Larger than life
A Jacksboro legend passed away in the early morning hours Monday. Chuck Curtis, who led Jacksboro to its first state championship win in 1962, died in Weatherford Monday after an illness. He was 80 years old.
Following Jacksboro’s state title, Curtis won two more in as many years for Garland.
He came to Jacksboro after quarterbacking for TCU and winning two Southwest Conference titles under Jacksboro’s Abe Martin and playing for the New York Giants where, according to his memoir, “The Life of Coach Chuck Curtis,” he gained much of his coaching chops under the leadership of Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry.
More than 50 years later, the Jacksboro championship team members and more recall him as a great mentor. He was larger than life they said. To a group of freshmen who went on to win state as a team of mostly seniors, the 6’4” 230 pound man with a booming voice was exactly that although only 24 years old when he came to Jacksboro after coaching briefly in Holliday.
“I just picture him as a giant, a giant of a man,” said former JHS cheerleader Gayle Briscoe. “When he moved here to Jacksboro, he just turned things around. They had been a losing team a long time and it took him just about a year to do it. They listened to him. They respected him.”
When Curtis came to Jacksboro in 1959, the previous season record was 0-10. They went 2-8 his first year which he considered 200 percent better than the one before.
The next year, they went 9-1 and the next 13-1. In 1962, they took the championship with a 15-0 record giving up only 41 points and scoring more than 600. The games averaged 43-3.
“He was a great coach, a good motivator,” said former JHS assistant coach Allan Gibbs. “After I left there, I ran the same thing we ran at Jacksboro when he was there. We won the state championship at Gorman when I was the head coach here.”
Jacksboro State Champion quarterback Steve Wheelis said he recalls playing an entire game against Decatur in which they ran nothing but plays they seldom used.
“He did that to fool the scouts,” Wheelis said.
“We would use all sorts of exotic formations,” said Gary Winton, who played right cornerback and anything else Curtis wanted him to play during his four years in Jacksboro. “We would use all sorts of formations to confuse the other team.”
Curtis’ greatest tool in shaping winners was bringing out the best in his team.
“There was the preparation of having you in shape and somehow persuading us that we could win the game that was coming up, but we had to give everything we had to win it,” Winton said. “Even if in our heart of hearts we knew were going to beat them terribly, we went in thinking we may somehow lose the game. I don’t know how he managed to do it, but he did it, week after week after week.”
To read the complete article see the May 13 edition of the Herald-Gazette.