Vintage Nikes signed by the company's co-founder as a gift from one noted Medford athlete to another are now a cherished addition to Medford School District's sports memorabilia collection.
In connection with Medford's Black and Blue Bowl, played Friday night between North and South Medford high schools, the district publicly thanked the family of deceased hall-of-famer and lifelong friend to Medford athletics Fitzhugh "Fitz" Brewer for the donation of a pair of early 1980s Nike Cortez shoes. They were signed by Brewer's former football coach at Medford High School and University of Oregon, Bill Bowerman, one of Nike's co-founders.
The unworn shoes have the phrase "Men of Medford" written next to Bowerman's signature. The custom-made case Fitzhugh used to display them holds an engraved brass placard reading "Teacher, Innovator and Friend."
Brewer's wife, Ann, said that her husband kept the shoes at his office at Umpqua Investments in Medford, where he spent most of his career from 1968 until his death in 2009.
"We wouldn't be able to live in our home if we had all the memorabilia," she joked.
She said her husband's love of Medford athletics started in the sixth grade, when he was at Roosevelt Elementary School. A teacher would let the winning team get donuts.
"He loved a lot of things, and anything he loved he wanted everybody else to love," she said.
Brewer was a star football player for Medford in the late 1940s, playing in the second-ever Shrine All-Star Game in 1949. Bowerman was Medford's football and basketball coach up until Brewer's junior year, as well as a graduate of Medford High School himself. Bowerman coached Brewer his freshman year at UO.
Ann Brewer wasn't certain of the shoes' exact age, though they're believed to be from about the same time Nike went public in 1980. The year of manufacture is typically printed on a serial number, according to a Japanese website that specializes in vintage Nikes, but no serial number was visible on the donated shoe without opening the case. A pair with an identical design and similar box was listed as made in 1981.
Ed Singler, who knew Brewer from their time working on the Medford Sports Hall of Fame, said Brewer's relationship with Bowerman was one that "went deep" and was a friendship he cherished.
Among other projects for Medford's athletics program, Brewer was instrumental in getting Spiegelberg Stadium's first artificial turf installed in 2005, Singler said. He described Brewer as "a doer."
Brewer died in 2009, but the shoes had remained in the office until the past summer, when Brewer's son, Mike Brewer, was in the area for a 40th high school reunion, according to Medford schools Superintendent Brian Shumate.
Shumate said he hopes to use the donation as a centerpiece for a more formal hall of fame in the Medford School District office. He said Medford's athletic accomplishments have wide breadth compared to other schools that excel at one program and any display would include women's sports, wrestling and bowling, "not just football or track."
He said that success is rooted in the Rogue Valley's early history, when people had to be tough and the town rallied around its team.
"Success breeds on itself," Shumate said. "Kids wanna be a part of something like that."
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.