It was more than just carrying the ball down the field for Braden Drake this Wagoner football season. He was also carrying on a family tradition.
Tailback Drake is a fourth generation player. His great-grandfather, Edgar, began wearing the maroon and black in the late 1930s and played on the outstanding 1938 club that went undefeated.
Braden’s grandfather, John C., did the same in the early 1960s and played on a team that went 10-1-1. His uncle, Johnny, was there on the W.L. Odom turf in the early 1980s on teams that went deep into the playoffs.
It’s a remarkable family football tree. However, one of the branches left us on Nov. 17 when John C. died at the age of 75 after battling pancreatic cancer for over a year.
“Big John,” as he was called, even got out of his sick bed to watch grandson Braden run wild against Tulsa McLain during the last regular season home game on Nov. 1.
Big John sat in a truck with a blanket to keep warm near where the ambulance sits. Ironically, that would be a great place to see Braden’s dipsy-do run through the Titan defense during the contest.
Big John will be missed. He not only raised a family, but gave back to the sports community in many ways.
He was a founding member of the Wagoner Youth Football League and the Wagoner Takedown Club. He built the trailer for the big Bulldog that is a familiar sight.
Even more lasting, Big John built the end zone goal posts that still stand today.
He used his welding profession skills to make sure the goal posts could stand the test of time. Big John worked as a welder in fabrication in the oil industry before retirement from LaBarge Pipe and Steel Company.
To say he was just a car enthusiast is an understatement. Big John restored or rebuilt cars and even raced them. He was definitely a car whisperer.
“He could fix anything,” one relative said.
As a player, Big John was All-Conference and even played a little college ball at Connors State College.
It seems all the Drakes either played football, wrestled or did both!
Johnny was an undefeated State champion wrestler in 1984 and took fourth place in 1983.
Braden’s father, Roger Drake, wrestled to a fourth place finish in 1985 and third in 1987.
Braden himself won a State championship in 2019.
To show support for the Drake family, in general, and Braden, in particular, some of the Wagoner football players drew the letters “JD” (for John Drake) on parts of their uniforms before traveling to play Bethany in the Class 4A quarterfinals on Nov. 22.
Stickers with “60” were also placed on Wagoner helmets. That was John C. Drake’s number on the high school team.
It was done to honor “Big John” and his support of Wagoner sports through the years.
A memorial service for John C. Drake was held Saturday, Nov. 23, at the First Baptist Church.