Former A&M Consolidated head football coach Jack Churchill, who died Saturday night at his home in Deanville, had a way of making people feel they were family.
“To me, Coach Churchill will always be a special man,” former Consol running back Rob Schleider said. “The burning desire in you was to do your best for him. It wasn’t out of fear or anything else. It’s he was such a good man, a good coach, it’s I want to please him.”
Churchill, 84, was only 28-31-1 with no playoff appearances in six seasons with the Tigers from 1968-1973, but he made a lasting impression.
“He made football fun,” Schleider said. “I mean even in the August 100-degree days during two-a-days, he made football fun. And he was a brilliant coach. He and [coach Robert Garner] were just great people. It was just an honor and privilege to play for them.”
After going 5-5 in Churchill’s first season, Consol went 6-4 in 1969 for its best record since 1957. His best record was 6-3-1 in 1971, but the game he’s remembered for most was a 13-3 upset of Brenham in 1970. The Cubs had won 19 straight with future Texas All-American running back Roosevelt Leaks, whom the Tigers held to 104 yards on 24 carries.
Schleider graduated in 1969, but his brother was on the team that according to The Eagle had “some 5,000-plus fans staring in amazement as the A&M Consolidated Tigers decisively ousted the Brenham Cubs from their No. 4 state ranking” in handing the Cubs their first Homecoming loss in school history.
Churchill was a master at studying film and spotting opponents’ weaknesses, putting the information on index cards, Schleider said.
“Unlike today when it’s all computers, he had like a filing system of [cards] of when he’d run a certain play at what part of the field at what time,” Schleider said. “Consolidated was definitely outmanned then, but Coach Churchill, he could coach with the best of them. He just made football fun.”
That included the media.
“Jack Churchill was the personification of a Texas high school football coach of the 1970s,” former Eagle sports editor Joe Kammlah said. “His photo posted in the obituary brought back a flood of wonderful memories of my first years of being a wet-behind-the-ears sports writer.”
Churchill affectionately nicknamed Kammlah “Joe Boy.”
“The coaches at A&M Consolidated were more family than staff, and I have nothing but pleasant memories in being introduced to East Texas high school football thanks to Coach Churchill,” Kammlah said. “I learned a lot from Coach Churchill as I did from all the coaches at A&M Consolidated and Bryan High School. Coach Churchill was always open and frank in his comments about his teams, although I did have to be somewhat creative to translate those quotes into something that was acceptable on the sports pages of The Eagle.”
Retired Consol boys track coach James Giese said Churchill was the most enjoyable of the 15 athletic directors he worked with.
“He was real nice about everything and real, real flexible, but by the same token, I’d have to say he was the most competitive one I’ve been around,” Giese said.
Churchill hired Giese in July 1971 from Waller, where Giese was one of two assistants under veteran head football coach Fred Wiesner. Giese landed in College Station thanks to a tip from B&B Sports salesman Bobby Lively.
“He said, ‘Coach, I got a job for you,’” Giese said. “I asked, ‘Where was it?’”
Consol wasn’t the answer Giese expected.
“We had built the program up there at Waller and had right at 80 kids,” Giese said. “I said, ‘We went to a couple of track meets and there weren’t but six or seven people there [from A&M Consolidated].”
“He said, ‘That doesn’t make any difference. You get to work for the best athletic director in the state of Texas.’”
Giese knew that was a possibility. While he was head boys basketball coach at La Grange in 1967 and ’68, he met Churchill because they were in the same district.
“You know we got this coronavirus. Well, back then we had some Asian flu going around in Texas, and we had to cancel some district basketball games. And he was so great to work with. He’d say, ‘Let’s do it on this day if we can; if not, we’ll just do it on another day.’ He was just real great to work with.”
Giese, who was happy to land the job, won 11 state cross country titles with the Tigers.
“Jack, of course, had a small staff,” Giese said. “Garner was his first assistant. I was varsity backfield and track. It was a small staff but good, solid people. Scotty Stroud, [Lawrence Holecek] at junior high school and Clarence Junek. And Manuel Garcia at high school and Jim Foreman was our basketball coach. We’ve lost a lot of the good people from that rank, and it was just devastating Sunday to hear about Coach Churchill.”
Schleider felt the same way but enjoyed reminiscing.
“I think the biggest mistake is that somebody didn’t get Coach Churchill and take him out to the Johnny Carson Tonight Show and just have him walk out and talk to Johnny, because he would have been a regular, because Coach Churchill you could just sit and talk to him,” Schleider said. “He wouldn’t tell any jokes. He’d just tell stories and you would just laugh as he told them. He was just someone you enjoyed being around.”
Edsel Jones, who was Consol’s head football coach from 1961-67, hired Churchill as an assistant. Churchill, who was a retired rancher, ended his coaching career at Huntington from 1982-85.
“His coaching style would be what we would refer to today as old-school, old-fashioned,” Giese said. “He loved to run the football. He was a great person to be around. He represented all our sports well.”
Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Thursday at Strickland Funeral Home in Caldwell. Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.