EOOC’s Larry Egge a Soccer Legend

By TERRELL LESTER
Editor at Large

GREAT MEMORIES: Larry Egge at his office at the Eastern Oklahoma Orthopedic Center at the Saint Francis Health System campus. He has great memories of his days as trainer of the Roughnecks, and last October he helped organize a 30-year reunion of the 1983 team, which won the Soccer Bowl, the North American Soccer League Championship.

TERRELL LESTER for GTR Newspapers


Larry Egge can laugh about it now.
But back in the day, three decades or so, he was a self-professed “novice” trying to find his footing in the world of professional soccer.

He knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about the sport when he signed on with the Tulsa Roughnecks as an athletic trainer in 1982.

He could wrap an ankle.

He could bandage a puncture.

He could ice a sprain.

He just didn’t know a bicycle kick from a kick in the pants.

But he learned. Grew to embrace the game. He matured, right along with the rest of the Roughnecks, and their growing fan base.

In 1985, when the North American Soccer League began to teeter, and the Roughnecks ultimately tottered, Egge joined the staff of Eastern Oklahoma Orthopedic Center, an association that endures today.

Through that three-year indoctrination into soccer and the Roughnecks, Egge absorbed each and every facet of the sport.

He learned to speak the language of soccer.

He came to know the responsibilities of a midfielder.

Soon, he could spot a crossing pass faster than one could say Iraj Danaifard.
As Egge traveled the North American circuit with the Roughnecks, from New York and Chicago to Montreal and Toronto, his outgoing and engaging personality left many a lasting impression.

With a rich baritone voice, the comedic timing of a vaudevillian, and an impish grin as a signature, Egge became as much a merchant of soccer as a mender of players.
He was as comfortable in the front offices of the sport’s kingdoms as he was in the locker rooms of the sport’s citadels.

He embraced the sport, and the sport embraced him.

Even though he took up residence in EOOC’s expanding complex near Saint Francis Hospital, Egge continued to be enthralled with the sport of soccer.

He focused his trainer’s touch on the high school and collegiate athletes of the Tulsa area, all the while emerging as the public relations face of .

In 1988, he embarked on what would become a three-year hiatus from to submerge himself once again in soccer. And he altered the course of his career path.

Egge exchanged his athletic trainer’s kit for an executive’s brief case, joining an international soccer promotion group in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

With Egge’s flair for public relations and marketing, the enterprise funded by Phillip Morris negotiated and sold soccer television rights, taking him to such formidable locales as Tokyo and London.

From his exclusive vantage point, Egge watched as the United States’ national team took its fledgling steps, making its debut in the 1990 World Cup and ultimately hosting the 1994 competition in Los Angeles.

However, as the soccer landscape was changing and the promotional influences were being refocused at the dawning of the ‘90s, Egge was drawn back to the security of Eastern Oklahoma Orthopedic Center.

This time, though, Egge’s value was more in the public relations realm.

In the two decades since his return to , Egge has helped to keep the organization’s brand at the front of an increasingly crowded sports medicine field.

From high schools to colleges to the pro ranks, Egge has made sure that and its roster of orthopedic physicians sustain a visible and viable presence.

Egge, too, maintains a similar visibility at a wide-ranging and dizzying array of sporting events. From golf to horse racing, from schoolboy hoops to semi-pro football, from charitable fundraisers to chili suppers, Egge might best be viewed as Tulsa’s most eclectic sports fan.

He has a conversational interest in seemingly every sport. What he might not know, he will research. His curiosity is as well known as his knowledge.

It was that inquisitive gene plus a youthful wanderlust that guided Egge from his roots in South Dakota through his baccalaureate pursuit at the University of Arizona to his first professional stop as an athletic trainer at Wichita State University.

Through a contact, Egge landed a job as a trainer in the St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball organization and landed in Tulsa in 1982. While in training camp in Florida with the Cardinals, he heard of an opening with the Roughnecks.

The soccer affiliation represented a major-league opportunity.

It might take years to reach the major leagues with baseball.

Egge wasted no time joining the Roughnecks.

He was with the Roughnecks as a trainer in 1983 when they won the Soccer Bowl, the North American Soccer League championship.

In October, Egge played a pivotal role in organizing a 30-year reunion of those Roughnecks for a Tulsa Sports Charities gala.

Now 63, Egge is watching a resurgence of soccer interest in Tulsa.

The Tulsa Revolution competed last fall in the Professional Arena Soccer League, playing its home games in the Cox Business Center.

The Tulsa Athletics amateur team of the National Premier Soccer League played last year at Drillers Stadium.

Recently, plans were revealed for a Tulsa entry in the Pro league, a third-tier league in the U.S. Soccer Federation. Tulsa Drillers owners Dale and Jeff Hubbard said the team would begin play at their baseball park, ONEOK Field, in 2015.

“The future in Tulsa is very bright for professional soccer,” Egge said recently from his office at .

After a thoughtful pause, Egge expanded on his last statement, saying that the overall sports atmosphere in Tulsa has evolved into something special.

“And part of that is, in my opinion, facilities,” he said. “ONEOK Field downtown. The Center downtown. TU remodeling Chapman Stadium.

“And it goes without saying, golf. One of the major venues in the country, Southern Hills Country Club, is here,” he said.

He promptly returned the conversation to soccer.

“Soccer in Tulsa has always had a foundation,” he said. “Adult participation. Adult leagues. Youth leagues.

“They’re still doing it 30 years after the Roughnecks.

“Soccer has a great promise. And it is taking a step forward with the Drillers putting a franchise in at their ballpark.

“Soccer is a viable commodity, or the Drillers wouldn’t be involved,” he said.

After years of travel, after landing on various continents, Larry Egge has settled in as a Tulsan with an expert’s vision of the sporting world.

He is comfortable, with that involvement.

His laughter now is one of contentment.

Updated 01-28-2014

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