As Delmon McNabb lined up for his final javelin throw at the USA Track and Field Masters Championship at LSU on Sunday, something felt a bit off.
It wasn't his body. At 71, he’s been throwing the javelin long enough to where the aches and pain in his body seem to bypass what has become his natural motion.
It wasn't the location, either. McNabb spent his entire college career in the shadow of Tiger Stadium as a member of the LSU track and field team during the 1960s.
To this day, he still views Bernie Moore Track Stadium as his home field when he competes in Masters events or the Senior Olympics.
No, it’s the ground that troubled him. No matter how hard he tried, McNabb couldn't get used to throwing off a track surface.
During his throwing career, LSU had a grass infield where javelin throwers would practice. If they couldn’t practice there, there were plenty of open fields along Nicholson Drive.
McNabb distinctly remembers being asked to move his practice session one day when contractors broke ground on what became the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Ultimately, McNabb didn’t have his best performance Sunday, finishing a distant second in the men’s 70-75 age category with a throw of 118-feet, 10-inches.
He wasn't too worried about the loss, though. He understands his body isn’t what it was in college. Today he skips the long run up to the line, the result of a career-ending knee injury suffered while practicing with the U.S. National Team after college.
But it stills feels odd for him not to win in Baton Rouge.
After all, he is, to this day, the most successful javelin thrower in school history.
LSU claims almost 50 men’s individual outdoor national champions in its storied history in track and field, but McNabb is the only Tiger to win a javelin title, throwing 263-5 in 1967.
By the time he was done, McNabb was a two-time SEC champion and two-time All-American.
He also held the school record until 1986 when the NCAA moved to a different type of javelin, thus negating all records to that point. The mark, however, is still the longest throw in school history with the new-javelin record a good 16 feet shorter.
In 1987, McNabb was inducted into the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
He said he’ll sometimes wears his national championship ring on special occasions, but doesn’t like to show off too much.
But he had no qualms showing off his LSU gear Sunday, making his throws wearing an LSU hat, shorts, and purple and gold shoes.
“I tell people, especially my grandkids, they always say, ‘Paw Paw, why is everything purple and gold? Everything is LSU, LSU,’ ” McNabb said. “Because I owe them a lot. I had a full scholarship. Took care of everything. I owe them a lot.”
McNabb has competed off and on in the javelin through the past 20 years and mainly does it for fun and love of the sport.
He said he might retire in the next few years, depending how his body holds up.
Still, he can’t get it out of his blood just yet.
“It gives you something to look forward to, and it’s fun when the competitive blood starts flowing the day before,” he said. “My wife doesn’t understand it. She says, ‘You can’t hardly walk around all week, but you can go out there and throw the javelin?’
"I can’t explain it. I get out there, warm up and everything feels good. My knees don’t hurt."