Thursday, February 7, 2013

"Hoss" and "Pop" were keys to Adams' football life

       Jerry Adams was, the oldtimers tell me and I've read, a helluva football player at Ruston High School, an All-State fullback in 1949, a tough, tough guy. He carried that toughness with him to Woodlawn High School in the 1960s for his first coaching job. 
       He was a coaching natural, although at first he wasn't totally sure of how it would go. But working under head coach Lee Hedges was, he'll tell you, just a continuation of the football legacy with which he grew up.
       Adams and the Woodlawn staff, as I have written previously, drilled on the fundamentals and their early teams -- usually much smaller physically than many opponents -- won a lot of games just by being in better shape and outlasting the other guys.
       Adams, too, as I wrote in Part I, very much emphasized the proper mental approach.
       He revered his high school coach, the legendary L.J. "Hoss" Garrett, and Mrs. Garrett became like a second mom to him.
        He was good enough to earn a scholarship to LSU. But he had a terrible knee -- many Woodlawn players will remember that -- and his playing time with the Tigers was limited his first couple of years.
        Then he went in the U.S. Army, and after a couple of years, returned to LSU. But when Gaynell Tinsley, the Tigers' coach when he first arrived, was let go and Paul Dietzel came in (1955), Adams decided to transfer to Tech. He sat out one season, then played his final season for another legend, Coach Joe Aillet.
Coach and Pat Adams, in Lawrenceburg, Tenn.
       And he married into a football family. Pat Ruple was the daughter of, yes, another legendary coach, Bill Ruple of Neville (Monroe). Hard to imagine: Neville and Ruston were bitter rivals; Garrett vs. Ruple, although they were friends, was an intense matchup for years.
       Ruple became "Pop" to Adams.
       I have heard so many Ruple stories, so many comparisons of coaching philosophies at Neville and at Woodlawn. And believe me, Adams considers Ruple to be one of the toughest coaches, and men, he ever encountered. And one of the dearest.
      Adams' only son is named Bill. When I was at Woodlawn (1962-65), he was the little boy, maybe 3, 4, 5 years old wearing the little black-and-gold jacket with an "N," hanging around practice -- and taking a ribbing from the other Woodlawn coaches. But little Bill Adams wasn't going to part with the jacket given to him by "Pop."
       He grew up with sisters Mary, Sarah and the baby, Teri. They're all close, and close to Coach and Miss Pat in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. The family has extended; there are three in-law kids, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
          Adams left Woodlawn after five consecutive district titles and went to a four-year stint as the first head football coach/athletic director at Southwood High School. 
        Two early Southwood recollections: (1) When the kids at the school built a papier-mache Cowboy mascot -- an imposing guy -- they named it "Big Jerry" and (2) Adams wanted the school colors to be orange and the sharp-looking 49ers gold -- tan, or khaki -- but Dr. Earl Turner, who also had moved from Woodlawn to become Southwood's first principal, wanted blue and orange.
        Adams and I had many a talk when I did stories on those teams at Southwood, but again those talks were about a lot more than football.
       His football teams had a rough couple of years, and I kept hearing that fans were being critical. But the 1973 team caught fire, shared the district title with A.L. Williams' last team at Woodlawn, then won a couple of playoff games. Adams' last game as Southwood coach was a Class 4A state semifinal loss in Baton Rouge.
       I covered that game. I knew he was leaving; a lot of people didn't. I wrote the game story, but I couldn't write about the sadness I felt.
       So  why Lawrenceburg, Tenn., the one-time home of Davey Crockett and hometown of ex-U.S. Senator and parttime actor Fred Thompson? That's where the Adams family moved in December 1973. 
Coach Adams and great grandson Ben.
      Coach and Pat believed their family would be better off in Lawrenceburg, some 80 miles south of Nashville, a place a doctor friend and neighbor had moved (to his hometown) and paved the way for Coach to join the high school football coaching staff there.
      He had two separate stints as an assistant, but got out of coaching and into the rent-all business. The Adams family owns a store -- Bill runs it now -- and practically everyone in Lawrenceburg knows Coach.    
     He can hold court in the store or in any restaurant in town, or he can spend time "piddling" as he does, making knives or talking to the Amish people who live in the area and come to the store for working supplies.
       Jerry Adams, just as long ago, remains the philosopher, a man of the people. I can tell you: It's wise to listen to him. I'll never forget his reminder to remain humble.


  1. From Jimmie Cox: Outstanding stories of our past and bringing them to the present.

  2. From Liz Sachs Piker: Another totally interesting blog, Nico. I also knew and respected both Garretts -- Mrs. Garrett taught me Freshman English at Ruston and of course Hoss was there for all of my high school years, too. He was just recognized as one of the elite teachers at the Alumni Luncheon on Homecoming Weekend. Well deserved!

  3. From Becky Patt: I know Coach, Miss Pat and the whole Adams family. They are two of the finest people you will ever meet. Their family is a wonderful reflection of them.