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Statesman article on Coach Nivens

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Marcy Cox Hogan

Class of 1998
Posts: 203
Location: Santa Clara, CA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2004 12:49 pm    Post subject: Statesman article on Coach Nivens Reply with quote

This is the article about Coach Nivens from the Austin-American Statesman. I thought it was so sweet and had to share it. Zach's dad emailed it to us, and I figured if nothing else other out of towners would love to read it.

School readying to honor 'Mr. Austin High'
After nearly 20 years at the school, Coach Nivens is about to retire - but
not before the gym gets named after him first

By Rick Cantu


Thursday, April 22, 2004

Roosevelt Nivens will always be remembered as the face of Austin High

Students and teachers have gravitated to Nivens, whose "Hey, hey, Austin
High!" has been the coach's signature catch phrase at the school since 1985.
Big as a grizzly and gentle as a teddy bear, Nivens, 65, will retire next
month, leaving a legacy of inspiration and guidance that has touched a

"Rosey is the center of warmth and care and love at this school," principal
Barbara Spelman said.

For that, Austin High is giving the 6-foot-3-inch, 265-pound Nivens, also
known as "Big Daddy," more than just a gold watch and a pat on the back for
a job well done. In a special campus ceremony on Friday, the high school's
gymnasium will be renamed in his honor, ensuring that the spirit of
Roosevelt Nivens will continue for generations to come.

Nivens, the Maroons' head track coach and former football and basketball
assistant, has worn many hats. He is devoted to his wife, Barbara, a woman
he has called "Princess" since the day they were married in 1964. He has
three grown boys. A star high school football player at Muskogee (Okla.)
Manual Training High and Langston University during the turbulent 1960s, he
also coached at those schools. He has won the "favorite teacher" award at
Austin High's annual Valentine's Day Breakfast several times, and an annual
scholarship given to an Austin High student bears his name.

But to truly appreciate this dark-eyed, broad-shouldered giant of a man, one
must listen to the voices of people who have been part of his life's

"I met Big Daddy when he was a football player and I worked in the cafeteria
at Langston," Barbara Nivens recalled.

"When I gave him an extra pork chop, he thought I was flirting with him.
Then he asked me out on a date. I told him not to bother me anymore.

"Some of his friends wrote me nasty notes because I wouldn't go to the
movies with him. . . . Finally I said yes, but I told him it would only be
once. I couldn't believe I went out with him in the first place.

"One day in church, someone said they heard I had a boyfriend from Idabel,
Roosevelt Nivens. I said, 'That's not my boyfriend.' Eventually I got to
know him better. My mother said he was the best thing that could happen to
me. The pastor (Rev. Herman Walker) from True Vine Baptist in Spencer
(Okla.) said, 'Barbara, this man has a lot of character, and I know a lot
about character.' "

Tommy Wayne:
"Big Daddy was always a character, and I mean a character," said Thomas
Henderson, better known as "Hollywood" when he played for the Dallas Cowboys
from 1975 to 1979. Henderson was the star player on a Langston team that
went 11-0 in 1973.

"He would use humor while he'd implement his coaching," Henderson said. "If
you were a great player, he'd let you know it. If you were a good player,
you'd know it. When someone didn't meet that standard, Big Daddy had a
phrase -- poly foxin' around. He'd say, 'That guy is just poly foxin'
around.' He was a no-nonsense coach and he was bigger and more powerful than
everybody else, which meant you didn't mess with him.

"My name is Thomas Edward, but Big Daddy would never call me that. He called
me Tommy Wayne. I never knew why he called me that, but I finally asked him.
He said in the heat of a tough game, he didn't want to call over to me and
say (in a soft voice) Thomas Edward. So he came up with Tommy Wayne. To him
I was Tommy Wayne. When he sees me around today, he still calls me Tommy

Roosevelt Nivens III:
"(Coaching) is my father's life, his ministry," said 31-year-old Roosevelt
Nivens III, the youngest of three sons. A gifted football player, young
Roosevelt was a 330-pound lineman at Liberty (Va.) University and played one
season for the Birmingham Stallions of the Canadian Football League. Today
he is an assistant principal at a junior high school in Lancaster.

"He loves to deal with young men. He wants to show them how to live,
especially in this time," Nivens said. "You don't have to steal, kill and
destroy to be successful. He always thought he could show them a better way.
Be good to your wife, too. That's something he'd always say.

"When I was a junior in college, the Buffalo Bills showed interest in me,
and I considered leaving school early to play in the NFL. My dad said I was
so close to graduating, I should finish my education first. I could get hurt
playing football, anyway, and where would that leave me? Football is
temporary, he'd say.

"Sure enough, I injured my knee when I played for the Stallions and didn't
play again. I wouldn't have been able to get a job in education if I hadn't
graduated. That was just one more example of my father knowing what was
right. Today I'm doing what I love to do."

"Big Daddy has always been a proud, positive man," Barbara said. "When he
was in high school, it was awfully racist (in Muskogee). But he never got
into that. He loves people. It was his personality, not mine, not to speak
out. He'd tell me to keep my mouth closed. The bottom line is, he treated
people like he wanted to be treated."

Tommy Wayne:
"Big Daddy coached the defensive linemen and linebackers at Langston, and we
had seven of the nuttiest, craziest, bust-you-in-the-mouth guys you could
assemble," Henderson said. "On long bus trips, he'd write songs for us. One
was a takeoff of an old Fats Domino song ("Blueberry Hill"). And the whole
team would sing it like Fats would.

"I found my thrill . . . on the football field . . . We whipped them till .
. . the clock stood still . . . The crowd and the newspapermen . . . said we
were the best . . . But all we did, you see . . . was jump on their chest .
. . Our team's got heart . . . our team will never part . . . We get our
thrills . . . on the football field."

Big Daddy's disciple:
"After playing flag football in middle school, Austin High was intimidating
when I was a freshman," said Will Wilson III, a 1998 Austin High graduate
who lives in Washington, D.C., as a real estate analyst.

"I was this wide-eyed person, and Coach Nivens was this gigantic man, very
well built, looking like he was 25 years old, fit as can be, towering over
me, with that booming voice. . . . If you've never been to Austin High
School, it's kind of a melting pot of different backgrounds. Still, he made
everybody feel the same.

"Coach Nivens was the constant figure of Austin High athletics. I personally
went through two football coaches and I know there have been two more since
I've graduated. He had a couple of things he'd say to the football players.
'Let go of your momma's skirt,' is something he'd say all the time. Or,
'Stop being a candy baby. We don't allow candy babies out here.' When he'd
do the morning announcements on the intercom, he'd say, 'Hey, hey, Austin

"I can't say enough good things about Coach Nivens. He's got a smile on his
face 24 hours a day. He probably falls asleep smiling."

The injured senior:
"Coach Nivens had a way of talking to the players," said Rob Pieratt, part
of this year's senior class. Pieratt played football until a dislocated
elbow forced him from the game two years ago.

"He'd never talk in a frightening way, but you knew you'd have to run the
hills if you weren't working hard enough. Hollywood Henderson wrote in his
book that Coach Nivens is one of the men he respects most. Everyone knows
that when Coach Nivens leaves, part of Austin High will be departing with
him. He's the pride of the school.

"Coach Nivens embodies so many different things -- pride in what you do,
hard work, perseverance. He'll crack a joke now and then and ask how my
parents are doing. He wants to know how everybody is doing. We all had
brothers or sisters before and he knew them all.

"Mr. Austin High -- everyone knows he's been dubbed that. It's certainly
well deserved. I don't think there's been a single people in school the past
20 years that he didn't affect in one way or another."; 445-3953

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Class of '98
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Chaz Williams

Class of 1998
Posts: 3
Location: Austin

PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2004 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He was always very nice. I had him for PE a semester.
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Josh Parten

Class of 1997
Posts: 17
Location: Manchaca, TX

PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He was still an assistant football coach during my days as a player. His signifigance as an example of what men should strive to be like will probably never be fully appreciated.

Here's to you coach
Josh Parten
AHS 97'
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Alex (Hancock) Jurek

Class of 2001
Posts: 7
Location: Univeristy of Texas Austin, TX

PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2005 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, Hey Austin High! A great man...
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Katasha Varner

Class of 1989
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2007 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coach Nivens was such a nice man. I didn't realize I was a student at Austin High during his early teaching years...

I had him for Health and if I don't remember anything else I remember him saying that "Alcohol is a drug!"

Hollywood Henderson came to our class to talk about the dangers of drugs...

I ran into Coach Nivens and Princess at the State Fair Classic football game in Dallas a few times when I was in college...I wonder if they still make the trip to Dallas for the game.

Thanks for sharing the article...
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earl kinard

Class of 1985
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2013 11:12 am    Post subject: Mr. Austin High Reply with quote

#22 1985 remember's you,you have come a long way,Keep up the good work. : Cool
"LOYAL 4 ever #22"
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