief sampling of their stories:

“Remembering so many hours on his table and in his whirlpool and so many calm, confident words of encouragement wrapped in a healthy dose of sarcasm every practice and game day.” (Bill McLaughlin)

“What a win-win it was for Bowdoin to hire Link. Sure the Dining Hall took a big hit, but the memories that Link and what his wry smile provided outspends the food tab tenfold.” (Mike Lyne)

“If Bowdoin had a Mount Rushmore, Big Daddy would be front and center. That’s a fact. Total legend.” (Joe Curtin)

“I ran into Link at a football game a few years ago. He did not recognize the much older version of me at first, so I showed him my ankles and he said, ‘Hello, Mole!’” (Mark “Mole” Corner)

“Even in the mid-1990s, we called Link ‘the oldest living American.’” (Pat Ryan)

“We all have images of Link in our minds, of him taping an athlete, leaning over a fallen polar bear, supporting teams, or simply smiling at the many athletes he tended.” (Ned Herter)

“You were always at the top of your game. But for you, this was not an exercise of tape and physical therapy. This was the development of athletic ladies and men.” (David Sweetser)

“He seemed to be an extension of my parents. He somehow knew what happened on Saturday evenings. Sometimes he knew more than I knew or remembered.” (Dave Regan).

“Someone was bitching to him about some ailment they had and all I hard from Big Daddy was ‘tape an aspirin to it.’ I never forgot that day and vowed I would never go to see him unless I was near death.” (Tom Aceto)

“Link was the tie — kids would have issues and Daddy would calm them — and make them laugh. The coaches would confide in him.” (John McCure)

Emmet Lyne, Class of 1981, who served as the enthusiastic master of ceremonies during the ZOOM calls wrote, “To me, you represent the best of Bowdoin and the essential glue that binds generations of Bowdoin athletes and people who love the College. Big Daddy you are the greatest!”

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns [email protected]

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