The day Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine arrives should be a state holiday. Even if that were the case, you’d barely scratch the surface of the information in the nearly 400 pages. And that doesn’t account for any reflection time.
When I arrived in Texas in the summer of 1974, people’s explanation of what the “Bible of Texas Football” meant to them led me to think I’d moved to a state that had legalized hypnotic drugs, yet I quickly joined in.
I felt a sense of accomplishment when my predictions and byline appeared in Texas Football but was never prouder than when my son’s name was included. Those thoughts and more rushed through my mind when I got my Texas Football last week. There also was a sad moment, because for the first time since probably Texas Football’s inception in 1960, former A&M Consolidated coach Robert McLeroy won’t be thumbing through the magazine. McLeroy died in late March at age 83 after battling Parkinson’s disease.
For decades, McLeroy was one of the first in the state to get the magazine. He’d buy a box for family and friends, who included retired district judge Travis Bryan III.
“I’d say, ‘How do you get these magazines, these are not even out yet?’” Bryan said. "‘Bob would say, ‘Oh, I drive to Waco and buy them right from the publisher. I walk right in there and get them direct.’”
McLeroy would deliver the magazine or leave it in Bryan’s mailbox without fail.
“Year after year after year,” Bryan said. “And even when he got sick, I would still get them. I guess he had [his wife] Sandra deliver them, but he never failed.”
McLeroy typically called to give me his review. He must have been a speed reader. I was amazed at how much of the information he’d digested.
McLeroy’s passion for high school football included a unique hobby. He was fascinated by coaching hires, devoting endless hours to keeping up with them from Lubbock to Laredo and Tyler to El Paso. McLeroy would keep track of coaching and superintendent vacancies on a huge state map via different colored pins.
McLeroy was a headhunter before anyone even knew what that was. He was the internet before the internet via countless phone calls. He became so invested in following Texas high school football that coaches, superintendents, school board members and even search committee members contacted McLeroy.
“He was such a networker, a networker of people,” said one of his nephews at McLeroy’s memorial service. “He was always there to serve. He got a job for thousands of people and never asked for anything.”
Bryan said McLeroy missed his calling. He should have been a recruiting coordinator.
“I told him, 'You know more people and more coaches and have the information and the ways to get in and get access than anybody I have known,'” Bryan said.
McLeroy did that before cellphones. I can remember attempting to call him in the 1970s and ’80s and getting busy signals for hours. My wife always wondered what his monthly phone bill was back then. The cost was small compared to the results. His hobby benefitted communities and coaches. He also helped players get scholarships and inspired some to follow in his footsteps and become coaches.
McLeroy’s unique talent in finding jobs for other coaches aided him in his 29-year coaching career. He spent time at the collegiate level at Oklahoma, Rice and Texas-El Paso. His high school stops included Alvin, Callisburg, Kirbyville, Leander, Port Lavaca, Raymondville, San Antonio Southside, Shepherd and Splendora.
“He loved Texas football. He loved coaching, and he loved teaching,” said Bryan, who officiated McLeroy’s memorial service. “He loved teaching history. He was a history buff, both country and state.”
McLeroy, who graduated from Stephen F. Austin, stayed home to attend Allen Academy and Texas A&M before receiving his degree from Sam Houston State. McLeroy, while attending A&M, coached at Fannin Elementary, mentoring Bryan who was a sixth-grader.
“I knew he was special, and that stuck with me,” Bryan said. “Bob McLeroy was a giver. He left this world a better place than he found it.”
McLeroy was head coach at Consol in 1974 and ’75, going 5-5 the last season with a big victory over rival Brenham. McLeroy ended his coaching career as an assistant at Caldwell, working for the legendary Norman Cobb, who led Mexia to the Class 3A state title in 1989.
McLeroy might have retired from coaching, but he continued to keep track of his lifelong profession and helped other coaches as much as possible.
“He was just a great friend. Every encounter with him was positive,” Bryan said. “Who can you say that about in your life? There’s not many people you can say that about, truthfully, but I can say that about Robert McLeroy.”
- Robert Cessna's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.