Former EHS football coach authors book

Photo by John Bryant
Former Elizabethton High football coach Tom Pugh shows his new book.


  Perhaps the least glamorous position on a football team is guard. Guards toil in relative obscurity, responsible for plugging holes on defense, and sacrificing their bodies protecting quarterbacks or springing blocks to free running backs for their headline grabbing dashes to glory.
  If anyone appreciates those anonymous warriors, it is their coaches. Tom Pugh knows this. He should -- he coached high school guards and their comrades on the line for 26 years (including a three-year stint as head coach of the Elizabethton Cyclones), and he played that position at old Morristown High for a coach who valued his unsung heroes as much or more than he did the flashy kids talked about in barber shops and country stores on Saturday mornings after the big game.
  Young Tom Pugh had no doubt that his coach appreciated him. One of the signs displayed in the coach's office read, "One blocker is worth 25 running backs." The coach who hung that sign was Petie Siler.
  I know this because I just finished reading a book about Petie. I intended just to browse through it when I plucked the eye-catching volume off my table around 8:30 a.m. a couple mornings ago.
  Three hours later I put it down, having finished a wonderful walk along the path of life traveled by, as the book is titled, "Petie Siler, Morristown's Legendary Coach." Tom Pugh wrote it.
  Don't let the title fool you, though...this book is not just about Petie Siler. It is about the kids who played for him and their successes on and off the playing field. It is about big games and wonderful years...indeed, it is a chronicle of the history and identity of an entire community impacted by a remarkable man.
  The volume's 222 pages are filled with dozens of photgraphs, rosters, newsclippings and anecdotes related to the 30-plus year career of Coach Siler, in addition to biographical data about Petie and his family presented in early chapters.
  Petie, whose was actually christened Wymer George Siler at birth, was introduced to football at age 6 while attending Baker-Himel School, a private school in Knoxville that emphasized student participation in athletic endeavors.
  Petie completed 10 years at Baker-Himel, then enrolled at Knox Central, where he graduated in 1915 after two years of excelling on the school's football, basketball, and track teams. He was an All City/County halfback, and also won state championships in the 100- and 220-yard dashes.
  After high school Petie continued his football career at the University of Delaware, playing there in 1915 before transferring to the University of Tennessee for the 1916 season, only to see his college grid days ended when he was declared ineligible at midseason due to his playing the prior year at the other school.
  That bump in the road was probably a blessing in disguise for a disappointed young Siler, however, for shortly after being declared ineligible, Petie was contacted and asked to assist with the Central High football team, and the first step of a long and illustrious coaching career was taken.
  Petie Siler coached the Knoxville High Trojans football, baseball, basketball, and track teams while attending UT law school from 1919-1921, winning state championships in football and track during his tenure there.
  Petie left the Trojans to coach the UT freshman football team, where he compiled a three year record of eight wins, four losses and one tie. While coaching the UT track team in 1925, Siler became became acquainted with a young Bob Neyland, who would later establish the Vols as a perrenial college football power.
  Coach Siler arrived in Morristown in 1925 and, except for the war years of 1943-44 when he served as a frontline volunteer for the Red Cross in places like North Africa and the Phillipines, touched literally thousands of young lives in that East Tennessee town until he hung up his whistle after the 1951 season.
  The beloved coach headed the school's football, basketball (boys and girls),\ and baseball teams, producing a number of college and pro athletes, including a 5-10, 155-pound phenom named Ermal Allen, who played football for Bear Bryant and basketball for Adoph Rupp at the University of Kentucky before embarking on his own coaching career that culminated as Tom Landry's offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.
  Petie coached track, including a quartet of runners who set a national high school record in 1928 for the two-mile relay. He coached golf, tennis... even bowling and badmitton teams...in addition to his duties as the school's physical ed teacher, and he started an intramural program to provide opportunities for all high school kids to play organized sports.
  The old coach, who was inducted into the TSSAA Hall of Fame on March 20, 2004, lived to see many of his proteges go on to become (in Tom Pugh's introductory words) "faithful fathers and mothers, doctors, dentists, nurses, teachers, coaches, lawyers, pastors, businessmen and hard-working blue -collar workers."
  Petie Siler passed away in 1972 at the age of 77. If he is looking down (and I suspect he is...good coaches are always watching their ballplayers), he has witnessed one of his players add another title to that impressive list -- author.
  I can just about hear ol' Petie now. I'll bet he's saying something like, "Well done, Tom Pugh...I appreciate the book, son...not often one of my guards scores a touchdown...but we still gotta talk about that block you missed against Elizabethton back in '48. Report to my office when you get here."
  Copies of the book ($27.50 plus s/h) can be ordered by contacting Tom Pugh @ (423) 349-4328 or by visiting the website www.petiesiler.com.