The Comeback Grandpa

steve hartman senior college basketball player Ken Mink
He's a college student who's both a freshman and a senior. He's a freshman general studies major at Roane State Community College in Tennessee … and he's a senior citizen - at 73 years old.

Uncommon? Not really. Nowadays, a lot of older people return to college. What makes Ken Mink unusual, is why, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports.

"Well, there's a little thing called redemption, I guess," Mink said.

Back in 1955, Mink was at Lee College in Kentucky. Freshman class council, star on the basketball team, he had it all. Until one day Mink says he got summoned to the president's office. A prankster had put shaving cream in the coaches' shoes, and supposedly there was a witness who saw Mink in the area.

"I said, 'No, I didn't do that.' And he said, 'Well, I'm going to have to take their word for it,'" Mink said. So he Mink got kicked out of school, and off the team.

Mink said it was frustrating. "I felt I was on the verge of becoming a major college basketball player."

Left with few options, he joined the Air Force. Later, he became a newspaper reporter, got married, had kids, divorced, remarried, retired. Fifty-two years passed … and that raw deal he got in college was still in his craw.

"Fifty-two years of frustration that I'd like to get some closure on," he said.

And this is where the story gets really good. He sent e-mails to a bunch of college basketball coaches, asking them if he could play on their team. And one actually said "yes."

Randy Nesbitt says he agreed partly because he felt sorry for Mink, and partly because he thought the novelty might draw a crowd.

"I think we averaged 10 orders of nachos and cheese a game and I thought we could get up to 30," he said.

Today, Mink is a real, honest-to-goodness Roane State Raider. He runs on the court with the team, and even does warm-ups with the team.

Over the years, he has stayed in pretty good shape, so the coach said, if somehow they ever get, say, 40 points ahead of the other team, he might even consider putting Mink in a game.

And wouldn't you know, in the first game of the season, the Raiders were up by 40 points. So he put in #54, Ken Mink.

"It was like a wave of relaxation came over me. I arrived. I'm back.

"I'm thinking - is this the twilight zone. I felt like 52 years of frustration kind of washed over me."

He got the ball three times. Once, he nearly turned it over. Another time he took a shot that just missed. And finally, at the very end of the game, he got clobbered by a kid who wasn't about to let some 73-year-old grandpa score on him.

The mauling sent him to the free-throw line for a shot at redemption.

When Mink made that basked, and, of course, the one after, he became the oldest person to ever score in a college basketball game, shattering the old record by more than 20 years.

Who knows what kind of player he might have been if he'd been allowed to finish college. Then again, with a comeback like this, who cares?

  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.