Winston Churchill once said “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you will see.” After Phil Danaher’s first step on a football field, he knew he was home. He is a man with a deep sense of right and wrong, and giving up a screen pass for 15 yards is just wrong. He has built a football family, and family always makes you feel like you’re part of something much bigger than yourself.
His teams run the football with heart, and their offensive sets are as confusing as Andy Rooney’s eyebrows. On defense, his kids hit you so hard they knock the sound out of you and put you on mute. He wanted characters with great character on his team and, during practice, he could run the tongue out of your mouth. And they win like they invented the game.
When you played Calallen High School in football, you added prayer to your list of things to do. On Nov. 3, 2016, Calallen stuffed the Flour Bluff Hornets, 31-7, in the District 30-5A Championship Game, giving Danaher his 427th win. With 427 wins in his pocket, he’s now the winningest football coach in Texas High School history. This guy has had more Gatorade baths than anyone in the state. No one wants to talk to him about another coach; they want to talk about Phil Danaher.
Coach Danaher understands that sometimes what you know can be the enemy of what you can learn. He knows that success doesn’t come from doing 4,000 different things. It comes from doing five or six things, 4,000 times. They say a legend is a person who connects with those he has never met. Let me introduce you to a legend.
Philip C. Danaher was born Nov. 23, 1948, in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Danaher moved shortly afterwards with his family to South Texas, where he would play four different sports at Harlingen High School. He had lost his father in a car wreck and turned to his coaches for guidance. Coach Carl Spoonemore guided Phil as a father figure and saw that Danaher went to college at Angelo State University, on a football scholarship. Danaher was named the MVP of his high school football team two years in a row, at the quarterback position.
After graduation, Danaher married his college sweetheart, Anita, and began to move through the coaching ranks starting at Dilly High School in 1974. Four years later, he left Dilly for Hamshire-Fannett High School. When Danaher arrived at Calallen High school in 1984, they had not reached the playoffs in 29 years. That was all about to change. The Wildcats have now appeared in a record 32 consecutive playoffs. Along the way, Calallen has reached the state finals twice and the semi-finals nine times. Age teaches us that winning isn’t everything, but it sure is fun. The best news is that he’s coming back.
I am proud of you, Coach, and your kids. If I could give your team a pep talk, it would go like this. “One of the most important traits in life is to endure. Things are not going to go your way all the time. That doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path or not doing the right things. Everything we do depends on others and, with that idea, the potential for distraction and the stubbing of one’s toe is great. You have to believe in yourself and endure.
By Andy Purvis, www.purvisbooks.com