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Local News

September 30, 2011

“Bum Phillips Way” unveiled in Nederland, Port Neches

 One day after legendary football coach Bum Phillip’s birthday, fans from both Nederland and Port Neches-Groves were on hand to wish him well and for a special sign dedication ceremony honoring “Bum Phillips Way” on Friday.

Flanked by the members of Nederland High School band, twirlers, cheerleaders, mascot and football team, Phillips was all smiles as old and new friends took to the microphone.

Jack Hawthorne, who played for Phillips’s Bulldogs during the 1950s, said the coach taught him and other players confidence.

“We were the skinny 20. We didn’t know that and Bum didn’t tell us that,” Hawthorne said. “He never talked to us about coaching but with what he taught, we wanted to be coaches.”

Hawthorne, who later became a coach, ticked off a list of other players who went on to coach; Neal Morgan, Pat Johnson, R.T. Luce, Larry Ward and Joe Sibley, to name a few.

Larry Neumann, the current coach for the Nederland Bulldogs, said he has read Phillips’ book, “Bum Phillips: Coach, Cowboy, Christian,” and was moved by what he read.

“I am proud and humbled to be at a place you coached,” Neumann said.

Neumann and members of his team presented Phillips with a Nederland High School starter jacket along with a framed photo of Phillips.

Phillips said he usually doesn’t go anywhere where he is required to speak but since this was Mid-County and since he coached at both high schools, he would give it a try.

“When I first came to Nederland, Nederland and Port Neches-Groves couldn’t play a game against each other because they’d fight so they canceled the games,” Phillips said adding that he and then Port Neches coach Gene McCollum got together and decided to play some games. “One was a 3A school and the other 4A but it (games and rivalry) brought this community together. I bet this game tonight will be the hardest fought but the cleanest and fairest.”

Phillips coached at both the high schools before going on to an illustrious career coaching in the NFL. An Orange native, Phillips is also credited with taking the Houston Oilers to the AFC Championship Game twice. In 1981, he became the head coach of the New Orleans Saints and remained with the club through 1985.

Nowadays Phillips is seeing the grandsons of the men he once coached in Mid-County, he said.

“You don’t know how happy you’ve made this 88-year-old man,” he said.

Phillips, who turned 88 years old on Sept. 29, was serenaded to a round of “Happy Birthday” before the brand new street sign was unveiled. The sign will later be located near U.S. 69 and Nederland Avenue but was near Market Basket for the ceremony.

The festivities moved across the railroad tracks to Port Neches on the corner of Llano and Port Neches Avenue.

Port Neches-Groves High School Coach Brandon Faircloth and principal, Marc Keith, presented Phillips with a PN-G Indians football starter jacket while chamber of commerce executive director, Debbie Plaia, presented the coach with a gift and Phillips’ wife, Debbie, with flowers.

The legendary coach said his best memories are of his nine years spent coaching in the Mid-County area.

He offered a bit of advice Friday morning in reference to the big match-up game between the Bulldogs and Indians.

“It’s not winning the game that counts,” he said. “I never felt that. It’s playing the game that counts.”

mmeaux@panews.com

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