Tommy Watkins inducted into
High School Hall of Fame
Former Head Hawk Tommy Watkins, who coached Iowa Park to state championships in 1969 and 1970, was inducted yesterday into the 2010 Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor during at luncheon at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Antonio.
Watkins joined fellow inductees Bob Ledbetter, Carroll Lundi, Jack Tayrien, and Roy Wallace. Other awards presented by THSCA included Curly Hays Officials Award - Don Morran, Abilene Chapter; 2010 Trainer of the Year - Tom Braun, Corpus Christi Miller; and, 2010 Tom Landry Award - Joe Evans, Tatum High School.
(Editor’s Note: the following story of Watkins’ achievements was penned by Catherine Smith of the Hansford County Reporter-Statesman. She also happens to be Watkins’ niece).
At the end of the 2000 football season Tommy Watkins decided to retire at the end of the school year to the country life in Comanche County, Texas.
Tommy accomplished in 44 years of coaching a record few men have achieved. He reached a major milestone by being the head football coach for 301 wins, which places him among the top Texas High School football coaches to top the 300-win plateau. He won three state titles, coached at six different high schools and laid the foundation for the Rowlett High School football program, which he started in 1996 (even though he was only 17 victories from the 300 plateau).
“I just loved it,” said Watkins, “I never did get tired of it.”
His career record is 301-153-8. This record was amassed at Rotan, Iowa Park, Andrews, Uvalde, Lakeview Centennial in Garland, and Rowlett.
Coach Watkins is a graduate of McMurry College, Abilene, where he played end for the Indians from 1953 to 1956. During that time, he earned all Texas-Conference honors in each of his four seasons, was an honorable mention Little All-American and was selected to the All-Methodist All-American team in 1956. Coach Watkins also served as captain of the team his senior year.
His coaching career began at Rotan from 1957 to 1962. His football and track teams earned class A state championships in 1962.
Next was Iowa Park Hawks from 1963 to 1970. He won football class AA state championships in 1969 and 1970.
Coach Watkins became athletic director and head football coach at Andrews from 1970 to 1977. He returned to Iowa Park as athletic director and head coach from 1978 until 1981. From 1981 to 1986 he was athletic director and head coach of the Uvalde Coyotes. District championships were won at each of the above programs he headed.
In 1987 he became head football coach at Garland Lakeview Centennial until he started the program for the new Garland school, Rowlett Eagles, in 1996. During his fifteen year tenure in Garland, he fielded three district champion teams, and a total of five playoff teams.
Not many coaches of Watkins’ stature would have ended a stellar career by starting a new program as Watkins did at Rowlett from 1996-2001. (Rowlett was forced to play a varsity schedule its first year.)
“I think most of my losses were at Rowlett,” Watkins joked. “I must not have cared about winning a lot of games, or else I never would have taken that job.”
In 1980 he coached the Texas All-Stars to a 27-3 win over Oklahoma in the Oil Bowl. He returned to the Oil Bowl in 1993 as offensive coordinator for Homer Johnson.
Coach Watkins was named “Metroplex Coach of the Year” by the Dallas Morning News in 1988. He was selected the first McMurry Alumni Coach of the Year in 1964 and won the award again in 1988. In 1985, he was Southwest Texas coach of the Year.” In 1992, he was inducted into the McMurry University Athletic Hall of Honor and in 1994 he was inducted into the Garland Sports Hall of Fame.
During the fall of 2000, Coach Watkins was the October ESPN Coach of the Month, Dallas Cowboys and the National Football League 2000 Coach of the Week, and one of the top ten Texas coaches recognized in the television special as “The Coach that Made a Difference,” September, 1996. In the 2009 50th Edition of the Dave Campbell Football Magazine, Tommy Watkins was listed as number 36th football coach among the top 50 Texas NFL, AFL, college, private colleges and schools, and high school coaches.
An article from The Garland News, October 8, 2000, it stated:
“Teams, coaches, and programs are measured in football by wins and losses, but there is more to the game than that. Most coaches will tell you that in addition to success on the field, they want success for their players and fellow coaches off of it. Watkins has achieved that, from victory No. 1 to No. 298 and beyond.
Along with all the great victories, playoff appearances and state titles he has won, Watkins has developed a legacy in another area as well—he has made a positive difference wherever he has gone, on and off the field.
That 300th victory should come for Watkins in the near future. When it does, those who acknowledge it should celebrate it just as much as the first 299. Just like Watkins will.”
He achieved the victories, but for him personally, they were just another victory; it was not his goal to be the top winning coach in the state of Texas.
In another article that followed one year after his retirement in the Dallas Morning News, October 26, 2001, he responded to the question about the highlight of his career, he said, “It’s hard to say, because I was fortunate enough to be a part of so many good teams. But I guess that first state championship in 1962 would be one. But every year was great. Every time we won a game, it was special. It was very rewarding.”
There was fuel left in the tank when he retired in 2001. His recipe for longevity in the profession is simple.
“Have your mind made up that this is what you want to do,” he said. “You’re never going to get rich doing it.”
Coach Watkins is an active member of the Pettit Baptist Church in Gustine, TX, and is on the golf course two to three times a week with his pastor and other friends. He enjoys fishing with his coaching friends.
Tommy relaxes today by enjoying his country living with his wife Sylvia, and her soon to be 97 (July 24th) year young mother, Floriene Stephens, five miles from Gustine, Comanche County, Texas.
They have five daughters, Tanya Dorris, Terri Burnett, Paige Cadenhead, Shana Barger, and Sharla Coursey along with their respective spouses. These girls have given Tommy and Sylvia 18 grandchildren (11 girls and 7 boys) and one great-granddaughter.
Tommy has a large and loving extended family. He is the son of the late Yvonne and George Watkins. He has two brothers, Johnnie Watkins and wife, Delories of Midland and Jerry Watkins of Fredericksburg, and a sister, Sandra Ann Ritchie and husband, Gerald of Granbury, a sister-in-law, Connie Watkins of Waco, and many nieces and nephews, including Catherine (Ritchie) Smith and husband, Gary, of Spearman. He has lost a sister, Gloria “Snookie” Burkhalter, and a brother, Bill Watkins, to cancer.
Tommy is also the nephew of legendary Ole Miss football coach Johnnie Vaught.
Vaught led Ole Miss to six Southeastern Conference titles and 18 bowl appearances during his coaching career (1947-70, 1973). The NCAA also lists three of Vaught’s teams (1959, 1960 and 1962) as having won at least a share of the national championship.
Vaught compiled a 190-61-12 record as Ole Miss coach and was inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1979. He was selected SEC Coach of the Year six times by the Associated Press, twice by United Press International, twice by the Nashville Banner, and twice by the SEC Coaches. In 1993, he was chosen by Ole Miss fans as the “Coach of the Century” (1893-1993) when the University of Mississippi celebrated the school’s first 100 years of football.
Vaught football at Ole Miss became the model for many college and high school mentors. His 25 years as a college head coach produced a record that ranks among the most productive at any institution across the nation ... in any era.