HOUSTON – Earl Campbell thought of Bum Phillips as a second father and summed up the sentiments of many on Tuesday as he remembered his former coach.
"There will never be another Bum Phillips," Campbell said.
Phillips, the folksy Texas football coach who led the Houston Oilers during their Luv Ya Blue heyday, died on Oct. 18 at age 90 at his ranch in Goliad, Texas.
He was buried in a private ceremony in Goliad on Oct. 23. Tuesday was a public memorial service attended by dozens of his former players including Campbell, who starred for his Oilers teams.
"When I had a chance to visit with him before he passed away, I told him: 'Bum I want you to know this man, you sure made a difference in my life,'" Campbell said. "And of course he always says: 'Oh EC, you're the one.' So I'm going to miss him."
Phillips' son Wade Phillips, the defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, says the remembrance will help heal the family's grief.
"He treated people the way you'd like to be treated and he made you feel special," Wade Phillips said.
Campbell wasn't the only player who thought of Phillips as a father figure.
"He was like a father to all of us," former Oilers quarterback Dan Pastorini said. "He was a coach that taught us about a lot of things, a lot of things relating to football, but more things pertaining to life and making us better men and for that I'm grateful."
Born Oail Andrew Phillips Jr. in 1923 in Orange, Phillips was a Texas original in his blue jeans, boots and trademark white Stetson — except at the Astrodome or any other dome stadium because he was taught it was disrespectful to wear a hat indoors.
"Mama always said that if it can't rain on you, you're indoors," Phillips said.
Phillips loved the Oilers and when coaching the team in the 1970s, he famously said of the Cowboys: "They may be 'America's Team,' but we're Texas' team."
He took over as coach of the Oilers in 1975 and led Houston to two AFC championship games before he was fired in 1980. He was responsible for drafting Heisman Trophy winner Campbell, the player who was largely credited with the success of the franchise.
"I just played with a group of guys that made me look good," Campbell said. "And I was coached by a guy that made me look good and we just fit each other. He was an unbelievable guy and a terrific person."
Hundreds filled Houston mega church Lakewood on Tuesday night to celebrate his life and share stories about the one-of-a-kind character.
The pulpit was decorated with a towering oil derrick made of red and white carnations adorned with sparkly light blue letters that spelled out: 'Luv Ya Bum!" Next to it was a much smaller flower arrangement in the shape of the Texans mascot.
Phillips spent a lot of time in his last years around the Texans after Wade Phillips was hired as an assistant coach. Texans owner Bob McNair, general manager Rick Smith, coach Gary Kubiak, defensive end J.J. Watt and several other Texans players attended the service.
"He was always very encouraging, very positive and always a great supporter of the Texans," McNair said. "He just never had a bad thing to say, and it was just nice to have that level of support from someone who had been so successful for so many years in the NFL. I always appreciated that because he didn't have to do it."
The Oilers lost to Pittsburgh 34-5 in the AFC championship game in Campbell's rookie year. Houston returned to the game the following season only to be beaten again by the Steelers, this time 27-13.
The Oilers went 11-5 in 1980 but lost to Oakland in the AFC wild-card round and Phillips was fired. He was 55-35 with the team in the regular season.
Fans loved his no-nonsense demeanor and were entertained by his often blunt comments. Many shared their favorite Bumisms on Tuesday. Wade Phillips said his top one came when Campbell's was unable to finish a mile run.
"When it's first-and-a-mile, I won't give it to him," Bum Phillips said.
Campbell chuckled when reminded of that quote.
"A lot of people think he ran me too much, but it wasn't hard to carry," he said. "I just only ran. The guys did all the work."
He left Texas to coach the Saints in 1981, going 27-42 before retiring after the 1985 season.
Linebacker Robert Brazile, who played for Phillips with the Oilers, choked up when speaking about him on Tuesday.
"It makes me sad to know he's not here," Brazile said. "Now it's our job and it's your job to be here for others just like Bum was for us."
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