The high school senior and the dean of sports journalism, Frank Deford, on Nov. 8, 1985.

When our heroes meet, and even exceed, our naively high expectations, it’s a wonderful thing.

In November 1985, as a high school senior in suburban Boston, I had been reading Frank Deford‘s fabulous work at Sports Illustrated for seven years already. No doubt, it played a role in steering me into a journalism career, which I had begun 18 months earlier at the Marshfield (Ma.) Mariner.

So when I learned he was speaking with legendary broadcaster Howard Cosell at Northeastern University in Boston, I made a point of being on hand–and was thrilled to meet him briefly after the event, the Center for the Study of Sport in Society’s Excellence in Sports Journalism Awards ceremony.

From the Northeastern University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections. (Photo by J.D. Levine)

Eighteen months later, I sent Frank a few clips from my work at The Daily Northwestern. A short time later, he responded, on SI letterhead, with a thoughtful type-written reply, offering feedback that showed he read my stories and encouragement that revealed his stellar character.

Like so many others, I was saddened to learn of Frank’s death on Sunday. RIP to not only one of the most talented journalists of our time, but to a kind human being and outstanding role model.

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