Let me begin by saying, what I took from my days in Commerce didn’t sink in right away. It took 35 years for me to realize what these gentlemen were trying to teach me. At the time, I wasn’t the best student. What follows is a testament to their patience. love, and determination to try and help a stubborn kid from a small West Texas town realize a potential that lay somewhere other than the football field.
Ernest Hawkins-What else can I say that hasn’t been said already? For those who have read my writing on this man before, there’s not really much more I can add. What I can say is this: The last time I saw him, I told him I loved him. Sometimes, we don’t say that enough. That the simple lessons like not being afraid of hard work, attention to detail, being organized, and treating others the way that you would want to be treated had not been lost on me. That was a gift given me that I could never hope to repay.
Bobby Fox-To me, it was like hanging out with your favorite uncle. Always pleasant, and one of the funniest coaches I ever met. Chris Flynn came in the same year I did in the fall of 1979, and to say he had a head of hair was an understatement. One look at him, and Chris earned the nickname that follows him to this day: Rock Star. To this day, I still call him Rock. He never seemed to lose his cool or raise his voice, but he always got his point across. I learned that you don’t have to yell and scream to get those under you to do what you’re trying to accomplish. His untimely death prevents me from telling him how I felt. His son, Mel, and I were fraternity brothers, and maintain a close friendship to this day.
Jim Walker-He was a great friend and teacher. He always looked after me, and explained how things were done in the Hawkins System. Much like Bobby Fox, he could accomplish what he needed to without a lot of fuss. He always seemed to have a kind word when it was needed. I learned how to always try to have something good to say to someone you’re trying to teach. You never know when it might make a difference.
Ron Newsome-Was always a friend, and willing to listen. When it became clear that my future involved things other than football, Ron Newsome was the one I went to. I think he was more disappointed than I was. When I started to reconnect with people from those days, he was one of the first that I found, and I had the chance to thank him. In his death, I pray that he has found the happiness that eluded him here on Earth.
Life, it is said, is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. A thousand winding roads took me far from those days in Commerce, and in spite of all those travels, they have led me back home.
See, I did become a coach and teacher of sorts. Instead of coaching and teaching young men the game of football, I coached them to become firefighters. I became a Captain in Klein Fire Department in Northwest Harris County, and ran day-to-day Recruit Training operations for two departments, as well as Live Fire training for between 60-100 people. An awesome responsibility, to say the least. The lessons I learned all those years ago came rushing back to me. 1. Have a Plan. 2. Attention to detail. 3. Work Hard. 4. You don’t have to yell to get your point across. 5. Listen.
They were lessons that served me well. Lessons I learned in Commerce, America.