PELL CITY -- Scores of people turned out this week at City Hall to hear and honor a beloved former football coach as he visited his former hometown.
“Coach Glover was our Bear Bryant,” said Janice Prather Spann, who once stood along the sidelines, cheering the mighty Panthers on to victory.
She was among former players, cheerleaders, students and others who filled the council chamber at City Hall to hear and honor former Pell City High School Head Football Coach William Glover.
The towering 91-year-old man traveled from Jackson, Miss., to speak to a large audience which took on the appearance of a class reunion -- several classes, actually.
In the audience were many former players of the man who put Pell City on the map in early 1950s by putting together some of the best high school football teams in the state.
Glover coached both basketball and football for the Pell City High School Panthers.
“He was a tough coach,” said Jimmy Howard of Eden, who played three years on the football team under the former coach. “He could run backwards faster than we could run forward.”
Glover was a speedster, and held the record for the fastest 220-yard dash at Ole Miss for more than 40 years.
Pell City native Barnett Lawley said 14 former PCHS athletes received football college scholarships after playing for Glover.
Lawley said for players who did not receive scholarships, Glover helped instill values, an understanding of teamwork, and he helped establish a strong work ethic among his players.
Lawley said Glover made more of an impact on the Pell City community than any one individual, helping pull the community together through the game of football.
“I am proud to say he’s my coach and friend, and I welcome him back,” Lawley told the audience.
Glover was spotlighted Wednesday during a Pell City Library program that was held in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street Exhibition, “The Way We Worked: Pell City, Alabama.”
Glover first came to Pell City after graduating from Ole Miss in 1950. He inherited a team that recorded a 0-10 record in 1949. After going 1-5-1 in 1950, Pell City posted an undefeated 10-0 record in 1951.
Glover gained a reputation as a tough coach.
He recalled one year when this team was undefeated, winning seven straight games.
The team was facing Oneonta, who had only lost one game that season. He was disappointed in the lackluster first-half performance by his Panthers, so he took them down to one end of the field for head-on tackling and blocking drills.
Glover gathered his players together.
“I told them if we don’t win by a big margin, I was going to have the practice until daylight,” Glover said. “I meant it.”
His team stunned the opponents in the second half, winning the game 36-6.
His sons -- Bill, an attorney, and Jim, a doctor -- both attended Wednesday’s program, and said their father loved his players.
“He might not have acted like he liked you, but he loved all his players,” Bill Glover said. “He did love y'all.”
When Glover came to Pell City, the high school team played on the old field next to Avondale Mills. He believed the high school team needed a real stadium and he was determined to get one.
“… And I went to work to get it,” he said.
Glover was instrumental in helping raise money to build what is now known as Pete Rich Stadium, named after one of his former players who later became the Panthers' head football coach.
Glover was one of the first high school coaches to introduce a weight training program for football players.
Terry King, who wrote about his former coach in a book, presented a copy of the book to Glover on Wednesday.
Glover talked fondly about his players and those students he tried to help.
Glover said he was surprised at the large turnout.
“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I’ve been gone 50 years.”
But the impact the former coach had was long-lasting.
Glover retired from coaching in 1963 with a record of 78-39-6.
“You people don’t know how proud I am right now,” he said. “I’m so proud to be here again.”
Glover looked out into the large crowd of people who came to meet, listen and see the 1955 Alabama High School Football Coach of the Year.
“I’m the proudest person in this auditorium,” Glover said.
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com.