Buster Gilbreth career highlights
• Years as head coach: 36
• Schools: Poteet, Cotulla, San Antonio Kennedy, Cuero, Houston North Shore, Pasadena Dobie, Fort Bend Clements
• Record: 224-92-3
Years as Cuero coach: 10
• Record: 107-22-3
• State Finals: 1970, 1973, 1974, 1975
• State Championships: 1973, 1974
Honors: Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor, Texas Sports Hall of Fame, Gobbler Hall of Fame
Halftime honor of William gilbreth (1/3)
Halftime honor of William gilbreth (2/3)
Halftime honor of William gilbreth (3/3)
CUERO - Buster Gilbreth lives very much in the present, but the past never seems far behind.
Gilbreth visited the Cuero High School cafetorium for the first time Friday, but the familiar site of Gobbler Stadium was within his view.
As he greeted former players and friends, it was clear where his thoughts were focused.
"It's the most wonderful thing in the world," Gilbreth said. "The only bad thing is they change and then you hug them and there they are. Those faces come right back at you."
Gilbreth is 82 and over three decades have passed since he coached his final football game at Cuero.
But the Cuero Education Foundation had no trouble deciding to establish an Excellence in Education Grant in his name.
Gilbreth virtually put Cuero on the map. The Smiley native coached the Gobblers from 1969 through 1979. He compiled a 107-22-3 record and made nine playoff appearances in his 11 seasons at a time when only one team from each district advanced to postseason play.
Gilbreth led Cuero to four state final appearances and two state championships. The Gobblers won 44 consecutive games - 26 of them by shutout - from 1973 to 1975, which is still the third-longest winning streak in state history.
"It was the best time of my life," said Gilbreth, who retired from a 36-year coaching career after the 1990 season with a 224-92-3 record and lives in San Antonio with his wife, Frances.
"I just had some wonderful kids," he said. "I had some dedicated kids and we pushed them hard and they responded. I just had a wonderful coaching staff. They were dedicated people with a bunch of dedicated kids and it just turned out good for us."
Ben Colwell worked in education for most of his life before retiring as the superintendent of the Alvarado school district.
But Colwell's fondest memories come from the years he spent on Gilbreth's staff in Cuero.
"It was probably the best time in my profession in education," he said. "Buster was just a super guy to work for. He let you do what you wanted to do or needed to do, but he gave you direction and oversight."
The Gobblers made the playoffs in Gilbreth's second season after finishing in a three-way tie for first and winning a series of coin flips before advancing to the state final.
"Your star players are always going to be your star players," said Henry Sheppard, a member of the 1970 team, who went on to play at SMU and in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders. "What differentiates coaching is being able to get your 'C' players to play like 'B' players and your 'B' players to play like 'A' players.
"That's tied back into the fundamentals he taught. If you're fundamentally sound even if somebody may be a better athlete or playing on a better team, if they're not fundamentally sound it gives you an advantage."
Gilbreth admits he was tough on his players, but was thankful for the support of the school district, parents and community.
"The offseason program was very rough," he said. "We brought them up and we watched them and we tried to find a place where they could play. We put them in that place and then we sold them on the idea that they could be real good in that place. Our kids at that time did what we asked them to do and I asked them to do a lot."
Alan McWhorter started in Gilbreth's program in the seventh grade and went on to become the starting quarterback on the 1973 and 1974 state championship teams.
"He installed his own system and you were expected to follow it," McWhorter said. "It wasn't cruel, it wasn't harsh, but it was very difficult. The ones who couldn't hang left. So by the time we got to my freshman year we lost one game while I was in high school while I was on the JV."
Gilbreth has watched the game change over the years, but doubts he would do anything differently.
"The passing game is what they seem to thrive on now," Gilbreth said. "We threw the ball to the halfback and he ran with it. If I had to go back into coaching, I'd start with the defense and try to go back to running the ball."
Gilbreth and his wife keep busy by traveling and spending time with their three daughters and six grandchildren.
But he was thankful for the opportunity to revisit the past while helping to brighten the future of education in Cuero.
"It's the most wonderful thing Cuero could do for somebody," Gilbreth said. "I'm just so appreciative of the people of Cuero. This is a wonderful thing. Who would ever expect it. I wish my momma and daddy were alive so they could say, 'Something good happened to that boy.'"
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.