In an exclusive interview, Eyewitness Sports Director Bob Allen talked with the coaching legend about going from a football field to a pasture.
He was the singular figure who put pro football in Houston on the map. The folksy coach with the boots and hat was only here seven years, but those 'Luv Ya Blue' years remain frozen in time. We caught up with the coach to hear from Bum Phillips in his own words.
We found Bum Phillips happily ensconced on his horse ranch in Goliad. He's nearly 86-years-old and still sharp. His ranch home is thick in football and cowboy artifacts. Still those who were here in Houston in the late 70s remember Bum and the boys.
"I've been out of Houston. I've been living here for 15 years, but it's hard to believe that people still recognize me after that length of time," said Phillips.
When I asked Bum why he thought that might be, he responded, "I don't know. Evidently, I'm real pretty."
It was his ability to be real, to let me be men and to work together like a family that were key to his success.
"I tried to make all the players feel part of the team. Everybody in Houston got interested in football and they not only got interested in football, they got interested in the football players. The fans felt like they were a part of the team," said Phillips.
After two straight losses to the Steelers in the AFC championship game, Bum and the boys came home twice to the Astrodome packed with fans thanking them for the effort. Pretty emotional stuff which begat Bum's most famous quote: "Next year, we're going to kick the SOB in."
When I asked him about that quote now, Bum said, "They wanted to hear something nice and I wanted to tell them something nice. I didn't want to say we're just gonna try harder."
Over 30 years later, he's still coach to his Oilers players. Carl Mauck, Dan Pastorini, Robert Brazile, Kenny Burroughs, and Ted Thompson all come see Bum at the ranch at least once a year. Earl Campbell too.
"Awfully good kid," said Phillips of Campbell.
On Dan Pastorini, "Best guy I've ever run across. So honest."
Phillips also praised Hall-of-Famer Elvin Bethea, saying, "he's what you call a quiet leader."
Now his fall Sundays are spent watching his son Wade coach one of the most high-profile teams in sports, the Dallas Cowboys.
"I raised Wade up until he went into coaching and then I hired him for five years in Houston and five more years in New Orleans," said Bum. "During that time, I had a chance to tell him everything that I knew."
Before I left Bum to the peace and quiet of his Goliad ranch, I asked him how he would like folks to remember him.
"As one of the guys. Which I am. I'm just one of the guys," said Bum.