SI Vault
Roy Terrell
December 01, 1958
In the land of the Alamo and the upset, Coach Abe Martin and his Texas Christian Horned Frogs again won the title
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 01, 1958

The Realm Of Honest Abe

In the land of the Alamo and the upset, Coach Abe Martin and his Texas Christian Horned Frogs again won the title

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

TCU may look like a dull team—in fact, let's admit it, it is dull—but there is, nevertheless, a rather large group of pretty-fair-to-middlin' ballplayers around, as Abe would say. Not one great player, perhaps, although the big tackle, Donald Floyd, ranks among the best in the country. Just a lot of good ones.

There is a big first-team line which has exceptional mobility and can block and tackle like seven demons and a second team which is even bigger and almost as good. The first-team running attack, which features Spikes and Lasater, is hardly spectacular but it usually gets there, and the passing of Enis (eight touchdowns) has been a big help. With Merlin Priddy at fullback and Dawson at quarter, the second backfield unit may have a bit more speed and striking power but it is not quite so dependable, particularly on defense. As two complete units, however, the Horned Frogs have been very tough to beat. Only Iowa has done it.

"Maybe this isn't an exciting team," says Abe, who doesn't really care what they say about his ball club so long as it wins. "Maybe we don't try to be exciting. I just send the kids out there on the field and tell 'em to have fun. 'Just go out there,' I tell 'em, 'and hully-gully around a little with that old ball.' "

The boys who play football for TCU—most of them are sophomores and juniors and will be back in '59—are like the boys who have been playing football at TCU for years. Generally, they come from small towns, and although many of them were terrific high school athletes, they were frequently from so far out in the sticks that their reputations didn't extend very far. It is this which once gave TCU the reputation of getting by with leftovers.

TCU's homey, low-pressure atmosphere extends from the top of the football team to the bottom. Abe's three fine varsity assistants—Walter Roach, Allie White and Vernon Hallbeck—and the freshman coach, Fred Taylor, are, like Abe, TCU men. They work closely together, usually over coffee and cokes in a highly informal atmosphere, and Martin says the real secret of his success is that he doesn't have to waste any of his time "coaching the coaches."

Texas Christian has never fired a coach, and since 1923 it has had only four: Matty Bell (1923-28), Francis Schmidt (1929-33), Dutch Meyer (1934-52) and Abe Martin. Two years ago Abe was awarded faculty tenure by the university, which doesn't hurt the air of relaxation around the place a bit.

Abe Martin has no secretary, no plush carpeting, no gleaming chrome furniture and no ulcers. His coaching staff is the smallest in the land and the man it works for has not changed much since that day in 1927 when he came off a farm up in Jack County to enroll as a 19-year-old freshman at TCU. They gave him a job cutting weeds, but it wasn't long before Abe quit. "If I'd wanted to farm," he says, "I would just have stayed at home." Instead, he began to play football and that's how he got through college.

Abe Martin has been around quite a bit in all the years since, but he is still not a fancy man. Like his football team, Abe is just plain and steady and sound and he gets the job done in a quiet, unspectacular way. Together, Abe Martin and TCU just win football games.

1 2 3