CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Phil Danaher retires from coaching as the winningest football coach in Texas high school football history, with 490 wins in more than 50 seasons.
However, his legacy is so much more than the wins and the name of the football field in Calallen, it’s the impact he’s had on his players, opposing coaches, and high school football as a whole in the state of Texas.
“You grow up your whole life, and that guy’s like superman to you,” said Karnes City head football coach Daniel Oelschlegel, who played for Danaher in the early 2000’s. “He got the job in ’84 and I was born in ’85, I don’t know what life is like without him there. I don’t know what’s going to happen at Calallen, but I know it’s going to be odd without him there.”
Oelschlegel said Danaher is one of the biggest reasons he wanted to get into coaching.
“The main thing I learned from him is this job is nothing about football, it’s about building relationships with these kids, and they are lifelong relationships, just like mine has been with him. They taught us how to live, how to be a man, and that’s something I’ll always be grateful for from him,” he said. “His whole goal in life is to create better young men who come out of that program, and teach them to be better husbands and fathers.”
The moment Oelschlegel knew he wanted to coach for a living came in a senior year match-up with rival Gregory-Portland. Oelschlegel, a lineman, noticed one of the Wildcat defensive ends rushing in a way the team could combat if they ran ’35-G’. He told coach Danaher they should run the play.
“He looked at me and said, ‘alright, 35-G, let’s run it.’ I think at that moment, it seemed like a small thing, but he instilled that confidence in me, that he trusted me. I said 'I think I want to do this coaching thing for a career',” he said. “Just little things like that have an impact on your life.”
Oelschlegel’s younger brother, Sam, graduated two years later than him, and he too became a football coach because of Danaher’s influence in his life.
“He had a really good way of relating to kids, relating to me, personally, and building relationships,” said Sam Oelschlegel, who is the defensive coordinator for Montgomery. “I know it’s kind of cliche to say, but it kind of made me the man I am today, as how I approach different things, with my family, with my work. I learned so much going through the Calallen football program.”
He said the entire staff at Calallen, led by Danaher, helped mold him into the person and coach he is today.
“Coaches are a second father to a lot of people. So, him and the Calallen coaching staff, everyone I played for, had a huge impact on me in my life, and it all stemmed from how Coach Danaher ran his program, and the relationship he took the time to build with me,” Sam Oelschlegel said.
Both Daniel and Sam Oelschlegel still keep in touch with Danaher today. They said he was a mentor to them when they were young coaches, and continues to be important to this day.
“He’s like family to me… no he’s not like family, he is family to me. Him and his wife Anita have been such a big influence in my life, not just mine, but really everybody that has come through that program, he’s tried to make a better man out of them when they leave,” Daniel Oelschlegel said.
Danaher hasn’t just impacted those who have played under him, he’s also been a big help to those who stood across the field from him.
“He’s been really great for me and my development as a coach,” said Flour Bluff head football coach Chris Steinbruck. “We appreciate all he’s done for young men, and the coaching profession.”
Steinbruck met Danaher his first year at Flour Bluff, back in 2002, and said their relationship grew from competitors to friends over the years.
“If we weren’t playing, we were supporting each other. Just the other night, after our loss in the state semi-finals, I got a very nice text message from Coach Danaher congratulating us on a great season,” Steinbruck said. “A lot of people on the outside don’t realize there’s a great respect among coaches. Just because we compete against each other, and we’re rivals, doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate each other’s friendship.”
Gregory-Portland head coach Brent Davis’ father coached at Calallen in the 1970’s. Davis has known Danaher for a long time.
“He’s a great coach, a great mentor to a lot of young coaches. He ran a program that was envied by everybody. He’s going to be missed, he’s just a legend,” Davis said. “It’s just a sad day for high school sports when someone like that retires.”
Steinbruck said Danaher’s success was motivation to him and other coaches around the Coastal Bend.
“Calallen has been an extremely successful program, and that’s made us a better program at Flour Bluff, because we were tired of getting beaten,” he chuckled. “He really put Coastal Bend football on the map, and really gave other programs, big programs like theirs, the opportunity to know if you work hard and do things right, you’ve got the opportunity to compete with the best in the state, and Coach Danaher has done that year in and year out.”
For the first time in a long time, Calallen has a vacancy as head coach, and it is left with a big hole to fill.
“I think naming the stadium after him is not enough, to be honest. Just the impact that he’s made, not just at Calallen, but in Texas high school football in general,” Daniel Oelschlegel said. “Yeah, he won a lot of games. But he’s so much more than that.”