Legend in the Making
My late father once told me that if you hold great respect or admiration for someone, you should tell them now because once they are gone you will have missed your opportunity and will never get it back.
That being said, I certainly don’t think Thundering Herd Coach Bob Pruett is planning to leave his beloved alma mater anytime soon, nor do I think he is anywhere close to departing from this world. The point I’m trying to make is that my father’s advice has often guided me in my editorial selections. It is a wonderful luxury to publish your own magazine and have the ability to tell someone how much you think of them through the written word. Such was the case in our past articles on A. Michael Perry, Bill Campbell, Verna Gibson, Paul Newman, John Drinko, Joan Edwards, Chuck Yeager and numerous others. And that is certainly the case with this edition’s cover story on Bob Pruett.
When Coach Jim Donnan left Marshall in 1995, I didn’t think the university would be able to find a replacement that could surpass his winning ways. I was wrong. Not only did Pruett lead Marshall to an undefeated season and national championship in his first year, he has gone on to become the winningest active coach in college football today. The name at the top of the list isn’t Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden or Lou Holtz, it’s Bob Pruett.
In the last seven years, Pruett has led Marshall to five Mid American Conference titles, five bowl game victories, two undefeated seasons and a No. 10 national ranking in 1999. A steady stream of his players have made the transition to the NFL including Randy Moss, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich. Pruett led little-known Marshall University from Division I-AA competition to the big time, competing with Division I-A powerhouse programs including WVU, Clemson, BYU, Tennessee, Kansas State and Ohio State.
While he is nationally renowned as a winner on the football field, Bob Pruett the man is also a winner off the field. As writer Tim Stephens points out in his article on page 30, “The veteran coach is known for his work in the community, but the public knows but a sliver of how much Pruett actually does quietly, behind-the-scenes, without fanfare.” The charitable organizations he has lent his time and money to hold him in the highest regard.
I liked Bob Pruett from the first time I met him. He possesses one of the sharpest and most quick-witted minds I have ever encountered. His talks at the Quarterback Club are legendary. Guests come back from the luncheons roaring with laughter at his wry wit and good-natured ribbing. He’s not the kind of guy you want to trade barbs with, because you’re going to lose. If he hadn’t selected coaching as his life’s work, he would have been well suited for a career as an attorney. He’s that smart and fast on his feet.
But you’d never know it as Pruett loves to play the part of the country bumpkin. “I’m just a good ol’ boy from West Virginia,” he drawls. “Hell, I’m not even from Beckley, I’m from East Beckley,” is one of his more famous lines. His peers are not fooled. They know how sly and scheming the coach from Marshall University can be. Just ask any of the coaches from the 88 teams he’s beaten in the last seven years and they’ll tell you.
is rare in today’s society, where so many of our leaders seem
to let us down, to meet someone of Bob Pruett’s character – a
brilliant coach and mentor, dedicated community volunteer and devoted
husband and family man. It’s even rarer to recognize
a legend in the making, but that’s exactly what Pruett has become.
So, in memory of my late father, this is my way of saying thank you,
Coach, for all you have meant to me and the people of Huntington.
© 1999- 2004 Huntington Quarterly Magazine