They are called the Partin Tables, named for Dr. Alan Partin, the renowned Johns Hopkins urologist who created the ground-breaking medical reference material. Partin developed the tables when he wasn’t performing hundreds and hundreds of often life-saving prostate surgeries a year.  

Alan Partin, former Ole Miss football player, became a renowned surgeon at Johns Hopkins. Credit: Ole Miss media relations

And you may wonder why a sports writer would write about such an obscure (if invaluable) medical reference. It is because Partin, who died on March 28 at age 62, grew up in Grenada and played college football at Ole Miss.

“Smartest damn guy I ever met,” said Madison resident Tim Bell, who was a student trainer for the Ole Miss football staff during the early 1980s when Partin played in the offensive line for the Rebels.

“Most guys played college football hoping to get to the pros,” Bell said. “Alan Partin knew he was gonna be a doctor, knew he was going to be a surgeon, knew he was going to study at Johns Hopkins. He was super, super intelligent and he was driven.”

So much for the hackneyed image of offensive linemen as dumb jocks. Partin, a chemistry and pre-med major, made straight A’s at Ole Miss. He was brilliant. He was far from alone among offensive linemen, and we’ll get to that.

Rick Cleveland

Just google “Partin Tables” if you want to learn how smart Partin was. Developed in 1993, the tables are based “on thousands of nerve-sparing radical retropubic prostatectomies…” 

Asked to put the Partin Tables in layman’s terms, Dr. Charles Pound, division chief of urology at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), said, “It was a big deal. It is a big deal. For many years, it was the best tool you had to help doctors and patients make decisions on prostrate treatment. It gave you the info about the stage of your disease. It is still very helpful today. I still use it.”

As it turns out, Pound studied under Partin at Johns Hopkins and they were good friends. Indeed, Pound was the best man in Partin’s second wedding.

“I met him when I was a student and he was a resident at Johns Hopkins, and then we worked together for three or four years,” Pound said. “Clearly, Alan was really, really intelligent, but I’m not so sure that his drive and determination were not his greatest assets. He would take on anything with sheer determination and nearly always succeed. He was special.”

Dr. Theodore L. Deweese, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, worked closely with Partin for years and issued a statement at the time of his cohort’s death. “Throughout his career as a researcher, clinician and a leader, Alan Partin was consistently at the heart of discovery and innovation in the filed of urology, always keeping a singular focus on improving the outcomes for our patients.”

Football, Partin often said, helped prepare him for his medical career. In a 2016 interview, Partin  talked about the correlation. “You think you’re running to the right, then the defense changes and now you’re going left. Everything can change in a split second…” Partin said. “As a surgeon, you have to do that non-stop. No surgery is the same.

“Everybody has anatomical variations,” he continued. “I remove men’s prostates when they have cancer. There are literally 387 well-defined maneuvers in that operation. Then you get inside a patient and notice an artery that isn’t supposed to be there is running across the area where you are operating. You have to change what you are doing. You have to adapt to that moment. That’s like coming up to the line and expecting to see one defense and they’ve shifted into another other. You still want to move the ball forward, so you have to think quickly, change up what you were doing and run the play.”

Alan Partin at Ole Miss.

There’s one other striking similarity between playing in the offensive line and being a doctor. Put it this way: An offensive lineman is the only position in which the ultimate goal is to protect someone else. 

More than half a century of experience covering the sport has led this writer to this conclusion: Offensive linemen are often not only the smartest, but also most diligent and most selfless players on the field.

Selfless might be the most important of those traits. An offensive lineman toils mostly in obscurity, noticed only when an umpire throws his flag, and the referee announces over the loudspeaker, “Holding, number 75, 10-yard penalty, repeat first down.”

Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers get the headlines; offensive linemen – often referred to as the Big Uglies, for goodness sake, simply pave their way. Certainly not all become nearly as successful as Dr. Alan Partin, but let’s take a quick look at some of Partin’s Ole Miss teammates. Hoppy Cole, Partin’s roommate, owns banks. Murray Whitaker became a cardiologist. David Traxler runs a highly successful technology company in North Carolina. Greg Jeffcoat became a college registrar. Bobby Dye runs a successful resource management and financial planning company. Marc Massengale is another successful financial adviser. And then, of course, there’s Partin. That’s all from one team’s offensive line. Amazing.

Cole, who lives in Ellisville, was Partin’s college roommate for three and a half years.

“Big Al is what we called him,” Cole said. “Such a great guy, such a great friend – funny, kind, thoughtful and so, so smart.”

“Big Al and I made T-shirts that said we were part of the 30-30-30 club,” Cole said.

30-30-30?

“Yeah, that meant we played when we were either 30 points ahead, 30 points behind or there were 30 seconds left,” Cole said, chuckling.

That’s an exaggeration. I covered those Ole Miss teams. They played far more more than that.

The record will show that those Ole Miss teams (1979-82) lost more games than they won.

Thankfully, far more meaningful and lasting measures of achievement exist, which don’t always get reported. And in those measures, Dr. Big Al Partin and his partners in the Ole Miss offensive line, proved smashing successes.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.