I've shared several columns in the past six months about great Thomson High players, coaches and teams. As a former history teacher, I think it's important for people and fans who might not have been around 40 or more years ago to understand why we are what we are in terms of being a great football community.
I've included the tradition of R.L. Norris in hopes of supporting why I think it's important to continue, when the economy allows, to keep that school alive on its original site.
One of the reasons that Thomson experienced a Golden Age of football in the 1960s was Ed McIntyre. McIntyre came to Thomson in 1961 to be principal of Thomson Elementary. Like many administrators of that era, he had a background in coaching. In fact, he had been a head football coach for five years at Miller and Dodge counties.
In 1963, he volunteered his services to Coach Paul Leroy as "B" team coach. Notice I said volunteered. He never received pay in the seven seasons he served as a coach and also helped with the varsity on Friday nights. He did this in addition to serving as principal of grades one to six at Thomson Elementary.
There are only two reasons why a man would offer his time so generously: he loved football and he loved kids. He also started the first "midget" football program for grades four to six long before there was an organized recreation department in our county.
His service to this community didn't end with football. He ran the Little League baseball and Pony League baseball programs every summer for years.
Toward the latter years of the decade, he even began an intramural basketball program.
He never passed up an opportunity to teach a young man a life lesson, whether he had to practice tough love or use compassion. He had a special knack for knowing which to use and I was the beneficiary of those lessons on occasion. When I, as a sixth-grader, was pouting because I wasn't playing fullback, he told me, "John, you can teach a monkey to run with the football. Not everyone can be a lineman." It never bothered me again to play the line.
In preparation for this endeavor, I talked to his son, Danny, a retired school superintendent, Paul Leroy, the head coach at Thomson from 1962-67, Barry Hemphill, his "B" team assistant for several years, and Cooper Gunby, a former player. These gentlemen were unanimous in their assessment of McIntyre. They talked about his diligence in teaching the fundamentals of the game.
When his players arrived on the varsity, they knew how to block and tackle. He had an amazing penchant for teaching the kicking game. He loved to get as many players involved as possible. He had a system, borrowed from Paul Dietzel, who won a college national championship at LSU in 1957, in which he designated black, gold and white teams within his own squad. He could call out an offense, defense or special team by color and every player knew to get on the field. This got substitute players game experience and kept interest high in playing for the Bulldogs.
McIntyre, who passed away in 2009, had amazing success as a coach in Thomson. His "B" team won 53 straight games. I still remember the shock of hearing that the streak ended in 1969 in a loss to Evans. The players he coached would go on to varsity greatness as they won four region and two state championships in the latter half of the '60s and early '70s.
He, along with Leroy, set a standard of excellence that still influences this county. Not only did he teach winning, but he stressed the importance of hard work and character.
Gunby, who played for McIntyre during that amazing streak, said that this community has been greatly blessed by many of the men who have passed through and left an imprint on so many of our citizens. None has been more influential than Ed McIntyre.