Just call him 'Coach' (copy)

Bob "Coach" Patterson of Southaven is shown in his study in 2011 as part of a DeSoto Times-Tribune feature about his playing and football coaching days. Patterson passed away Monday afternoon at the age of 84.  

Robert Long|DTT (file photo)

To be honest, I didn’t know the man all that well and as I write this I am feeling that I wish I had.

He frequented a lot of the events going on around DeSoto County. You would find him at Chamber luncheons, DeSoto County Touchdown Club meetings, FCA breakfasts and the like.

My knowledge of the man is primarily from research and reading. Too many of you had more personal interaction with him and you all were the better for it.

But, two things I will remember about him. He was always asking me to take his picture. “Take my picture,” he would always say to me and they were usually the first words from his lips when he saw me.

In fact, one year I got a Christmas card to the office from him saying, "Keep taking those good photos." I have it hanging at my desk in front of me and see it daily.  

The other thing is that everyone called him “Coach.”

Today, Bob “Coach” Patterson is roaming a more heavenly sideline, having left the earthly gridiron Monday afternoon at the age of 84.

The list of Patterson’s accomplishments is lengthy. Patterson began his athletic career as a star in about every sport at Penns Grove, N.J. High School, earning 13 letters in four sports and gaining enough notoriety to be named its Outstanding High School Athlete and earn a scholarship to play football at the University of Tennessee.

As a Volunteer, Patterson was part of an SEC and National Championship team, but transferred to Memphis State, where he lettered in football his final two years of school, was named Most Valuable Player and Outstanding Football Player of the Year for the Tigers, Associated Press Little All-American and Honorable Mention on the AP All-American team.

Patterson joined the Air Force after graduation, but the athletic accolades kept coming, as he was named “All-Air Force” and “All-Service” on football teams he played for at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, playing with future NFL stars like Zeke Bartkowski.

A coaching career then began that had him working at Southwestern Louisiana, Memphis State and Texas Tech, followed by 13 years at Vanderbilt.

Memphis attracted Patterson back to the Mid-South, however, where he became an assistant coach and the school’s athletic director in 1981.

Seemingly one to passionately avoid idle time, Patterson also did some part-time scouting for the NFL’s New England Patriots, New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens and he was a defensive line coach for the old Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League before retiring in 1986.

Patterson’s many honors include induction to the Penns Grove, N.J. Athletic Hall of Fame, Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, All-Time Tiger Team of the University of Memphis, M Club Athletic Hall of Fame, All-American Football Foundation Little All-American. The All-American Football Foundation also awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award for being “The Assistant Coach Who Made a Difference.”

Most recently, the North Mississippi Fellowship of Christian Athletes named a scholarship award in his honor. The FCA Coach Bob Patterson Award is presented to an area football player who displays exceptional leadership on the football field, in their faith, classroom and community.

Joe Gee of Horn Lake was the first winner of that award and Patterson was on hand to see its presentation at its annual breakfast at the Landers Center back in February.

Visitation for Patterson has been scheduled for Thursday, May 25 at Colonial Hills Church in Southaven from 6-8 p.m. Memorial services for Patterson will be Friday, May 26 at 11 a.m., also at Colonial Hills Church.

It might be wise to attend, because I am sure there will be a lot of old football stories being shared that can provide more insight about the man many knew simply as “Coach,” who I’m sure has already lined up his own sideline photographer.

Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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