MURRELL COLUMN: A reporter’s empirical evidence of Larry Neumann

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, January 5, 2017

Mid- and South County sure celebrates its longtime sports heroes, doesn’t it?

We celebrate those who continue to add to their legacy and whose legacy cannot be replaced or ignored well after their days in action are over. Not only that, we have so many legacies to celebrate.

Legacies don’t require a certain number of championships, because in this wide state of Texas, championships — even on a district level — are so hard to come by. Championships are the best way to quantify and celebrate a legacy, but a legacy needs only be empirical, for such evidence evokes a conviction many can share about one person.

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It’s those stories based on empirical evidence that are the best to tell and hear — or read — in the sports world.

Having said all that, I regret I wasn’t here for even half of Larry Neumann’s coaching years at Nederland High School. But I am very grateful I got to take a glimpse into his 24 years there and covered two of them.

As you know, I’m not a homer, but I do have a responsibility as a recent newcomer in this tight-knit community to establish solid working relationships with those I cover to earn a trust in my work. Being that newcomer who tried to immediately soak up everything about the often-documented Texas high school football community upon my arrival in August 2015, I eagerly showed up in the Nederland football fieldhouse one morning during preseason drills unannounced.

My reason? I just wanted to know about this Nederland Bulldogs team that had won the first Bum Phillips Bowl trophy. I was told Neumann had been at Nederland quite a while, but even at that I was not entirely aware of the legacy he was still building. The impact he had on a program that went beyond the eventual five straight outright or shared district championships.

“Wow, you’re an Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevil,” Neumann acknowledged. I’m right at home, I immediately thought, unbeknownst to me that some of his assistants actually attended schools in the same conference as my alma mater.

Some weeks into the season but not too far in, I took my first taste of the jolly madness that is Bulldog football. Continuing to familiarize myself with Neumann’s players, I came to realize he had built a team that might not have had the size or athleticism of others, but one of willpower and brainpower.

Never have I seen a defense execute out of so many formations. Whatever was unknown about Mitchell LeBaron at quarterback was quickly unfolding before our eyes. Austin Krautz continued to perform as advertised. Secondaries were hardly any matches for Dean Fisher or Connor Perkins.

This was a complete football team Neumann built. This was a team that wanted to live up to his ever-building legacy.

The quantitative figures back up Neumann’s career: Seven 10-win seasons and eight district championships.

For all of his success, Neumann was always quick to credit his players and his assistant coaches, especially his longtime coordinators Delbert Spell and Monte Barrow. Even opposing coaches are quick to acknowledge the work both have put in with Neumann.

If Nederland ISD officials are smart enough, they will begin their search for a head coach with those guys, if indeed Spell or Barrow choose to pursue it. They are an extension of the legacy Neumann has left.

They, along with Neumann, can boast of the number of championships Nederland has won. They also have the empirical evidence of a legacy Neumann has left behind.

Neumann hasn’t said much publicly since his impending retirement was announced, but I want him to know how appreciative I am of the empirical evidence I have of his greatness in Southeast Texas. I value all of his long quotes and backstories from his wonderful football mind that helped me follow up another sports legend.

I even have advice for the next head coach: Don’t try to fill someone’s shoes, because they don’t necessarily fit your feet.

Bring your own shoes to work and leave your own mark. That’s what helped the Bob Wests, James Gambles, Jim Gilligans, Andre Bouttes and Larry Neumanns — and makes the Kenny Harrisons, Brandon Faircloths and Jason Thibodeauxs — shape our community.

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or at On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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