Photo: Jeffrey Salter
Howard Schnellenberger is a Florida 'Icon'
Football coaching legend lives in Boynton Beach; age 80
Paul Bryant, Don Shula, George Allen and Blanton Collier and my high school coach Paulie Miller — I had 35 years of apprenticeship to the five greatest coaches of all time. I learned great things from all of them, and some of the great things they did I didn't think I was great enough to do so I disregarded them and used the things I could use.
I could take the University of Miami from obscurity and degradation and broke and make them a national championship team in five years. What crazy idiot could do that in good conscience unless you had an enormous amount of confidence and perception in how to do it?
I was raised in Indiana on a farm. In that German community everyone spoke German. We didn't have a pot to piss in. In '36 we went to Louisville. The first thing that happened to us when we moved into a rented house in '36, the great flood of the Ohio River washed the house and everything we owned away.
I got to be pretty good at football. I was 12 years old. All the other guys were 16, 19. That's when I learned how fast you can learn when you're getting the shit beat out of you by the other kids.
Bryant (then head coach at the University of Kentucky) himself asked to come up to see mom and dad after we had committed to go to Indiana. I gave my word. My mom and dad backed me up on it. He comes with Gov. Wetherby. We're talking there for a while. So Gov. Wetherby says, 'Hey, Mr. Schnellenberger, let's you and I go out in the kitchen.' So they get in the kitchen for 10 or 15 minutes and dad's coming out with a big smile on his face and announces he thought it would be OK. 'It's your home state. Everybody in the state's going to be up there watching you play and after your days of playing are over, you'll have a good chance to get a good job with these guys.' My mother jumps in there real quick, states that would be immoral, illegal and everything else to change your mind, go back on your word. So Bryant leaves. Second week comes up, he wants to have another visit and this time instead of the governor he brings the Archbishop of Louisville, Archbishop Floersch. Well, they go through the same procedure with mother in the kitchen. In no time they come out, and she's blessing herself. She's got a new rosary that was given to her to commemorate the day God gave her a revelation. So that's where I learned that everything's fair in love and war and recruiting.
In that month you have off I decided to grow a beard. The first year I grew a beard, and the week before training camp I shaved it off. The next year I grew it again. As I started to get ready for the season, I started shaving it off. My youngest, Tim, comes in and says, 'Dad you look good with that. … Leave the mustache on.' I said, OK, I'll leave it on awhile, and then it grew on me.
I had been the most bland, predictable, old-fashioned guy you could ever want, but when I got Into that mess down there in Coral Gables, didn't take me long to figure out I can't be a hermit like most football coaches are. They are so introverted it's unreal. There's tunnel vision. Have no clue what's happening over here and over there.
I had three chores at my church. The first was to be an acolyte at 6 o'clock church. Second one was to ring the Angelus. That's at 6, 12 and 6. And I was relegated to raising the flag and taking the flag down at sunrise and sundown. That got me prepared for the rigors of life.
Beverlee and I just found a bunch of love letters we wrote to each other. I read those letters, and I'm so frigging embarrassed that I couldn't express myself any better than I did. I wrote like a thirdgrader. I couldn't spell. I still can't spell very good. (But) I worked hard on my ability to communicate, and I'm very presumptuous. I like to consider myself a self-made wordsmith.
I got all the letters she wrote to me after we were married and I was coaching. She would give me a letter before each game, put it in my coat pocket when I left. She would spend all week on that letter.
We got our first supply of books out (his "Passing the Torch" autobiography) at Barnes & Noble and Amazon officially on the first day of September. On the 12th day of September, they announced we had just gone through the first run — 5,000 books.
If you had a free-flowing lifetime experience that was all positive, I don't think that could be considered a good life. I think the Baltimore Colts experience, the University of Miami experience, the University of Oklahoma experience, provided me the opportunity to have a very fulfilling life.
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