SAN ANTONIO -- Before he was inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year, Highlands High School graduate David Hill praised former Texas A&I coach Ron Harms for helping him develop into one of the best college and pro tight ends of his day.
Harms, who will be enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame this summer, was a master teacher during a head-coaching career that started at Concordia College (Neb.) in 1962 and ended at Texas A&I, now Texas A&M-Kingsville, after the 1999 season.
Harms will become the seventh former Javelina to go into the College Football Hall of Fame, joining Coach Gil Steinke and players Dwayne Nix, Richard Ritchie, Johnny Bailey, Darrell Green and John Randle.
"It's an honor to become part of that group," Harms said Tuesday night.
Harms was offensive coordinator under Steinke in 1974 and 1975, and coached Ritchie, a crafty veer quarterback who went 39-0 as the Javelinas' starter, during those two seasons. Harms was head coach when Green, Bailey and Randle played for the Javelinas.
Green and Randle are also in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I'm so excited for him," said Ritchie, who completed his career in 1976 when the Javelinas finished 13-0 and won a third consecutive national championship. "There is no bigger fan on Earth of Coach Harms than me. When he joined our coaching staff in the spring of 1974, it was like manna from heaven for me."
"It didn't take me long to realize that he knew a lot about option football. I couldn't believe how good he was. He was a big, big part of our offensive turnaround and certainly of any success I might have had as an option quarterback. I'm just glad he's getting his due credit."
Enshrinement festivities July 20-21 in South Bend, Ind.
Harms, 75, learned of his selection for induction into the College Hall from former Javelinas sports information director Fred Nuesch on Monday.
"I was kind of surprised because I had kind of figured that something like that was not in the cards for me," Harms said, who lives in Aransas Pass. "To be honest with you, I would not have been surprised if it hadn't happened. I'm surprised that it did."
"I'm certainly very grateful for the honor, and I will be happy to accept it on behalf of the players and coaches because this is a team deal. I always got great support from our administration and I was always surrounded by a lot of outstanding people."
Harms will be enshrined as a member of the College Hall's 2012 Divisional Class, composed of players and coaches from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-AA), Divisions II and III and the NAIA.
The induction festivities are scheduled July 20-21 in South Bend, Ind.
The College Hall’s Football Bowl Subdivision Class of 2012, announced last week, includes four players who graduated from San Antonio high schools – Ty Detmer (Southwest/Brigham Young), Tommy Kramer (Lee/Rice), Gabe Rivera (Jefferson/Texas Tech) and Scott Thomas (Jay/Air Force Academy).
Harms went 172-72 in 21 seasons as head coach at A&I/A&M-Kingsville. He guided the Javelinas to their sixth NAIA national title in his first season as head coach in 1979, following a three-year stint as an assistant coach under Grant Teaff at Baylor.
Harms played key role in A&I's 1974 turnaround season
A&I went 25-0 and won NAIA Division I national titles during Harms' two seasons as offensive coordinator. Harms had just resigned as head coach at Adams State (Colo.) in the spring of 1974 when he went to Kingsville seeking a job on Steinke's staff.
What he got initially was a "tryout" as offensive coordinator during spring training. Harms, a master of the option game, persuaded Steinke to go to the veer offense after he was hired that spring and the Javelinas took to it like ducks to water. After going 2-8 in 1973, A&I rolled to a 13-0 season in 1974.
"He was the catalyst that got us going," Hill said. "His positive attitude and his ability not to panic when we did get in those situations when we were behind were big keys to our success."
Hill was a captain of the 1974 and 1975 teams before going on to a 12-year NFL career with the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams.
Steinke, who died in 1995, described Harms' impact on his career as a "breath of fresh air."
The Javelinas remained a perennial small-college power during Harms' 21 seasons as head coach, advancing to the NCAA Division II title game once and the semifinals four times.
"I was wonderfully blessed," Harms said. "We always felt like we had the goal of a national championship realistically in our minds every season. We felt we had people who could compete. It's hard for me to say what I'm proud of the most.
"I had some great assistant coaches who did such a great job recruiting and worked hard, although they didn't get paid much. We had hard-working, blue-collar kids, and we were supported so wonderfully by our community and our administration. It was a great atmosphere."