repeatedly reminded by Wood of the value of such virtues as dedication,
determination and positive thinking. "We like our kids to get the idea they
can play with anybody," Wood says. "I don't want them awed by
football begins in the seventh grade in Brownwood, with the junior high coaches
teaching the same basic theories Wood delivers to his older Lions. By the time
a youngster has reached the varsity he is quite ready to comprehend, digest and
set to memory the 100 different plays and eight offensive sets to be found in
Wood's mimeographed playbook. Workouts are conducted like military maneuvers,
with no wasted time and all phases of preparation receiving daily attention.
During off-season practice a youngster is given five minutes from the time the
bell frees him from the classroom to be on the field: If he doesn't make it, he
finds himself running postworkout laps around the practice field.
becomes a way of life for anyone hoping to earn a letter at Brownwood High.
There is no long hair, loud dress or talking back. If you are dismissed from
the team you don't return.
In 1969 there was
the borderline case of Perry Young, the brother of pro player Robert and of
former Texas Tech standout Doug, who found adhering to all the rules and
regulations of competitive athletics too demanding and after several warnings
was in danger of being dismissed from the squad. Brother Doug, upon learning of
Perry's difficulties, put in a long-distance call to Wood and proceeded to
plead his case. He mentioned such facts as their parents' divorce, which his
brother was having a hard time adjusting to.
Wood countered by
recalling particular incidents where Perry had been cautioned and, in fact,
given the benefit of the doubt. Having heard Wood's side of the story Doug
admitted that the coach had been more than fair, then added, "I just know
this, Coach: If you don't help him, no one will. I'd like for you to think
The following day
Wood saw the youngster in the privacy of his office, and Perry agreed to run 40
laps a day for 40 days to retain a spot on the team. It should be added that in
his senior year he caught 21 touchdown passes and was selected to the All-State
team. "Over the long haul," says Wood, who admits he has mellowed in
his philosophy, "I suppose that is what high school coaching is all
Gordon Wood will
tell you there are a number of reasons for the high caliber of Texas schoolboy
football. "We've got better weather here than most of the states," he
begins, "and there is more interest on the part of the community. Our
equipment is a little more sophisticated than most. And then we have the
are more outstanding coaches in high school ball here in Texas. This is a state
where a man can remain on the high school level and still make a living. In
some states it is just a stepping-stone. If you don't get into college coaching
or administration after a few years, you starve or sell insurance."
If the name
Gordon Wood is not familiar in the nation's households, it is at least well
known in football circles. A coach in Anaheim, Calif. swaps films with Wood and
spends his summers running and rerunning movies of Brown-wood High games.
Several other coaches in California, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, New Mexico and
Ohio correspond with him regularly, asking endless questions about his approach
to his chosen craft. At coaching clinics he is as popular as the nearest
nightspot. During a postseason clinic recently Wood shared the podium with
several of the nation's outstanding college coaches, and his lecture was
attended by a standing-room-only crowd. A well-known receiver coach who had
been a legend in his pro days was scheduled to follow Wood and found himself
speaking to an almost empty room.
When Wood talks
about his profession he is a man constantly in search of converts. Anyone who
approaches the game at less than full throttle is of little use to him. He
recalled a clinic not too many years ago when an Eastern high school coach
delivered such observations as "a pass is nothing but a long fumble"
and "the kicking game is silly; soccer is a kicking game." Wood cannot
tell you what the remainder of the coach's talk contained. He walked out.
"That guy isn't a football coach," he says, "he's a clown.