What coach impacted your life?

During Clay’s interview of Coach Cody Kennedy on Hogs+ Clay mentioned how Wilson Matthews was a tough, tough, hard coach on the field. From all reports he was brutal. Then Clay mentioned how he loved on those boys off the field, even telling them he loved them. Many of those players came to love Coach Matthews.

I had a coach that impacted my life. Coach Joe Harris my Jr. High football coach. He was about 6’8” and over 300 lbs, a very imposing man especially when he was getting on your butt. I was short, skinny and had average athletic ability. But I had heart and gave it my all even thought most of my time was on the bench. Coach nicknamed me Woody, which still sticks today with many of my school friends. Coach took a special interest in me as a kid, he taught Algebra and I struggled with it. He had me and a couple of girls come to his house tutoring us in Algebra. I can assure you it was not because I was a good player. That always stuck with me. Years later Coach moved to Sheridan and had a small business selling ice, snacks and fishing bait. Mom and dad lived nearby so I was in the area a lot. We spent many hours visiting over a cup of coffee at his business. He still called me Woody.


My position coach at Fayetteville High School was Dwight Gilbert. I feel like I spent most of my football life with him throwing footballs at us and making us spin around to find the ball. A neat experience was when I got to go visit schools as a teacher and was able to visit with him again when he was the Superintendent at Mountain Home Schools. He was the father of Jason Gilbert who played b-ball for the Hogs.

Mine was C.W. Keopple at Hall High School (1967-1969). He and his wife would go on later to be the house parents for the Razorbacks.

Keopple was a tough dude. He was a WWII vet and a tough hombre who wouldn’t take … off of anyone especially his players.

I was a LB & DE on three great Hall teams.

My best story was playing against Ft. Smith Northside. I can tell people that I tackled Barry Lunney. Barry Lunney Sr. that is. Northside had a great RB named Billy Joe Releford. Releford was about 225 which would have been huge for a lineman in those days but Releford was the biggest, meanest guy you could imagine. I was 175 soaking wet. It was a case of me just grabbing hold of Releford while he dragged me down the field.

I can remember going to the sideline and Coach Keopple said: (Pavlov) you look like a flea trying to tackle a dog. And he just walked away.

All of that happened 54 years ago but it seems like yesterday.


Was that the game where Releford was injured? The book we wrote on Arkansas high school football stated he blew out his knee in a game against Hall at War Memorial Stadium. He had offers from Arkansas, Nebraska and other teams before the injury. He played for some great Fort Smith teams.

Frank Broyles was the coach that impacted my life the most. I was set to walk on in 1976, but after a long talk with Coach Broyles, in which he told me he really didn’t need another slow WR, he already had Robert Farrell, lol. Anyway, just went to school, made a bunch of great friends for life, and was able to work for some our tenants on our farm in the summers, which led to my career in it.

I had some good coaches I definitely learned from through the years. Like anyone who plays sports, I learned mental and physical toughness from the coaches.

That said none impacted my life like a former girlfriend’s father. I mentioned him awhile back and why he impacted my life so much.

I never played any team sports. There weren’t many available for women/girls when I was in high school. I spent my time showing horses and later dogs, so there were no coaches to influence me. I think that was a loss for me.

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I had a junior high basketball coach, John White, who really helped in my development as a person and basketball player. He left before I reached high school but we stayed in touch. When I was in college, he once messaged me to tell me to watch what I was saying on Twitter because people remember that kind of thing. Four years ago tomorrow he showed up to my wedding. Didn’t know he was coming, and I just completely broke down.


Coach Robert “Red” Nelson 8th through 10th grades at Newport in the late 40s and early 50s. He was tough but really cared for his players. A true gentleman but he demanded hard work on the field or court or track. We were afraid of him but loved him. He taught us to be the best athletes but at the same time to be good students.

Coach Ray Lumpkin at Perryville HS 65-67 seasons. He was a Northside graduate who played at Pepperdine in California. Hard nose guy who had no assistant other than the basketball coach. He often put on a helmet but no pads to demonstrate technique. We were just a bunch of rural guys and the high school only had football a couple of years before. I was on the first Jr High team. We were lucky just to call plays and snap the ball on the right count. I remember one particular play when I was QB against Pine Bluff Dollarway. I ran for a 97 yard TD. Our slot back threw a block at the line and another at the 20 downfield. After it was over, coach told me that I was so fast that a blind man could see me. But, his encouragement, life stories, and trust stayed with me, making me a better person. RIP Coach.

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Mine would have to be my high school coach Buddy Saul’s who taught me that your body can endure much more than you think it can. We had two a day practices for 2 weeks. 8-11 in the morning 4-7 in the afternoon. I learned that if a fat boy like me could make it through all of that that anybody could. So I always worked my players incredibly hard. Coach Matthews sounds very much like me although I didn’t use the bad language. I was probably brutal to them in their mind but when they did it right I was the biggest cheerleader they ever had and talk to them about everything off the field and are friends with many of them still today. I learned that you could push players to do incredible things past their own physical capabilities from coach Saul’s

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Mine would be a coach ( A couple) from Ft Smith Northside who told me to not get into coaching. They had to work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. Bad call as Coach Mickey Johnson told he he had a job for me when I get out.

Obviously, I will say Coach Richardson…for so many reasons. He changed my life forever, and outside of the men in my family, there is no man I respect more. I thank God everyday for the time I have been blessed to spend with him.


Basketball Coach John Parrish (AR HS HOF) was it for me. I was a wreckless semi talented athlete playing multiple sports. He was a constant in our schools coaching me on the court off and on from 4th-5th grade thru HS. Also was umpire in our little league baseball programs. By the time I reached HS and nearly quit 1 sport or the other at different times due to my selfish teenage attitude, he was the one to always reel me back in. He would not quit on anybody, not just for his benefit but for yours.
Tough coach in that Bobby Knight mold, fierce competitor and demanded run it till you get it right. It was hard to say no to him as one of the coaches for the AR HS All-Star game. But we both knew my best shot in college was football so I chose that one. He backed me all the way.

I knew him after he was a coach, but Red Nelson was one of the best. Also my best friend’s dad. Spent a lot of time at the Nelson house. After he got out of coaching he and his brother started a sporting goods store in Arkadelphia focused on selling equipment to high school and college teams.

It’s hard to say which coach impacted me the most. I grew up in a college town and knew coaches from both colleges plus the high school. Sporty Carpenter taught me driver’s ed one summer. Buddy Benson’s wife taught me eighth grade history and I knew him quite well (yes, that’s the Buddy Benson that threw the pass that beat Ole Miss in '54). But I’d have to say Willie Tate, who was my eighth and ninth grade football and track coach. 50 years later I still think of things he used to say; his use of the English language was, shall we say unique.

Red Nelson and Willie Tate both died of Alzheimer’s. That’s one reason I’m so enthusiastic about my current research project, working on a treatment to prevent the progression of early stage Alzheimer’s.


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