SAN ANTONIO – Start a conversation with Churchill High School football coach Ron Harris about his extensive coaching experience on the high school and college levels, and he’ll come back with his characteristic self-deprecating humor.
“It just means I’m old,” Harris, 58, said Thursday with a chuckle.
Harris is no different when he’s asked about his impressive resume.
“I’ve just hung on to the coattails of some pretty good people,” he said.
Harris has proven to be a pretty good coach himself. Defensive coordinator at Churchill for three seasons before succeeding Glenn Hill in 2015, Harris guided the Chargers to the playoffs and a 6-5 finish in his first year at the helm.
Churchill, 6-2 overall and 3-1 in District 26-6A this season, plays Roosevelt at 7 p.m. Saturday at Comalander Stadium.
The Chargers are tied with Johnson for second place in the 26-6A standings, a half-game behind defending champion Reagan, which beat Churchill 31-6 three weeks ago. The Chargers bounced back the next week with a 17-7 victory over Johnson, which plays Reagan on Friday night.
Churchill, No. 8 in the KENS 5 area rankings, ends the regular season against MacArthur on Oct. 28.
Now in his 36th year as a coach, Harris has carved out a career that includes stints as an assistant coach at the University of Houston (2003-05), Texas Tech (2000-02) and the U.S. Naval Academy (1994-94). He was also head coach at Western New Mexico in 1995, and was an assistant coach at Glendale Community College in Arizona for two seasons (1988-89).
“We know he has a lot of experience, and that always is good,” Churchill quarterback Jordon Billups said. “You just know that he knows what he’s talking about, so we buy into what he says 100 percent.”
Harris has been a high school coach in San Antonio since 2006, when he joined Don Byrd’s staff at Alamo Heights after his three seasons at UH. Family considerations factored into his decision to move to San Antonio and coach on the high school level.
“My wife has a sister here, so I wanted to go somewhere that she had family around, and our girls could be around cousins,” Harris said.
Harris got married in 2002 and his two daughters, now 13 and 11, were born when he was coaching at UH.
“You go to a lot of coaching clinics and conventions and you run into old coaches that are doing things and talking about having relationships with their grandkids that they never had with their own kids because of all the time they had to put in,” Harris said. “It wasn’t the only reason but it was a big factor in coming back to high school.”
Harris said he also likes sleeping in his own bed every night, referring to the recruiting trips that are such a big part of a college coach’s job.
“When I was single and even when I was married and didn’t have kids, you know, no big deal,” Harris said, referring to going on the road to recruit.
But that changed when his daughters, Amy and Brynn, in the seventh and sixth grades, respectively, were born.
“It’s still hard during football season because I stay busy, but I get to spend more time with them in the offseason because I’m not out recruiting,” Harris said.
Born in St. Louis, Harris graduated from Quartz Hill (Calif.) High School in 1976. He attended California Lutheran in Thousand Oaks on a football scholarship. Cal Lutheran was where the Dallas Cowboys had their training camp for years when Tom Landry was their coach.
“That used to our summer job, working the Cowboys’ camp,” Harris said.
He graduated from Cal Lutheran in December 1980, and started his coaching career at Moorpark High School in Moorpark, Calif., in 1981. He also was an assistant coach at Westlake High School in Westlake Village, Calif. (1982, 1983), Horizon (Ariz.) High School (1984) and Paradise Valley (Ariz.) High School (1985, 1996-99).
Harris also served stints as a graduate assistant at two other universities, Northern Arizona (1986, 1987) and Utah (1990-91).
While Harris said he enjoyed coaching on the college level, he derives a special satisfaction from seeing high-school kids mature as they go through the football program.
“To me, the biggest thing is more about development at the high school level, whether it’s player development physically or character development as they really grow from being young teenagers into young men,” he said. “At the college level, you can still have some influence on them, but in a lot of ways, when you get them at 18 or 19 years old, some of that stuff is already set.”
“It’s really a lot about X’s and O’s in college, wins and losses, and doing whatever you can do to win the game. At the high school level, it’s more about developing young men – period. The wins and losses, yeah, that’s important, but not as important as turning out good kids.”