A Tale of Texas Tigers: A Tribute to Alexander Durley

Honor Warren Wells TheTorch@dbintayaelSenior Writer IIJuly 15, 2009

He was "The Coach." I would describe him as stocky and stern, coach Alexander Durley was his name.

He would stroll down the hallway of the Samuel Nabrit Science Building at Texas Southern University (TSU) with books under his arm, looking straight ahead.

He was a mathematics professor, but as head football coach, he was respected and lauded. TSU's football team grew stronger under his leadership.

I never thought he noticed me or some of the other students who were not athletes at TSU. 

Forty-eight years later, I discovered he knew I existed. He told a former Texas Southern football player who became a well-known NFL star that I was "a good Samaritan."

If I had known in 1962 that "Coach" saw these qualities in me, I would have grimaced. During those days I was completely focused on myself and my academic studies.

Coach Durley was a good math professor and I was a student tutor in the math department. Sometimes, I would help a few of his players with their homework when they showed up in the math lab.

Quite frankly, I did not seek interaction with the football stars. I thought they were rough, natural fighters, and warriors on the TSU campus. My perceptions may have been distorted. 

I was the daughter of a minister. My father ruled his children with a strong hand and equally tough concepts. There was an abundance of love, but there were principles and rules to guide our lives. 

Now it is time for me to recognize the fine coach of the TSU football stars, and, I might add, "roughnecks." In 1962, my opinion was formed at 19-years old.

Professor Alexander Durley led the TSU football team between 1949 and 1964. He was a great man; able to train, control and inspire the herd of great players during his era.

Who were the outstanding college players on the TSU football team who became NFL players and stars? Who were the ones that made outstanding contributions to the community?

Here is a roll call of TSU players who are recognized as the Annual Receiving Leaders by year. All of them were coached by Durley. Others will be listed and honored in another article in this series.

1951—Cottrell McGowan

1952—L. C. Roach

1953—Clifford Provost

1954—Clifford Provost

1955—Clarence Lamb

1956—William Glosson

1957—William Glosson

1958—William Glosson

1959—Elmo Birdow

1960—Homer Jones

1961—Homer Jones

1962—Herman Driver

1963—Warren Wells

1964—Herman Driver

The first head football coach at Texas Southern was E.V. Rettig. For three seasons (1946-1949) Rettig established the foundation that Durley built upon. Rettig's coaching record of wins, losses, and ties is shown:

4-2-3   1946

7-3-0   1947

0-5-2   1948

3-6-1   1949

Rettig's second year was his best. I can imagine his disappointment, and that of the administration, when his team had no wins in 1948.

One document provided to me by R. Bush, a sports information executive at Texas Southern, lists Durley's starting year in 1949, and on another page in 1950.

I speculate that Rettig may have started as head coach during the 1949 season, and then was replaced by Durley near the end of the football season. More research is needed on this issue.

Since Durley was definitely the only head coach during 1950, he gets credit for a 4-5-1 record, followed by a 6-3-1 record in 1951. Durley's additional data is listed:

9-1-1   1952

7-2-0   1953

6-4-1   1954

6-2-1   1955

9-2-0   1956

7-3-1   1957

5-5-0   1958

7-2-0   1959

3-7-0   1960

8-4-0   1961

7-3-0   1962

7-3-0   1963

5-5-0   1964

Durley's team was acclaimed 13 times out of 16 seasons. TSU's football team ranked second place eight times in the Midwestern Athletic and Southwestern Athletic conferences.

In 1952 and 1953, the team was a Co-Champion in the Midwestern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference, respectively.

Although Rettig's entire career as a football coach was tagged "Independent," Durley's career spanned the Independent, Midwestern Athletic and Southwestern Athletic conferences.

My goal is to shed some light on the careers of several of the former TSU football players who were coached by Durley.

The first one on the list is Cottrell McGowan.

McGowan was recently profiled by The Daily Sentinel, in Texas. On July 15, 2009, a reporter with The Daily Sentinel indicated that Cottrell McGowan became an educator and a coach during his career. He is now retired.

More details on his life and interest as a senior citizen are shared in his profile.

Scanning the list of outstanding Annual Receiving Leaders, two names should immediately stand out.

Homer Jones and Warren Wells, both outstanding NFL players, were coached by the Texas legend, Alexander Durley.

Jones was the Annual Receiving Leader in 1960 and 1961. Herman Driver led in 1962. Wells led in 1963. 

Driver's receiving record flanked Warren Wells's record in 1962, and again, in 1964. It seems Driver played with the Continental Football League. His years are noted:

Herman Driver
1965 Norfolk Neptunes
1966 Norfolk Neptunes
1967 Norfolk Neptunes
1967 Wheeling Ironmen
1968 Norfolk Neptunes

The data speaks for itself. Can you imagine the excitement of a college team with Jones, Driver and Wells in the line-up? Those were explosive and powerful days in the history of football at TSU.

There is one common factor. Homer Jones, Herman Driver, and Warren Wells were coached by one of the greatest in college football at a historically black college and university. We salute, Coach Alexander Durley.

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