Getting recruited and wearing a jersey isn’t the only way you can be part of an athletic team. Frank Trundle played football in his youth, but at the age of 56, he is a part of the Chattanooga Mocs football team.
Frank’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Frank Trundle Sr., had lived on a farm in Ooltewah until moving to the city where Frank Sr. practiced dentistry for 35 years. He was an excellent athlete and had played sports at UC which is now UT of Chattanooga.
“When we lived on the farm, it was a long way from Chattanooga. I have no clue why Dad bought the farm - he bought his practice in Red Bank and it was hard to get from home to the office because there was no freeway. We had to take the back roads to get to Chattanooga and Dad had to do some traveling,” Frank says.
“Our farm was where the freeway cuts right in the middle of it. Dad was ticked off because they were condemning the property and making him sell it, but it was a blessing because it then became commercial real estate on the south side,” Frank says.
The farm was not used for cultivation, but the family eventually had horses on it. Frank’s older sister, Suzanne, showed horses.
“My mother’s mother had a horse in Highland Park and had kept it in her garage. At that time, downtown was a long way away. After four years Dad decided to bring the family in town and my grandmother moved to the farm – she was the horse person. They started the pilot club of the Chattanooga Horse Show, which was huge. She loved horses. We ended up building a show ring with lights on it. We were always hauling a horse all over Chattanooga. I was so glad when I started playing athletics, because I didn’t have to clean stalls out all the time,” Frank laughs.
He and his sister would spend weekends and summers at their grandmother’s. Frank played sports through Bright Elementary and the YMCA. He then played for Baylor, which was the highlight of his football playing.
“We had a tremendous run at Baylor. E.B. "Red" Etter was the head coach, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1978 and he was also Dad’s coach at Central High. We won the championship in the state during my 10th grade year and we only lost two games my junior year. We didn’t lose any in my senior year until the playoffs,” Frank insists.
Frank had always wanted to be a dentist, but when it was time for college, the family veterinarian Dr. Walter “Oogie” Martin, had recruited Frank to play football at Auburn and encouraged him to major in animal science.
“I thought he was a neat guy and I intended to go to vet school, but at my first practice I realized these guys were a little bit bigger than they were in the private schools in Chattanooga. They were like 6’4’’ and 240 pounds and I was 6 foot and 200 pounds. At Baylor, we were huge and football was huge for me. But I think I was just burned out. We’d watch films every Sunday and watch films every Friday – it was a lot of work and I didn’t want to put effort in gaining 40 pounds,” Frank admits.
He didn’t like animal science, and only stayed at Auburn for one year before transferring to UTC.
“I went into dentistry and became a chemistry major. Dr. Grote was a chemistry major and the one who Grote Hall is named after. I had met him as a child and I really looked up to him - he’d been all over the world,” Franks says.
UTC had an excellent pre-dental program and when Frank graduated he joined his father’s practice at 1001 Carter St.
“It was something for me to fall right into and was a great scenario. Dad worked for five more years when I came on and the transition worked well. I would check the hygiene patients the first year that he introduced me and he would still work on the patients. It wasn’t like ‘here’s your new dentist I’m quitting.’ They say you lose 26 percent of your practice when you transfer ownership, but the way we did it I got to know his patients and they got to know me. We may have lost about five patients – and I don’t mean five percent, but five patients and that was it,” Frank maintains.
“People want to trust their doctors, lawyers and dentists and, if they don’t have time to trust them, they’re not going back. Those five years allowed for me to let people see who I was. I never believe in advertisement – it seems all the guys come out and advertise everything that they can do,” Frank says.
Growing the practice three times the size that it was, Frank had incorporated more technology and opportunities in patients’ dental care.
“Dad was old school and focused on just fixing what was broken. I took it to the next level and gave patients options of what they can do – ‘are you happy with your smile’ and if not, ‘this is what we can do’,” Frank says.
He offers his patients, teeth whitening, orthodontics – whatever will make them happier with their smile. To see confidence and self-esteem from a patient with a healthy smile is very rewarding to Frank.
“I know there is ‘cosmetic dentistry’, but everything in dentistry is cosmetic. I just don’t want anything to look out of place,” he says.
In each exam room, patients have televisions to take their mind off of the work needing to be done and to put them at ease.
“When I have a nervous patient, I just talk to them. I don’t wear the white coat and tie. I used to wear just golf shirts and khakis but then I would ruin my shirts getting stuff all over them, so I started wearing scrubs two years ago. You hear a lot about ‘white coat syndrome’ because people will see the white coat and get nervous. The white coat is authoritative, but I like to get on your level – I am a basic kind of guy,” Franks vows.
Frank’s wife Kathy joined his staff two years ago as the office manager. The couple has two sons, Trey (Frank Trundle III) and Michael. Michael is at UTC following his dad’s footsteps and is going to go to dental school.
Both sons went to Baylor and UTC and Michael played football for the Mocs. In 1985, Frank had become part of the medical staff during the games.
“On my first road trip they played the Auburn Tigers. I love athletics and I love college football,” Franks smiles.
“Those kids are now patients of mine – they are adults now, but we stayed in contact. They remember me from the sidelines 10 and 15 years ago and are now my patients,” he says.
Franks enjoys the camaraderie of just being a part of the team. He believes that his son Michael will eventually join the sidelines as well just to stay associated with it. “You make so many contacts doing it and you just can’t do that anywhere else. Coaches will come through here and I still know them well,” Frank says.
Though Kathy attends UTC games, Frank admits that she doesn’t share his enthusiasm about traveling with the team. “Kathy was an Alabama fan. I am trying to convert her, but I haven’t been able to do it yet,” Frank quips.
On Thursdays, the dental staff have college football day at the office. Frank pulls out his blue scrubs with the gold ‘power C’ and has the Mocs' big C on a sign outside.
“I really push Chattanooga athletics and I am the most optimistic guy in the world. I have said for the last 30 years that we are going undefeated. Even when we were one in 11, I thought we’d go undefeated… and I’d think, ‘We’re gonna win it this year’,” Frank says.
While traveling with the team in just the past two games, Frank has already seen five broken teeth. “If you can’t play on the college football team – you can still feel like you are part of that family,” he says.
How long will he be on the sidelines?
He answers, “I don’t know why you’d quit!”