October 22, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen –

I hate getting older….

It’s not the mystery aches and pains or the sometimes frequent trips to the doctor

It’s not the gray in my hair (or what’s left of it) or the white in my beard

It’s because my childhood hero’s are passing on

This past Saturday we lost a true giant in the game of football who was larger than life

Oail Andrew “Bum” Phillips….

Bum Phillips….

Passed away Saturday at the age of 90…..

New Orleans Saints

The former head Coach for the Bulldogs of Nederland High School in Texas…

An Assistant for Coach Bryant at Texas A&M…

The Head Coach for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints

But he was more than just a football coach…

He embodied the Texas spirit…

The toughness as well as the gentleness and compassion

He was also a Marine Raider during World War II….Bet you didn’t know that

He was a Husband and a Daddy

He was a fine man and a father figure to his players, coaches and to many of his fans

That was before professional football became more of a business and less about football

In my memories I can see him on television coaching the sidelines for Houston in that Cowboy hat and yelling at the referees something so funny I nearly missed the next play…

But make no mistake about it, he knew his football

Like few others that have came after him…

There is a lot I could say about Coach Bum here…..

But instead I will do my best to retell a story he told at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Conference some years ago which I think will give you some insight into the man.

During a brief “question and answer” session someone in the crowd had asked a question about Coach Bum’s time with Coach Bryant at Texas A&M…

“Let me tell you I learned a lot from that man….

I just didn’t learn about football from Coach Bryant I learned about people

The one day that stands out to me that I have never forgotten…

A lot of people may not know this but Coach Bryant didn’t like to drive. It’s not that he was a bad driver or was too haughty as the head football coach to drive his own car; it’s just that he would rather be doing something else while somebody else drove.

So one morning we had to go visit a perspective recruit and I went into Coach Bryant’s office and I could tell he was aggravated about something but asked him “Are you ready to leave now Coach?”

Coach Bryant gathered a few things from his desk and said “Yeah, give me the keys”

Well that was unusual but Coach Bryant was the Head Coach after all, so I handed the car keys over to him and he didn’t say a word as we walked out to the car and even after we got in the car. That was unusual too because Coach Bryant was like me in that regard we both liked to talk.

So as Coach Bryant pulled the car out of the parking lot I asked him if he knew where we were going and by that I meant where the perspective recruit lived.

Coach Bryant just kind of grumbled

“I know exactly where I am going”

With that Coach Bryant took the wrong way out of the parking lot and I didn’t want to say anything because this is Texas, there is more than one way to get somewhere and I figured he might know a short cut.

We got down the road a ways and he still wasn’t saying anything and there was a stop sign and wouldn’t you know it, Coach Bryant took the wrong turn.

So I asked him….

“Coach you sure you know where we are going?”

Coach Bryant looked over at me and said “Bum I know exactly where I am going”

Like I said it was a quite ride and Coach Bryant wasn’t in a good mood so I just set there trying to figure out how the heck we were going to get that recruits house from the direction we were driving.

So finally after about a half an hour of driving and knowing that “We can’t get there from here” I told Coach Bryant “Coach I know your aggravated this morning and I sure don’t mean to add to that aggravation but we can’t get to that recruits house from here.”

Coach Bryant looked over at me and said something I don’t believe I ever will forget

“Bum, this morning I hit and killed a little boy’s dog on the way to work and we aren’t going to do anything today until I replace that little boy’s dog.”

The rest of the morning Coach Bryant must have gone to half a dozen places to buy a puppy and when he thought he had picked the right one he came back to the car and handed me the puppy and said to me “Bum, love on him until we get to where we are going”

There I was with Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant the head Football Coach of the Texas A&M Aggies and not only are we out on a dog buying trip but he has me baby setting while he was driving!

Let me tell you, sometime later Coach Bryant pulled into a driveway of a modest house and I handed the puppy to him as a crying little boy came walking out of the house.

I saw Coach Bryant knell down and cry with that little boy as he said over and over again

“I’m so sorry son, I am so very sorry”

I watched as Coach Bryant handed the puppy to the little boy with tears in his eyes as he told the boy “I don’t know if he will be as good as your dog son, but I believe this one will be a good one”

Coach Bryant shook the parents hands and apologized too before he got back in the car

It occurred to me as I saw all of that happen before me….

Those people weren’t some “Big” boosters

Those people weren’t “connected” or worked for somebody influential

They were just people

With a little boy who lost his dog ….

Coach Bryant could have drove on by, because nobody saw or knew what happened

But Coach Bryant “knew” and he wasn’t going to just let it go

That was Coach Bryant

So anyway Coach Bryant got back in the car and as I looked at my watch I thought it important to let him know that the day was about gone so I said to him…

“Coach I think it’s too late in the day for us to try and drive to that recruits house”

Coach Bryant looked at me with something of relief in his face and he replied to me

“Bum I don’t care if that boy comes to Texas A&M or not, we have done the most important thing we could have ever done today, right here”

With that we drove back to Texas A&M….

“But I thought a lot about that day and how Coach Bryant was with people and I was determined that I would be like that with people too, and not just players and coaches but just people”

Bum Phillips certainly made the most of his time with people on this earth

I don’t know anybody that doesn’t love Bum

I don’t know anybody that won’t miss him

He was a “Character with Character”

And there are damn few of those left in this world

Thanks for all the wonderful memories Bum

God Bless You

Luv Ya Blue



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