The Port Arthur News
My friend, Bob West, “Port Arthur News” Sports Editor, in his column on Sunday, asked Nederland fans to send his paper their thoughts on the Bulldogs' victory over No.1 Pearland Dawson. Well, I'm a Bulldogs fan —- to say the least. Therefore, my thoughts and memories follow...
Yes, I think the win was the Bulldogs' most prestigious victory since the '57 team's state championship title. And, yes, the win came against a very good high school football team — and there's little doubt that Pearland Dawson had superior athletes overall. Which, of course, makes the win even more outstanding. And Bob West's question brings back so many reminiscences for me.
Why? Because I helped coach that Bulldogs team in 1957. I was only a year out of college in '57, but Nederland had already, during my first year there, played a state championship game under Coach Bum Phillips, in 1956. We lost, 3-0, in a rainstorm, against Garland.
Nederland football not only has a place in my heart, but has been an educational process and perhaps the greatest “tipping point” in my life. Yeah, and there's no telling how many other young men's lives it has succored and supported in pretty much the same way. I'll try to make a long story short, about Nederland, football, and how the town and the game sustained me.
His name was Bobby Vinson, and he was probably my second hero ever, (my first was Nederland's Tex Ritter, cowboy singer, Saturday serial actor, and friend of my father). I saw them both at Nederland's old Rio Theater, which has been gone for decades but was on Main Street, now called Boston Avenue.
I was maybe 12 or 13 years old when I saw Bobby Vinson in a Rio Theater Newsreel playing football for the US Military Academy at West Point. He ran a kickoff back some 95 yards against the US Naval Academy. From that day on, I was hooked on football. Of course, Bobby Vinson had already grabbed my attention in the mid-1940's playing football at Nederland High School, when they won the regional title. There was no state championship back then, if I remember it right. So I couldn't wait to play football.
I did, and during my senior year of 1950 Nederland High School had the highest scoring team in Texas. Long forgotten by everyone but we who had played. That was 62 years ago, but the memory never fades.
Football was so much fun for me and a couple of my friends — Pat Johnson and Wink Barbin — that we wanted to keep playing. So we went to Wharton Junior College and got a “tryout” , made the team, played there and went to classes on time and regularly, because Coach Johnnie Frankie demanded it, and graduated. I later graduated from Stephen F. Austin State and it was all due to football.
More than likely, I would not have gone on to college had it not been for Nederland Bulldog football. Therefore, I have to wonder how many other young men that Nederland football has tremendously affected.
Football, to a very large extent, has been my life. For after graduating and beginning my football coaching at Nederland, I coached football for 30 years. Football made a living for me and my family.
And, for me, it's fascinating to know that my father played football at Nederland High School. My son, Lance, also played at Nederland, graduated from college and coached football for several years. The school where he coached in Lakeway — Lake Travis — won the state championship some four years in a row, if I remember correctly. And I also coached the current Bulldogs defensive coordinator — Delbert Spell — and hired him at NHS.
It's also fascinating for me that two of the Bulldogs starters' grandfathers played for me at Nederland. One is on offense and one on defense. Their names are Brinkley and Stampley. Both of them and all of their teammates are very fortunate, as was I, to grow up in Nederland.
They are also lucky to have head coach and athletic director, Larry Neumann. Bum Phillips, Emmet McKenzie, and Gene Henderson were, I believe, the very best football coaches Nederland ever had. But you can put Coach Neumann's name right alongside that distinguished trio.
Therefore, all you sports fans and Nederland folks, explore it briefly. For example, check out this newspaper's lists of local 4A and lower classifications football players who are, or were in the past, going to college on football scholarships.
There are several from each of the local schools like West Orange-Stark, Ozen, Beaumont Central, Silsbee, Newton and, of course, West Brook and Port Arthur Memorial. Now look and see how many of those played football at Nederland. If you go back over the years, there are a very few, but if you look at the last two lists this year, there are none.
So what? So, and this is my praise, not a disparaging remark, Nederland Bulldogs have fewer players with the kind of athletic ability that earns Division 1 scholarships. But who has been in the playoffs the most? The Bulldogs just go ahead and win anyway, with Coach Neumann's coaching, beating the No. 1 team in Texas.
I'm so proud of them, I could bust. But, again, they are lucky to live in Nederland. And they are lucky to be coached by Larry Neumann.
Neal Morgan spent 15 years as an assistant football coach at Nederland and was head coach there from 1971 through 1974.