Kenneth West can pinpoint the exact conversation where his road to coaching was paved.
It was between him and Gordon Wood, his high school coach at Stamford in 1951. Wood had joined the staff during West’s senior year, leading the Bulldogs to a 9-1 record.
“He asked if I had ever thought about going to college,” West said. “And I said, ‘well, coach, my folks can’t pay my way.’ He said, ‘well you’re going to get a scholarship.’ I said, ‘no, I won’t.’ He said, ‘yes, you will.’
“It wasn’t long, about a week later, that I was offered a scholarship, and then three or four others. He got my mind going in the right direction.”
That moment opened the door for decades of coaching success in Texas, which has earned him a spot in the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 induction class.
Joining him as this year’s inductees are San Antonio Lee’s Linus Baer, Euless Trinity’s Mike Baab, West Orange-Stark’s Kevin Smith, Houston Madison’s Vince Young and Waco High’s Ladanian Tomlinson. Katy head coach Gary Joseph and former South Carroll skipper Bob Ledbetter are being inducted in the Coaches Category Honoring Eddie Joseph, and Craig Way is entering in the Dave Campbell Contributor to the Game media category.
“It is the highest thing that can happen to a high school coach or a high school football player, I think, in the state of Texas,” West said. “To me, it’s something I’ve never dreamed of.”
After playing at Hardin-Simmons under Pro Football Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh, West re-joined Wood as an assistant coach in 1958 and again in 1963 at Brownwood. Together, they turned the Lions into one of the state’s most dominant forces, winning six state championships, 13 district titles and reaching the playoffs 15 times from 1963-85.
Wood was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1984. Now his sidekick on the sideline will join him.
“The coaches in my life got me going in the right direction,” West said. “I lived in the same town with coach Wood every year since 1951, except for three, before he passed away. He’s just like my second daddy.”
After starring as a defensive lineman at Stamford, West used Wood’s connection to Hardin-Simmons — it was Wood’s alma mater — to join the Cowboys, where he earned all-conference honors.
Baugh took over head coaching duties before West’s senior season, moving up from an assistant role following his retirement from the Washington Redskins in 1952. And he appeared to still be spry from his playing days.
“We were playing Cincinnati, and when you warm up, you have maybe three quarterbacks throwing and your receivers running fast routes,” West said. “Well, we would have two quarterbacks throwing, and he would be over there and having them run pass routes and punt it to them. He could punt as accurately as anybody I had ever seen. And it would be a perfect spiral.”
When West’s eligibility ran out, Baugh offered him a chance to stick around as a graduate assistant so he could finish his degree.
“If it hadn’t been for that, I don’t know for sure if I had ever graduated from college,” West said.
As a coach, the wins quickly poured in at Brownwood. The Lions won four state titles in their first eight years under Wood and West, then grabbed two more in 1978 and 1981.
Wood retired in 1985 with 396 coaching wins, the most in state history at the time. Another assistant on the staff during Brownwood’s dynasty, Morris Southall, is also in the Hall of Fame.
West still lives in Brownwood, but he now has ties to another program more than 200 miles away. His son, Glen West, has served as head coach of Brenham for the last 19 years, demonstrating the same sense of commitment to a single program that his father did at Brownwood for decades.
“It helps if you can stay in a community and have some success,” the elder West said.
In Brownwood, the Lions recently named a new head coach, as Kyle Maxfield takes over the program after seven years at Shallowater.
West has already reached out to welcome him to the area.
“I had him over to eat last night,” he said. “I’m getting back close to the situation.”