In today’s report I’m gonna share some of my more memorable games in Commerce and talk about the impact that a couple coaches had on my life. I know every player that has donned the blue and gold have made memories here in Commerce so please feel free to share yours in the comments.
I remember during my final high school season after a practice, I passed a couple coaches from ETSU in the hall. I gave a tacit nod as I passed them but didn’t engage nor conversate. It was the great Coach Henry Ross and Coach Cowan. The next time I talked with Coach Ross was the next August when I visited in an attempt and hopes of playing more football vs. joining the Marines (Desert Storm would have had a visit from me). Coach Ross mentioned when they had visited that my coach told them that I didn’t want to talk to ETSU (my old coach was an Abilene Christian alumni). Things worked out and a month later I would be experiencing my first game at Memorial Stadium. A 22-19 win in front of a average size crowd. We had only 4 wins the last 2 combined seasons and coming of a season opening road win the fans were anxious to have something to cheer about and we gave it to them. That night was great but had nothing on what happened October 8, 1988. It would be the first signature win for Coach Eddie Vowell as the highly rated little piggies came to visit and they left town with an L…42-35. A raucous crowd cheered loudly as we had our most impressive showing of the season. The unique stadium set-up with no stands on the visitors side always made me wonder…if they felt like the visitors had no support. With how we played in front of the crowd they had to feel that way. It had to be like playing on a beach with nothing but ocean water behind you and feeling like you might get pushed in it.
Memorial Stadium would provide myself with a ton of great memories over the next 5 years. Between 1988-1992 I played in 20 games (none in 89 as I missed the season after a knee injury the first game in Alabama) at Memorial Stadium and we had a 19-1 record losing only to A&M-Kingville in 1992 by a 17-10 score. Several of Coach Vowell’s top wins came during that time from the 20-13 win in 91 snapping the Pitt State Gorillas win streak to my final performance in 1991 as we beat Angelo State 25-11 in the home finale in 92.
During my time in Commerce there were 3 constants throughout who each had impacts on my career and life. Coaches Vowell, Ross, and Copeland. Coach Copeland was a defensive coach and one of the absolute best. Give him a few players and would know how to get the best out of each and stop any offense. He was as intense as a coach as he was as an all everything line backer during his own days roaming the turf at Memorial. He taught and showed me how to not just work, but work hard and push yourself to the max. By the time I left, Copeland had me stronger than most of his line backers he coached…and I was a receiver. Of course being from Paris he knew he was gonna have to push me based on his “experience” with players from my home town. Thanks Coach Copeland. I am still inspired by you and everything you and your family gave to Commerce America.
Coach Ross…what can I say about this guy. He was a mentor. A teacher. A father. A brother. Whatever you needed he was just that. Easy to get along with. Very entertaining and would pop out in song at any time with a classic oldie. My personal favorite coach. And the fact his wife made the best chili beans ever and was a mom to so many of my teammates and I was the sugar on top. Dedicated to the Commerce life as he showed me my first inside look at how little time a coach gets to spend with his family during the season. A very sacrificial life as the coaches wives have a very demanding life with their husbands gone so much. Thanks Coach Ross, especially for helping to fill so many roles in the life of this little kid from Paris.
The most impact had to have come from the top…Coach Vowell. Leadership personified. Completely focused and unfettered by any one or thing that tried to get in his way. Coach showed me that in order to be the best you had to surround yourself with the best. Didn’t matter to him who you were he always wanted better from you. No matter how talented you were he expected more. No, he demanded more. And more often than not in my time around him that is exactly what he got. After my knee injury cost me the 89 season he talked to me at the year end interview. “Minor you gonna need to start earning this scholarship or I’ll find someone who will” he told me jokingly (at least I hope he was joking). He taught me how in life you need to have a short term memory with your mistakes because life doesn’t care what you used to do or even how well you did it, it’s what have you done for me lately. Stand firm for what and who you believe in and don’t be ashamed of what others may think of you. Accept and embrace your uniqueness and allow it to shine for you. When I coach youth sports I often find myself asking what would coach Vowell do? It shaped me into the man I am today. Thanks Coach Vowell for your lessons and to your wife Jan for sharing you with us. Memorial memories were made quite often in that little East Texas town called affectionately Commerce America by the great Eddie Vowell!