With football season now underway, many armchair-quarterbacks like me give way to football-induced comas with afternoon naps and dreams of the glory days.
That definitely is me.
I can barely remember my rookie season with the ’69 Jets. That’s the “Patch Jets”, as in Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany. I was 10 years old. According to the game program mom kept, I was an 83 pound running back.
My second year with the Jets was more memorable; I played quarterback. There are a couple of enduring memories that stand out from this season. The first was an inspirational speech our Head Coach, Jim Kight, gave us the day after legendary Coach Vince Lombardi died. Coach Kight had played for Lombardi (presumably at West Point) and I remember vividly the tears in his eyes as he talked about the inspirational Lombardi.
It was dramatic and impactful for an 11 year-old boy. I didn’t know who Lombardi was at that time, but over the decades I learned of his greatness, and I can’t hear Lombardi’s name without thinking of Coach Kight and his impassioned speech that day. I later learned Lombardi was likely the source for “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up” I first heard in those early years playing for Coach Kight on the Patch Jets.
I also can clearly hear his voice saying to me, “Don’t worry when I yell at you! You should only worry if I stop yelling at you!”
I still have the “Best Back” trophy on my office bookshelf. Given the Lombardi legacy, it’s still pretty special.
We moved from Germany to Northern Virginia in 1971. Although there is no known documentation, I know I played that year. I remember the powder blue uniforms and then moving again before the end of the season.
In 1972 we had moved back to Hawaii where I played on the Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station team. I wore number 41 and played running back and quarterback. We lived off the base and I often rode my bike to practice (I don’t know if that’s even possible with today’s security concerns).The standout memory from that season was Coach Dankmeyer. The stereotypical hard-ass Marine was a tough coach who once said, “I met your father! I bet he wouldn’t mind if I kicked your butt, would he?”
There are few places I know of that hold high school football in as high regard as does the state of Hawaii. No matter where in the world they meet, when two people discover they are from “the islands”, one will always ask in Pidgin English, “What school you go?”
A high school football discussion most certainly will follow.
After putting in time on the Freshman and JV teams in 1973 and 1974, I won the starting Varsity quarterback job my Junior year at Damien Memorial High School.
Our Head Coach was Jack Koury, a Pennsylvania native who coincidentally played college ball at nearby Kutztown University. There are several things I remember about Coach Koury. First and foremost, he was a teacher (History and Government at Damien for 31 years). You could not mistake his passion for football, but he was also genuinely involved and engaged with all of his students and players on an academic basis as well. In the weeks leading up to our season opener he would implore the team to push harder and harder in practice. “In 40 years people are going to ask “Who won the first game in Aloha Stadium?” Do you want that answer to be the Damien Monarchs?”
And here we are.
Like Coach’s Kight and Dankmeyer, Coach Koury found the need to get my attention from time to time. On one occasion during a break between two-a-day practices, he walked around the corner to see his starting quarterback practicing nunchuck moves just at the moment I hit myself on the head. He shook his head and uttered his most memorable, and oft-repeated, phrase to me, “McBride, for such a smart guy, you sure do a lot of dumb things!”
Coach’s signature move when talking strategy was to put his arms up on my shoulder pads. As I towered over coach Koury it looked a little comical, with Coach standing on his tippy-toes, arms reaching to my shoulder pads, extending his body as far up as he could to look at my eyes through the face mask. Yet this memory of the caring, soothing mentor has a special place in my heart. He was a good man who passed away too early.
I have many fond memories of my High School career, mostly kept fresh by the scrap-book I still cherish and any set of ears that will listen to me chirp. Some highlights include:
– We won the first high school football game played in Aloha Stadium, a 28-15 victory over Iolani on September 19, 1975. Frank “Bud” Alvarado scored the very first touchdown, catching a 39 yard pass.
– We were the first Damien team to have a winning season, beating each team in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu (ILH) during my two-year stint, except for then nationally ranked Kamehameha .
– As a starting quarterback, we were 3-0 against Punahou. If you follow Hawaii sports, you know that’s a big deal worthy of lifetime bragging rights: I’m living proof of that: I still brag about this!
– As an option quarterback I had plenty of opportunities to carry the ball. In my senior year, I was the league’s second leading rusher, behind David Hughes who went on to play fullback for the Seattle Seahawks. I also was the second Total Offense leader with a combined 1,172 combined rushing and passing yards in the 9 game season.
While I had great dreams of extending my glory days beyond high school and playing for Navy, it wouldn’t happen. A knee injury with just 4 minutes to go in my final game at Aloha Stadium would be my last game in uniform.
Over the years I’ve spent many Saturday afternoons each Fall reminiscing on what was, what could have been, and perhaps most importantly, thinking about some of those enduring lessons I learned from my coaches. Each in their own way have definitely made an impact on my life.
If you have any questions about what special event happened in Aloha Stadium on September 19, 1975, give me a call. I’m more than happy to relive my glory days; even though one could argue I “peaked” in my first game of my Junior Year!