Pat Johnson, 78, a former head football coach of the
Nederland Bulldogs, passed away Tuesday morning at Methodist Hospital in
Houston. Johnson died of complications following his second surgery in the
past couple months at Methodist.
Johnson became the Bulldogs' top man in 1967
at the age of 32. He fielded a consistent winner in the old District 11-AAAA
era. The league then included Port Neches-Groves, and four schools with larger
enrollments, Port Arthur TJ, Beaumont, South Park and Orange.
But, after six seasons, Johnson decided to re-evaluate his career path.
"He had the intellect and character to succeed at anything," said lifelong friend
Johnson chose a business venture, building a thriving insurance
agency, and later enjoying family beach gatherings and extensive travel with his
beloved wife, Gertie.
Pat remained a faithful fan of the Bulldogs,
and was especially proud of the recent back-to-back playoff runs by Coach Larry
Morgan and Johnson started first grade
together at Langham Elementary. They were teammates along with future NISD
Supt. Charles Thomas on a 1950 Bulldog team that saw Johnson post passing
records that would stand for 15 years.
"Pat was way ahead of his time as a passer,"
said Morgan. "We had a very high scoring team for those days, and it all
started with Pat at quarterback."
Morgan's assessment is backed up by the record
book. The Bulldogs averaged 44 points per game while co-captain Johnson was
passing for close to 1,200 yards. Twenty throws went for touchdowns and none
were intercepted. The season finale found Nederland with a 12-0 lead over
French. But when Johnson and receiver L.J. Knoblock were both sidelined by
injuries, French scored 26 straight points to claim the District 26-A title.
Morgan said he remembers being alongside
Johnson and Thomas when Bum Phillips walked into the Bulldog field house for the first time. "There was
an aura about Coach Phillips even then," said Morgan. An assistant in 1950,
Bum stepped into the head job the next year.
Ironically, Nederland chose Morgan when it
parted ways with Johnson in 1972. The pair had gone on to Wharton Junior College together. Johnson
played both at quarterback and safety in helping lead Wharton to the state JC
Johnson, also a standout basketball player for
the Bulldogs, married his high school sweetheart, Gertie Caruthers, in 1954.
They were side-by-side until Gertie's unexpected passing two years ago.
Pat enrolled at Lamar the same year he got married and
earned his degree after five years of day classes and nighttime work. He joined
the C.O. Wilson staff in 1959, and was picked to
lead the Bulldogs when Gene Henderson left to become an assistant at Texas Tech.
One of his highlights as a rookie head coach
at Nederland was a 39-35 win over Thomas Jefferson at Yellow Jacket Stadium, with the Bulldogs overcoming a fifth-down touchdown by the home team.
Among Johnson's players that night were future NHS principal Steve Fleming,
future Bulldog coach Steve DeRouen, and Delbert Spell, Neumann's only defensive
coordinator in his sterling 20-year tenure at Nederland.
The Johnson household was located on the
northern Hwy. 366 edge of Port Neches, but in the Nederland school district.
That meant more than a few mile long walks to high school for Pat. It also
meant Nederland was to receive the gift of a true gentleman.
Funeral arrangements are being made at
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