Published January 13, 2015
Even though he's only 37 and in good health, Nathan Davis has already made out his will. In it, he bequeaths money to the University of Alabama athletic department and his ashes to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Davis, whose heavily tattooed body is a living tribute to his beloved school, wants his remains to become an actual part of it.
"I spell it out in my will," Davis said. "My first choice is to spread my ashes at the stadium, second is on the Walk of Champions, and third is on Bear Bryant's statue."
Davis is one of an apparently large number of people who feel there's no better place to spend eternity than the place they cheered on the old home team or otherwise celebrated their favorite sport.
A couple of years ago Christopher Noteboom ran across the field during a Philadelphia Eagles game scattering his mother's ashes as he went. Noteboom said Mom was a big Eagles fan and he couldn't think of a more fitting tribute.
George Helms' family had the urn holding his ashes strapped onto a car at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where it rode during practice laps. Afterward they scattered some of the NASCAR fan's ashes over the track so he could remain part of his favorite sport.
Although most people tend to look for a place of beauty or serenity to scatter ashes, said Dr. Amy Dickson, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the LSU Health Sciences Center, some have other criteria.
"For an avid sports fan, the idea of having their ashes scattered at a place that made them happy might be very strong," she said. "For many people, allying with a team is what drives their week. Those events are what they look forward to and plan on, so continuing that allegiance after death is just another step."
When LSU added onto Tiger Stadium, where the football team has played since 1924, the contractor faced a steady stream of fans carrying urns, said Senior Associate Athletic Director Herb Vincent.
"It was a very regular thing," Vincent said. "The contractor would call and say, `We've got another one,' and it would be someone with an urn of ashes they wanted to put into the stadium before the walls were sealed up. We had at least 40 people ask."
In addition, LSU gets several requests a year to spread ashes at Tiger Stadium, all of which they turn down.
"We feel it might be a little bit of a health issue," Vincent said. "After all, we are talking about human remains."
Rules for the disposal of ashes vary from state to state, although Louisiana has no restrictions of how or where they may be dumped, according to Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
"There are regulations for disposing of bodies, but not ashes," Johannessen said. "There's no health risk involved in ashes."
There are other reasons organizations discourage the spreading of ashes.
"It probably happens and we sort of turn a blind eye if people are discreet," said Rich Dalrymple, spokesman for the Dallas Cowboys. "But we don't really feel it's appropriate. And besides, these things have a way of turning into elaborate ceremonies and we don't want a stream of hearses pulling up to the stadium."
Al Everest, now the special teams coach for the San Francisco 49ers, ran into — and around — the Cowboys' no scattering policy years ago.
Everest's namesake uncle Al, was a big Cowboy fan and knew his football-oriented family — his brother Andy was a coach and his nephews played and coached football — would always think of him when they saw Texas Stadium if his ashes were scattered there.
"I'd had his ashes for a couple of years and my sister Kathy and brother Tom finally decided to do something about it," Al Everest said. "There might have been some liquid refreshment involved, but they took Uncle Al's ashes to the stadium and scattered them on the flowers outside the gate. It worked: I never see the Cowboys but what I think of Uncle Al."
When Conrad Rehling, who coached the University of Alabama golf team for 17 years and was a member of the College Golf Coaches Hall of Fame, died, his daughters moved quickly to see that his last wishes would be carried out.
Half of Rehling's ashes were scattered off the practice tee at the Alabama facility, said Jay Seawell, the current Tide coach. The rest were taken care of by golfer Jerry Pate, who played for Rehling before turning pro.
"I had never spread anyone's ashes before, and at first it seemed kind of eerie," Pate said. "But when I had the opportunity to spread Conrad's it was a real honor."
As requested by his old coach, Pate spread the ashes on the golf course at St. Andrews, while at the British Open.
"Later my son showed me a picture he had found that my wife took of Conrad and me at Swilkin Bridge in 1972," Pate said. "I had forgotten all about it, but that's exactly where I scattered his ashes."
Golf courses appear to be among the favorite sports venues for ashes scattering.
At the Furman University course there have been dozens of departed golfers' ashes scattered along the greens, said Willie Miller, who has run the golf club for the past dozen years.
Unlike Alabama's Seawell, who mused that Rehling's ashes might be helping his highly rated team, Miller doesn't count on the spirits of departed golfers to help Furman.
"Not at all," he said. "I know how they played."