HAL SELF, QUARTERBACK, 1938-40, MORGAN COUNTY SPORTS HALL OF FAME, 1990
Widdy, my wife, and I interviewed Coach Hal Self May of 1997. He met us at a service station between Decatur and Florence. We were preparing a video to give to Clyde and Polly Smith to help celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. This story is taken from that video.
Hal said, “I was the best man at Clyde Smith’s wedding,” I always told Clyde jokingly. I would always remind Clyde that there was only one thing he could do better than me, kick the football! He and I played together during the 1939-40 football seasons, Clyde was my best friend.
For many years we played Huntsville twice each year. The one game that stands out in my mind is the first game against Huntsville in 1940. I remember the game as one of those “knock-down, drag-out” games. It was late in the fourth quarter and we were leading 7-6. Huntsville was driving the ball down the field, but we finally stopped them on our 40 yard line. On fourth and five they decided to punt. The kick rolled out of bounds near our five yard line. After three plays, we had gained only five yards. The only choice was to punt. I was quarterback and calling the plays. Clyde Smith was standing on our goal line ready to receive the snap. The entire team was dedicated to blocking the on-coming linemen, who were determined to block the kick. I was in position to block Huntsville’s rushing left end. I saw the ball out of the corner of my eye as it sailed toward Clyde. Here came the rush! Each Red Raider hit his man with all his might. We stopped them but Clyde still had the ball. The entire team kept waiting to hear Clyde’s foot hit the ball. The Huntsville team hit us again with their charge. Finally, after what seemed like five minutes, we heard Clyde’s foot hit the ball. We released our blocks and ran down field to tackle the return man. As we ran, we looked over our shoulders and saw the ball as it hit the ground and bounced out of bounds. It was a 68 yard punt from the line of scrimmage with no return.” Clyde said, “If the ball had continued down field it would have been a 90 yarder.” Coach Ogle said, as recorded in the paper, “Clyde’s kick won the game.” I asked Clyde, “Why did it take you so long to punt the ball? You sure did put a lot of pressure on the blockers!” Clyde said, “I wanted to make a perfect kick!” Final score, Decatur 7 and Huntsville 6!
Shortly before Coach Self’s 86th birthday, we sent the following tribute to Shirley, Hal’s wife. I received a telephone call from her soon after she received the tribute. She thanked us for remembering Hal.
A TRIBUTE TO HAL SELF
Football has a great and beloved man in our friend, Hal Self. You have served this sport for almost 70 years with distinction as a player, coach, teacher, and molder of men. Your knowledge, character, and rare capacity of finding and motivating the hidden skills of young athletes have inspired many. As a teacher, leader, and coach you have few peers. Your genuine love of the game and its players was accompanied by the rare gift of kindly humor which has endeared you to all that have been blessed by your friendship. We look up to you and honor you as a gentleman of the Old South. We give you this honor because you have contributed so much and so richly to the life of others. Those of us, who were privileged to play the game with you, came to know the outstanding quality of your character. We remember you as a great and kindly athlete, coach, and friend. May God continue to bless you with good health and a merry heart.
Coach Self died peacefully at his home with his family on June 26, 2008. We lost a good man.