OPINION

WILDER'S WHOLE WORLD: Sherman High School football in the early 70s

By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat

Every time I think of them, I am reminded of the movie, “Remember the Titans.”

I walked into Sherman High School football only a few years after integration, and the head coach was white while the defensive coordinator was a Black guy – just like in the movie. In fact, the movie is set around the same time in America: the early 1970s.

I wasn’t a star player or even a starter. In fact, I quit after my freshman year never to play again. So, I don’t know either of them as they were in the football trenches. I don’t know their relationship. And of course, I don’t know how they were viewed by anyone much less by the players themselves.

But I got to know each man over time; and can only imagine that it was incredible what happened in Sherman football during the 1970s. Head Coach Tommy Hudspeth got there in 1972 while Coach Ed Hunt, the defensive line coach/defensive coordinator had been integrated from the local Fred Douglass High School, where he won a state championship in 1964. He came to SHS in the late 1960s.

I won’t place them in the respective movie roles; and expect things to go just like they did in another southern town in America. I wasn’t there long enough, but I know that each man was simply the best at what he did. They were special coaches and even better men. Every boy who played for them would say the same if we went down the rosters for those years. This much I know…

First, Coach Hunt: I got to know him as the manager of the track team, where he was head coach. We ran that program and had some great success. We won regionals one year and had several athletes go to State during most years. Coach Hunt had a couple of state champions after I graduated.

Ed Hunt had a great sense of kids and what it meant to grow up with sports. He was a role model that anyone – and I mean ANYONE – would love to have in their lives. He treated you with respect; he gave you the opportunity to succeed and he let you know when you made a mistake. Yet, he wanted you to learn from those mistakes; and he gave you that second chance. When someone believes in you at that age, that is special…and Coach Hunt believed.

I doubt Coach Hudspeth knew my name during high school; he probably only knew me as his daughter’s friend if he knew that. It’s not like I went to their house or anything. I was just a face in the crowd; and not a very prominent one at that. I had the opportunity to meet him and do projects with him over the years as an adult—sometimes, decades in between, but he always treated me as an equal even though I was his child’s peer, not his.

I was shocked the first time he remembered me from high school. I probably hadn’t seen him in 10-12 years! Yet, he knew me and my name. I was impressed. He was an incredibly friendly guy who loved kids. He spent his career in education as a teacher, coach, principal, assistant superintendent; and superintendent of two different districts. He never lost sight of how important students are to a community; and he even came out of retirement to be athletic director when Sherman needed him.

Both men gave their hearts and soul to Sherman schools for decades. If you are reading this, Hudspeth was either your teacher, coach, principal, assistant superintendent, or superintendent. He died in 2016, shortly after his tenure as AD for Sherman. He worked for your schools right up to the end.

And, Hudspeth’s work for the Air Chapel locally is well-known. He helped young men find their paths after rough starts. Tommy Hudspeth never stopped believing in youth and their communities. I never saw him that he didn’t have a smile on his face and a compliment for someone. His attitude was infectious. I say this about a lot of people, but he was the first one that I noticed it in. Coach Hud was special.

I visited Coach Hunt late in his life twice. The first time his booming voice took me back to high school and the track. His laugh was the stuff of legends; and his manner was gracious as always even though I hadn’t seen him in decades. He remembered me; and talked to me like we were fast friends…because really, we were! That’s how Ed Hunt worked. That’s how he became beloved by thousands. And that’s not an exaggeration. He passed away in 2019, and as long as I’m alive, his legacy will live on; and I’m not the only one…

I never played a down of varsity football for either of these incredible coaches and men, but I can feel the power of their work through so many others. People I don’t know, but knew Hunt and Hudspeth. People who talk about them with reverence; people who live their lives by their example. People everywhere around town.

It is fitting that Sherman schools honor their work and commitment to generations of students in our community. I am honored to have known them; worked with them, laughed with them; and lived in their shadows. Any recognition they get is well-deserved…

Dwayne Wilder

Just ask anybody…

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.