He’s a “good old boy,” with a wide smile and football stamped in his DNA. Back then he owned a gravelly voice, a tanned face, and he couldn’t say a word without using his hands. Content and now retired, he whispers more when he speaks. Back in the day, the smell of fresh-cut grass and a sweaty locker room made him feel alive, and he’d rather watch game film than sleep. He had spent almost 41 years drawing up plays and dusting the chalk off his hands, and he answered to the name of “coach.” Some said he could spot talent from a moving car and his playbook may have had only two words on the cover, “Option Football.” He felt naked without headphones, a whistle around his neck and a stop watch in his pocket. As head man he could be calm inside of a hurricane, never raised his voice, and as positive as Phil Mickleson with a three-foot putt, uphill. No one knew “veer” football like he did and he could turn an offense around faster than a Popsicle melts in August. He was a teacher first and a master communicator second; you just trusted what he told you. The old saying goes “There is no ‘I’ in team,” but there is one in WIN; and winning was what his teams did best. So in July, he became lucky number seven, the seventh former Texas A&M Javelina to be inducted into the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame, and I can promise you there was no luck involved. If someone gave you the ingredients to make a football coach, you would create Ron Harms.
Someone once said, “If you’re going to learn to cross-country ski, start with a small country.” Head Coach Ron Harms was born on September 10, 1936. If anyone was born a football coach, it was he. After he had graduated from Valparaiso University in Indiana, Ron Harms began his teaching and coaching career at Lutheran East High School in Detroit, Michigan, as an assistant football coach. He also coached the track and cross-country teams. In 1962, after three years, he left to become the head football coach at Concordia College, located in Seward, Nebraska. At 27 years of age, it was his first head-coaching job. After six years, Harms left Concordia and headed to Alamosa, Colorado, to coach the Adams State Grizzlies. In the spring of 1974, after four seasons there, Harms resigned as Adams State head football coach and went to Kingsville, Texas, to hopefully land a job on Gil Steinke’s staff. Ron became the offensive coordinator during the 1974-75 seasons. Then he was offered and accepted an assistant coach’s job with Head Coach Grant Teaff of the Baylor Bears. Harms would spend the next three years in Waco, Texas, before heading back to Kingsville in 1979, to become their head football coach.
Harms’ induction into the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame allowed him to join legendary coach Gil Steinke, for whom Harms had worked in 1974-75, and five of his former players. They are as follows: Darrell Green, John Randle, Johnny Bailey, Dwayne Nix, and Richard Ritchie. Both Randle and Green are also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “It’s an honor to be part of that group,” said Harms. The enshrinement ceremony occurred on July 20-21, 2012, in South Bend, Indiana.
Coach Ron Harms spent 23 seasons at Texas A&I Kingsville (later to be called Texas A&M Kingsville), two as an offensive coordinator and 21 as the head coach and athletic director. During his two seasons as offensive coordinator, A&I won 25 straight games and two NAIA Division I National Titles. Beginning in 1979, as a head coach of the Javelinas, Ron Harms’ teams won 14 conference trophies including 11 Lone Star Conference titles. Six of those championships came in a bunch from 1992-1997. His overall record at Kingsville was 172-72. Harms received five different “Coach of the Year” Awards during his tenure, including the NAIA National Coach of the Year. He has also been inducted into the Lone Star Conference Hall of Honor and the Javelina Hall of Fame. You have to respect excellence.
I am proud to call Coach Harms a friend and I have made the 35-mile trip to Kingsville from Corpus Christi many Saturdays to watch his teams win. It was like being in a pro locker room because many of his players would wind up in the NFL. Some guys collect cars; this man collected football players. Jorge Diaz, Kevin Dogins, Earl Dotson, Roberto Garza, Jermane Mayberry, Heath Sherman, Anthony Phillips, Johnny Bailey, Al Harris, John Randle, and Darrell Green are among the players I saw. But there are more. Names like Gene Upshaw, Randy Johnson, James Hill, Eldridge Smalls, Dwight Harrison, Ernest Price, and Don Hardeman made their way into the NFL ranks.
What is it about the game of football that’s so consuming? A game where the end results often lead to quarterbacks who can no longer raise their arm, linebackers who can’t bend over to tie their own shoes, and tackles who can’t get out of bed in the morning without the help of their wife. Maybe it’s a reflection of America; man on man, brute strength against force, confidence against fear. The game is played out on the biggest stages, televised nationally, in front of millions each week. Maybe part of the attraction is that we have to wait a week in most cases, to experience the excitement of the game again. “I enjoyed the sport itself, it was very intriguing to me,” said Harms. It appeared that they grew NFL players down in Kingsville, Texas, as 46 athletes from this Division II School have played on Sundays.
Harms, at 77 years old, now spends his time with his wife, Marlene, three daughters, one son, and chasing around a slew of grandchildren. He enjoys a swim now and again between rounds of golf and finds strength in his faith. They live in Aransas Pass, Texas, a quiet community located on the Gulf of Mexico.
Harms served a year on the NCAA Football Rules Committee with my friend, Dotson Lewis. “Harms always appeared logical and rarely spoke without thinking things through,” said Dotson. “He did a great job.”
Ron Harms and Davis Flores co-wrote a book entitled The Whole Enchilada, a history lesson of forty-one years of walking the sidelines. “I wrote it particularly for the fans of football, the Texas A&I Javelina fans,” said Harms.
Gil Steinke always claimed that Ron Harms was a “breath of fresh air.” I’ll say. You can’t find another Ron Harms; you just have to be happy with the time he gave us. Thanks Coach.
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