PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Sports

February 5, 2013

Former Nederland coach Pat Johnson dead at 78

NEDERLAND —

    Pat Johnson, 78, a former head football coach of the

Nederland Bulldogs, passed away Tuesday morning at Methodist Hospital in

Houston. Johnson died of complications following his second surgery in the

past couple months at Methodist.

    Johnson became the Bulldogs' top man in 1967

at the age of 32. He fielded a consistent winner in the old District 11-AAAA

era. The league then included Port Neches-Groves, and four schools with larger

enrollments, Port Arthur TJ, Beaumont, South Park and Orange.

  But, after six seasons, Johnson decided to re-evaluate his career path.

    "He had the intellect and character to succeed at anything," said lifelong friend

Neal Morgan.

    Johnson chose a business venture, building a thriving insurance

agency, and later enjoying family beach gatherings and extensive travel with his

beloved wife, Gertie.

    Pat remained a faithful fan of the Bulldogs,

and was especially proud of the recent back-to-back playoff runs by Coach Larry

Neumann's teams.

    Morgan and Johnson started first grade

together at Langham Elementary. They were teammates along with future NISD

Supt. Charles Thomas on a 1950 Bulldog team that saw Johnson post passing

records that would stand for 15 years.

    "Pat was way ahead of his time as a passer,"

said Morgan. "We had a very high scoring team for those days, and it all

started with Pat at quarterback."

    Morgan's assessment is backed up by the record

book. The Bulldogs averaged 44 points per game while co-captain Johnson was

passing for close to 1,200 yards. Twenty throws went for touchdowns and none

were intercepted. The season finale found Nederland with a 12-0 lead over

French. But when Johnson and receiver L.J. Knoblock were both sidelined by

injuries, French scored 26 straight points to claim the District 26-A title.

    Morgan said he remembers being alongside

Johnson and Thomas when Bum Phillips walked into the Bulldog field house for the first time. "There was

an aura about Coach Phillips even then," said Morgan. An assistant in 1950,

Bum stepped into the head job the next year.

    Ironically, Nederland chose Morgan when it

parted ways with Johnson in 1972. The pair had gone on to Wharton Junior College together. Johnson

played both at quarterback and safety in helping lead Wharton to the state JC

title.

    Johnson, also a standout basketball player for

the Bulldogs, married his high school sweetheart, Gertie Caruthers, in 1954.

They were side-by-side until Gertie's unexpected passing two years ago.

    Pat enrolled at Lamar the same year he got married and

earned his degree after five years of day classes and nighttime work. He joined

the C.O. Wilson staff in 1959, and was picked to

lead the Bulldogs when Gene Henderson left to become an assistant at Texas Tech.

    One of his highlights as a rookie head coach

at Nederland was a 39-35 win over Thomas Jefferson at Yellow Jacket Stadium, with the Bulldogs overcoming a fifth-down touchdown by the home team.

    Among Johnson's players that night were future NHS principal Steve Fleming,

future Bulldog coach Steve DeRouen, and Delbert Spell, Neumann's only defensive

coordinator in his sterling 20-year tenure at Nederland.

    The Johnson household was located on the

northern Hwy. 366 edge of Port Neches, but in the Nederland school district.

That meant more than a few mile long walks to high school for Pat. It also

meant Nederland was to receive the gift of a true gentleman.

    Funeral arrangements are being made at

Broussard's Mortuary.

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