Monday, September 29, 2014

Coach Bob Gregg at 81: Hanging Out with Jefferson Football Alums

"I never thought that YOU guys would get old!" Coach Gregg exclaimed after a few hours hanging out with Jefferson football alumni.  It was a Bronco evening featuring Jefferson Bronco stories back into the late 1950's, including Coach Jim Lee and Bob Landis.  Coach Gregg had some stories from before his rise to the head coach job in 1960.  Lee Cole, Jefferson class of 1960 played center for Coach Landis, served in the Army then came back as a "walk-on" assistant for Coach Gregg in the late 1960's until coach Gregg left in 1973 or so to pick up the Centerville job, which he had for 27 years..  He added some colorful facts about many Bronco players and situations from that era.

“Football is the single best educational tool a school system has to offer a young man preparing to face today’s world. It teaches values and instills characteristics that are so important and necessary as they continue their education and enter into their adult lives. Hard work, discipline, mental toughness, self-confidence and sharp competitive instincts are the qualities vital to a full and successful life. They are old, but have never been more important than they are today. These qualities serve our men well. Their many life success stories are a proven fact!”

Bob Gregg (Circa 1975)
Teacher, Coach, and Man

Tom Thomas was host for the gathering at his farm on Chicken Bristle Road north of Farmersville.  His "Man Barn" included impressive arrays of Deer heads, stuffed fish, animal pelts and some MASSIVE African animal heads from his many safaris.  A few restaurant booths, a juke box and commercial food preparation area combined with restaurant sized freezer/refrigerator loaded with man beverages (beer) were added features of Tom's barn.  The men's room was "behind the barn" or in the farm house.  OK, maleness abounded.

Coaching was a major subject of conversation.  Why did you do this or that?  Why didn't we get water? Why did we get the salt tablets?  Do you remember when we ran this play or that play in this or that game?
Coach Gregg had all the answers, a lot of which were about toughness, focus, readiness, fitness, principles and WINNING.  How do you develop a winning team?  How do you get a community to agree with your development strategy?

Several players became coaches including Tom Keating who came back as a Jefferson assistant, Steve Bryant and Larry Noffsinger who became Defensive coach at Centerville for Coach Gregg for 27 or so years.  (I coached intramural football at West Point, winning the battalion championship my senior year, by the way.  I confess I was cut from the football team and got in the West Point Glee Club after losing twenty pounds in the famous "Beast Barracks" my first two months at the Academy)  All three "real coaches" were at the party with more stories.

Delbert Behnken and Jim Conley shared in the story telling as did Marilyn Thomas, Tom's wife.  Two others left before I got their names (sorry, guys).

Coach Gregg is 81 and he has a great memory for his players and game situations.  He reflected on a one win season in the mid 1960's with a story of how it wasn't until the third game of the season that they got off a punt successfully, and that was returned for a touchdown.  On one punt, the punter had signaled the center to snap the ball, then noticed that his socks were around his ankles according to Coach Gregg.  "Well, you know how you can't punt unless your socks are pulled up, so he bent over to pull up his socks and the ball went over his head."

He had a sense of humor about setbacks but used each as a serious learning opportunity at the time of the occurrence.  He is proud of his players.  Also pleased at the results he got through teaching and coaching them.

A couple years later, they only had 13 players, but went 8-2. A couple years after that the win streak started and coach Vince Shelby continued it after Coach Gregg left.  Quarterbacks in those 1965-1970 times included (the late) Tom Maxwell and Steve Bryant.

Coach Gregg looked at three Jefferson Year Books, opened to the football team.  After five seconds of perusing each team photo, he started to tell stories.  He even remembered the managers, "Gillies- I haven't thought of him for a while".

"Where is Eddie Bennett now?  I thought Donnie Smith might be here."  Teddy Castleberry, Donald Castleberry, several Ogletrees were mentioned.  Mike Maxwell, Arby Powell and the Dixie Game, Two different victories over Trotwood were discussed.  In 1962 Dan Maxwell scored the wining touchdown on a busted play (I threw a block and Dan stepped on my left hand on the way by, leaving me a scar and resulting in my first ever visit to an emergency room a few hours later for the huge hematoma that ensued).  Tom Hartzell took a pitch from Tom Maxwell, rolled to the left and threw a pass back to Tom for the winning score in his senior year for the victory over the Rams.

I was flattered that Coach Gregg relayed a story about me.  "Covington had this quarterback who was very good and known for calling a lot of his own plays.  Well, Einstein here (he pointed at me) was playing linebacker and figured out his signals by the third play and shifted our defense to respond to the audibles.  We shut them down and won."  I pointed out what a great game Eddie Bennett had that night.  I had one of my best blocking nights as center in that game.  (I really liked the Covington Fight Song and felt pretty good that night, as I recall).

Coach Gregg enjoyed the party.  He reveled in the discussions of Jefferson Football players and coaching. He also enjoyed talking about his grandchildren.  He expressed a desire to meet with more of the Jefferson Sports family that he had coached.  He had made a mental list of some Broncos he wanted to see, most of whom weren't at this event.  He would be open do meet with more of his "old Broncos" in the future.

The size of the group worked out quite well as far as how many interactions, stories and reflections occurred.  Most of the comments are not in this blog post.  Coach Gregg had enough energy to engage everyone there about their own experiences as a Bronco.  Each guy experienced the event differently and would reflect differently.  I hope they all have a blog.

I posted photos on Facebook (A. Patrick Jonas) and will include many of them in this post.

Teaching lessons to athletes was a big focus of Coach Gregg and many of his comments at the gathering.  He knew what he was doing and why.  It worked.  It helped student-athletes to learn about sports and life.  He had a distinctive style and attitude about teaching and coaching.  He hasn't changed a bit in his beliefs and attitudes.  He was our coach.  We are still influenced by our experiences with Coach Gregg.  Thanks, Coach.

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