A Gentleman and a Scholar

The call came just before dinner on a Wednesday in April—a bright, windy day when spring was just taking hold and seemed so full of possibilities.  Coach had died the previous Friday in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.  I hoped that he had not been alone.

I’m told that a close friend, a man who coached alongside him in Houston decades ago, came to see him before he died.  And Coach told him he was dying.  His friend tried to tell him that he would make it, but this was one contest Coach lost.

Coach had a successful business career in Houston in its boom years, a time when the Astrodome was billed as “the eighth wonder of the world” and the space program was a “space race” with the Soviets, a time of limitless optimism, oblivious to the turmoil that was stirring in the land.  A man without sons, he mentored a lot of boys through a youth-league football team, a team that won again and again running the old single-wing formation of his heyday as an All-American end at one of the most prestigious universities in the country.  He was rangy and broad shouldered, athletic looking in the way that athletes were before weight training and “performance-enhancing drugs” made bloated supermen out of so many of them.  Coach was an ex-Marine.  He could cuss with the best of them but was also soft spoken, literate, and not without a certain easy-going American-style polish. ...

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