This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.

It was Bob McCreary’s high school coach who led him to the NFL, his teachers who led him to college, and Caldwell County that led him to furniture.

McCreary, the owner and founder of McCreary Modern, was only a good football player before he met Jim “Bull” Newsome, he said.

Newsome took over as coach at Hudson High School sometime into McCreary’s tenure on the football team. At the time, he was a good football player – “nothing exceptional,” he said.

Newsome pushed him to become great.

That changed the trajectory of McCreary’s life. When he graduated in 1957, he went to Wake Forest University on a football scholarship. Without the scholarship, McCreary wouldn’t have been able to pay for college, he said.

From there, he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and, later, he played for the Dallas Cowboys.

McCreary stayed in touch with his high school coach until Newsome’s death last year.

But football wasn’t the only part of McCreary’s life affected by his time in Caldwell County schools. To this day, the furniture executive remembers teachers who nudged him, subtly but surely, in the right direction.

First there was Mrs. Matthews in first grade at Whitnel Elementary. Back then, McCreary was a head taller than everyone else his age, and deeply self-conscious about it. Matthews encouraged him to harness that.

“She told me, ‘Think of your size as something positive and use it to your benefit – because one day it will benefit you,’” McCreary said. “Sure enough, it did.”

Then, in 11th grade, there was Mrs. Kincaid, who told McCreary over and over that he was capable of doing anything, if he’d only apply himself.

“At that time, I was just kind of an average student,” McCreary said. “School was not my top priority. She really helped me turn my life around, academically.”

McCreary’s grades shot up in his junior and senior years and – in addition to football – that helped get him to college, too.

And then it was Caldwell County that guided McCreary to furniture.

“Growing up in the area, in the Whitnel area, there was furniture all around you,” he said.

After ending his football career, McCreary joined Bernhardt as a sales trainee in 1965. One thing led to another and, in 1986, he started his own company.

McCreary’s upbringing was rural, and his family had meager means, he said. His father worked in a furniture factory until he died in 1971.

“Materially, we never had anything,” he said. “But we had a loving family. I mean, these are my roots. And I don’t forget that, and I don’t forget people and institutions that have been instrumental in my being where I am today – because no one does it by themselves.”

When other companies started outsourcing their manufacturing overseas, McCreary Modern dug in its heels. The company still does all its assembly here.

“We’ve just stayed true to who we are and what we are,” McCreary said. “We’ve built strong relationships with our accounts and done things with integrity. We’ve been very straightforward with our people and have stayed true to our course.”