The death of Hall of Fame football coach Bob McElroy Aug. 15 is a reminder of the passionate loyalties that come from our National Sport of Football. Football combines athletic grace with brutal violence in an American game that teaches lessons that far outlast the practices and games that occasion them.
Coach "Mc", his wife Beanie, children Robbi, Pete (now a dentist in Corsicana) Radona and Sam (the former head coach at Tarleton State) moved to Corsicana in the summer of 1968. McElroy was the defensive coordinator to head coach to Coach Jim Payne. They won district championships in AAA and in 1970 moved up to AAAA, the highest classification in Texas at that time. Coach Payne and Coach McElroy helped bring our small town out of the difficult adjustment to integration by taking the 1970 Fighting Corsicana Tigers all the way to the State Quarterfinals, losing to the South Oak Cliff Bears in front of 28,000 fans in the Cottonbowl.
Red and yellow, black and white, we were all just players in his sight. Carlos Fleeks, the son of current Baylor football star Josh Fleeks, played for Bob McElroy on his 1989 National Championship team at Navarro. He said "Coach was the most consistent and fairest man I ever met. He was hard on his players, but compassionate at the same time." Mr. Fleeks said that once he screwed up in practice. Coach McElroy called him over and said "Carlos, do you see that road over beyond that field. No coach, I don't, he replied. Well just keep running till you find it!"
I did not start as a junior at Corsicana High, but Bob McElroy never gave up on me. He would
spend hours after practice doing pass drills with me in front of the Collin Street Bakery score board
at the old Tiger Field on Highway 31. Like all my fellow players, I never had a bad experience with Coach Mc. He was tough on you when you made mistakes, but he would love on you after it was over. I grew 2 inches and added 20 pounds for my senior football season in 1972. His son Pete was our quarterback and I received scholarship offers from Baylor, SMU, and Vanderbilt. All of this would have never happened to me and other Corsicana players who played in college like Buddy Kirk, Franklin Crawford, Marcellus Mitchell, and Jim Payne without the instruction and encouragement he provided.
The celebration of the life of Coach Bob McElroy is a celebration of a man who loved this time of year, the fall. He would coach on Friday or Saturday, watch film the following day, and take his family to church on Sunday. The sum of his life is well beyond the Xs and Os and the 75% of his games that he won coaching the Navarro Bulldogs. It is in the lives of over 1,000 players who benefited from being coached by Robert Barclay McElroy.
Bill McNutt played football for the Corsicana Tigers from 1970-1972 and at Southern Methodist University from 1973 till 1975.