You can take Bud Dupree out of Toomsboro.
But you can’t take Toomsboro out of Bud Dupree.
That was crystal clear as about 40 percent of the town showed up Saturday to dedicate a new street to its favorite son, Bud Dupree Drive.
The road formerly known as Pineview Street was blocked off by a big red ribbon as town dignitaries, family, friends and fans stood in front of town hall to honor Dupree, the former Wilkinson County and University of Kentucky standout and current Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker.
He was presented with a key to the city, a nice new pair of sneakers, and a copy of the street sign that bears his name.
“I just want everybody to know we can all get out,” he said to the crowd, loaded with people wearing white T-shirts that had an artist’s version of the street sign, an image of Dupree in his Steelers uniform next to the team logo with “Toomsboro Made” at the bottom. “We all can live our dreams. I always wanted to be a football player, and I made it happen. You can (be) whatever you want to be.”
His godmother, Dianne Hunter, shared with the audience a memory from about 24 years ago when Dupree’s mother told her she was pregnant.
“I had a real dream,” said Hunter, with great passion and enthusiasm. “I dreamed I was in the delivery room with her and she gave birth to a boy. And his name was Bud. And in that dream, it said he would be known all over the world. He’ll play football.
“I’m proud to say, and honored, I’m alive, and lived to see that dream come true. No matter where he goes, I won’t ever forget that until I die. I am so proud to say congratulations to my godson.”
It didn’t seem like all that long ago Dupree was in middle school and started displaying the kind of work ethic that leads to a street renaming in one’s hometown. His dad remembers watching Dupree get ready to go work out one day in seventh grade.
“It was 105 degrees,” Alvin Dupree Sr. said. “I said, ‘Son, what’re you fixing to do?’”
Junior: “I’m fixing to go to practice.”
Junior: “Going to practice football.”
Senior reiterated to Junior that it was about 105 degrees.
Junior: “Dad, I want a position.”
And so began the routine that led to all-state honors in football at Wilkinson County, multiple All-SEC selections at Kentucky and being among the first two dozen players chosen in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Dupree’s dad wasn’t the only member of the contingent Saturday wearing something with Pittsburgh Steelers on it.
There aren’t many streets in this village of about 550 residents. Only two, Irwinton Road/State Route 57 and Main Street/State Route 112, go through the town, and there’s not much at their intersection.
The new street in town is across the street from the town hall. After cutting the ribbon, Dupree stood within a few dozen feet of the signpost designating his street and signed autograph after autograph and took picture after picture, smiling the whole time. There was a mild scolding of one young fan wearing a Falcons jersey.
For nearly 30 minutes, as most folks headed down Bud Dupree Drive for a street party and cookout, Dupree signed and posed and smiled, genuinely enjoying the afternoon.
Dupree said Smith had contacted him about the possibility of the sign.
“I thought it was a joke,” Dupree said. “I thought he was playing.”
Smith, long a part of Dupree’s life, wasn’t playing.
“We wanted to do something for Bud because he (given) so much back to our community,” Smith said. “As you see him now, he’ll sign a million autographs.”
The newest such named road in the area carries with it a source of pride, for the town doing the renaming and the man inspiring the move.
“It was crazy, just growing up, running around here, going to play football, basketball, hanging with friends,” Dupree said. “It’s a great feeling to have a street named after you.”
The street is about 10 miles from where Dupree started drawing attention with his skills on both sides of the line of scrimmage, as a tight end and defensive lineman — and basketball starter — for Wilkinson County, which followed those workouts in 105 degrees. And it’s a street he’ll continue to visit several times a year.
“More than I would have expected,” Smith said of how often Dupree returns home. “I was thinking once you start living the life ... you know how small Toomsboro is. He gives back to the community. That’s what I like about him.”