CULLOWHEE - If you're a fan of professional football and the Catamounts, it may be hard to decide whether to root for the New England Patriots or the Pittsburgh Steelers during Sunday's (Jan. 23) AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh. The game, which will be carried by CBS beginning at 6:30 p.m., will include two former students at Western playing on opposite sides of the field. And a Western alum is on standby as an alternate official. 

The Patriots' wide receiver David Patten was a freshman with Western's Catamounts football team in 1992 when Steelers cornerback Willie Williams was a senior with the Catamounts. They undoubtedly scrimmaged together at the time. Both are from South Carolina and went to high schools in the Columbia area.

The alternate official is Gerald “Gerry” Austin of Asheville. He's a 1964 graduate who earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from Western, went on to UNC-Greensboro for his doctorate in education, is now retired from public school administration, and is a 20-year veteran official in the National Football League. He'll officiate in Sunday's game only if another official is unable to work that day.

Fred Cantler, who was Western's assistant athletics director and trainer in 1992, remembers both Patten and Williams as great athletes, diligent students and good people. “I'm not surprised at their success in professional football because they were both dedicated to what they did,” Cantler says.

Like a lot of Catamount fans, Cantler will be watching Sunday's matchup with great interest. Although the Patriots are favored to win, Cantler is not making any predictions about which team will take the title and go on to play in this year's SuperBowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla., on Feb. 6.

Maintained by the WCU Office of Public Relations
Last modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Western Carolina University