Barry Switzer was always comfortable on either side of the Red River and Friday was no different.
The charismatic Switzer came to Tyler to help his former player, Texas College football coach George Cumby.
The former Dallas Cowboys and University of Oklahoma football coach is a natural-born speaker who lets his emotions show through at times.
His affection for Cumby, a two-time All-American at OU who he recruited out of Bishop T.K. Gorman, was quite apparent as Switzer teared up at times when speaking of the former NFL first-round draft choice.
Switzer was in town to help Cumby and Dr. Dwight J. Fennell, Texas College president, raise money for a weight room for the TC campus.
He spoke to community leaders, along with alums from OU, Texas, Texas Tech and others, at Willow Brook Country Club.
Switzer said he can get the weight equipment, and the school just needs the funds for a building. He said he would raise $50,000 and he already has pitched in $5,000 himself.
“George was one of the special players,” Switzer said of Cumby, who is from Moore Station near Chandler. “If I’ve got a place in my heart for special players, it is George Cumby. He is a wonderful man, a minister, football player, coach, mentor, just a wonderful, wonderful person.
“My recruitment of him was one of the highlights of my career. No one wanted him and I nearly didn’t get him because no one wanted him. He didn’t think he could play at Oklahoma.”
Switzer said he had to convince Cumby in 1975 not to go to Henderson County Junior College (now Trinity Valley Community College) instead of Oklahoma.
“George said ‘no one else in the Big Eight or Southwest Conference is recruiting me,’” Switzer said. “I told him, ‘It’s not my fault if they can’t evaluate talent. Plus, if it doesn’t work out at OU, you can go to Henderson County.’”
Cumby went to OU and helped the Sooners win two national titles and he was selected in the first round of the 1980 draft by the Green Bay Packers. He was with the Packers from 1980-85 and played two more seasons with the Buffalo Bills (1986) and Philadelphia Eagles (1987).
Switzer said noted OU alum Curtis Mewbourne, of Tyler, flew him to the Rose City from Norman, Okla., for the speech. Also, former Oklahoma and NFL standout Joe Wylie, a former Henderson High School star, was on hand. Switzer said Wylie was the only male athlete to go through OU with a perfect grade point average “and that was in accounting and not P.E.”
Switzer, who compiled a record of 159-29-4 at Oklahoma, won three national championships.
After resigning following the 1988 season, he was out of football until becoming the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 1994-97. In his second season, he led the Cowboys to the Super Bowl XXX title.
After his talk and a question-and-answer session, he visited the TC athletes at Martin Hall Auditorium on the TC campus.
The University of Arkansas graduate told of his humble upbringing and told the athletes to always make a good first impression — “that means be nice, polite and respectful.”
He added that winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate.
“I want to ask you ladies out there, ‘Is 5 1/2 carats too much for a man to wear,’” Switzer said as he showed off his Super Bowl ring. “The Super Bowl is sports’ biggest stage. You can have your World Series; NBA … the Super Bowl is by far the biggest.”
He added, “the three national championships in college meant more to him because of the relationships with players. In pro football, the goal is winning the Super Bowl. You can’t afford to get close to players because it could cloud your judgment.”
As far as other topics:
“I always thought it would be beneficial to Oklahoma to be in the Southwest Conference because their success depends on their recruiting the state of Texas. We had to recruit south of the Red River; and I always felt like we belonged more in the Southwest Conference than in the Big Eight Conference. We did not recruit Nebraska, we did not recruit much in Missouri. … Kansas doesn’t have any players, and Colorado very few. So basically, I always felt we fit in the Southwest Conference more so than Arkansas did. I always said Arkansas should be in the Big Eight and we should be in the Southwest Conference.
“So now the Big 12 allows that to happen and Bob Stoops has made a pretty good living off Texas High School recruits. I would not have had the success I had if not for the high schools in Texas. We have 200 high schools in Oklahoma who play football; Texas has more than 1,600 high schools. It’s a numbers game. The high school coaches in Texas do a great job.”
“Scholarship limitations give everyone an opportunity to be good. That’s why you see a Kent State and a Louisville in the Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl. Twenty years ago if you told me that would happen, I would say you are smoking dope.”
“As a fan I like it. I wouldn’t want it if I was coaching. I would rather have the old system; let the media pick it and let me play my schedule, win the Orange Bowl and I’m going to win more national championships that way. It’s good for the fans and it is probably good for college football. We’ll see how it plays out.”
“I hate it (allegations of accepting money for autographs). I hate it for him. I hate it for Texas A&M. I hate it for college football. Just bothers me if these things are all accurate and all true, why a kid would do something like this and jeopardize (everything). Besides it doesn’t make sense.
“There are a lot of Aggie jokes out there, but the biggest Aggie joke will be if the NCAA declares Johnny Manziel ineligible.”
“I don’t know (when the Cowboys will win the Super Bowl again). I hope Jerry (Jones, Cowboys owner) does. I want Jerry to be successful. Jerry was good to me and I want good things to happen for him.”
Following the talk and Q&A, he took time to pose for photos.
Before departing, Switzer, who owns a number of businesses in the Oklahoma City area, said, “I like to stay busy, but I go at my own pace. I like to call it calling my own plays in the fourth quarter. I’m not worried about the two-minute warning, I plan to play overtime.”
TC NOTES: If you would like to donate to the weight room project, send checks to Texas College, Office of the President, 2404 N. Grand Ave., Tyler, Texas 75702-9703. Also write attention: Athletics, Dr. Fennell said. … The Steers’ first two games are on the road — Aug. 31 vs. Belhaven in Jackson, Miss. (7 p.m.) and Sept. 7 vs. University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio (6 p.m.). The first home game is Sept. 21 vs. Hardin-Simmons on Earl Campbell Field at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. Kickoff is noon.