To watch Myers Park High's football teams play
offense in the 1950s and '60s was to catch a glimpse of the sport's future.
The creator of those innovative and wide-open
Mustangs attacks - which featured pro-style and spread formations, shotgun
snaps, double-reverses and lots of flea flickers that were unheard of on the
high school level then - was coach Gus Purcell.
"He was such a forward thinker," said
Jeff Beaver, executive director of the Charlotte Regional Sports Commission and
one of several Mustangs quarterbacks Purcell sent to play college football.
"He was way ahead of his time."
Purcell began coaching at Myers Park in 1952, before the forward pass was in vogue. As the tactic grew in popularity in the
pros, Purcell sought to bring it to Myers Park.
Purcell would spend Sunday afternoons studying
either the Washington Redskins or Baltimore Colts on television. He would
diagram their offensive plays and install versions of them in his Mustangs'
playbook on Monday.
"He had real creativity," said Charlotte attorney Ray Farris, another former Mustangs quarterback. "He studied
incessantly, even going to Baltimore to see what they were doing. Even the
scouting reports he had for us were as good or better than college scouting
Purcell grew up in Laurinburg and was a backup
running back behind Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice at North Carolina
from 1946-49. It was there that he met his wife Bonnie, who was a majorette.
Gus and Bonnie would raise three children - Lucy, Gary and Jimmy - after they
came to Charlotte.
Purcell's Mustangs teams were 209-75-15. He
coached in the 1960 Shrine Bowl and the East-West All-Star game in 1959. He was
inducted into the N.C. High School Hall of Fame in 1995.
After Purcell retired from coaching in 1971, he
ran a successful quarterbacks camp in south Charlotte for several years. He
also owned a barbecue restaurant and fish camp in Charlotte.
In 2004, Purcell's former players held a reunion
of sorts for him.
Randy Short, a quarterback on Myers Park's unbeaten 1965 team, recalled then how Purcell wanted the Mustangs to play, and how
that philosophy transcended football.
"Coach would tell us, 'When we're on our
own 2, 98 yards from the end zone, we don't run three downs and punt. I want
you to think about scoring. Ninety-eight yards to go, by golly, we're getting
ready to score.'
"I think that's a good way to
approach life," Short said.
Obituary - Published in Charlotte Observer on March 27, 2011
Augustus Buchanan Purcell (Gus)
Augustus Buchanan Purcell
-- Augustus Buchanan Purcell, 87, of Laurinburg passed away peacefully
on March 25, 2011 at Scotia Village Retirement Community in Laurinburg.
He was born November 25, 1923 in Winston-Salem, NC, to Charles Augustus Purcell and Anna Meta Buchanan Purcell. He grew up in Laurinburg during the Great Depression. He graduated from Laurinburg High School in June, 1942 where he played football, baseball and basketball and was voted 'Most Popular' by the senior class. He held a number of jobs in Laurinburg during his high school years, including working at Belk's Department Store on Main Street and surveying land in Scotland County. He was working as a 'soda jerk' at the Laurinburg Drug Store when news reached Laurinburg of the attack onPearl Harbor.
graduating from high school he entered UNC Chapel Hill and completed
the fall quarter before attempting to enlist in the Marine Corps. Although
he was rejected by the Marines because of his eyesight, a Marine
Sergeant called him to the side and said if he really wanted to serve
with the Marines there was a way he could do it even with poor eyesight. The Sergeant suggested that Mr. Purcell join the Navy and enlist in its Medical Corps as a Pharmacist's Mate. Since the Marines did not have their own medical corps, they relied on the Navy to provide medics. Mr. Purcell then enlisted in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, and after completing medical training at Bethesda, MD, was sent to California and
then to the Pacific Theater where he served as a Corpsman with Marine
Fighter Squadron VMF 314, stationed on various islands, including Okinawa. He returned home in 1946 after serving more than 3 years as a Corpsman alongside the Marines.
He enrolled back at UNC Chapel Hill in March 1946 and made the football squad at Carolina later that fall. He played on several Charlie 'Choo Choo' Justice era teams and earned a football letter and a trip with the team to the 1949 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. While at UNC he joined Sigma Chi fraternity and also met his future wife Bonnie Richardson Thrash of Asheville, NC. They were married in Asheville on March 18, 1949 and after a hair-raising honeymoon trip over snow-covered mountains to Gatlinburg, TN, returned back to Chapel Hill, where they lived until he completed a Master's Degree in Education in 1951.
His first and only job as teacher and coach was at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, NC. He was there for its opening year in 1951 and remained there until he retired in 1980. He coached several sports at Myers Park but was most noted for starting and developing a successful, winning football program. His 1965 team went undefeated and shared the state 4A championship. He
maintained enduring friendships over the years with many former players
and associates, a number of whom achieved success at the college and
pro level. He coached the West squad in the North Carolina East/West High School All Star Game in 1959 and coached North Carolina in the 1960 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in Charlotte. In 1966 he received the Sportsman of the Year award presented by The Sportsman Club of Charlotte. He was inducted into the NC High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1995. The football stadium atMyers Park High School was named in his honor at a dedication ceremony at halftime on September 9, 2005.
He was also involved in many entrepreneurial ventures in Charlotte including the Gus Purcell Day Camp, the Gus Purcell Quarterback School, and the Gus Purcell Bar-B-Que and Fish Camp. The Gus Purcell Day Camp was eventually sold to the YMCA and operates today as a Y in southeast Charlotte. The GusPurcell Quarterback School was sold years ago but continues to operate under his name. After retiring from teaching, he remained in Charlotte and worked for Harris Teeter for six years and for Park Meridian Bank for eight years.
He was an avid golfer with his wife Bonnie, and after retiring from Park Meridian Bank, moved from Charlotte to the Deercroft Golf Club community nearWagram, NC where they both played often and hosted the annual Purcell Family Golf Tournament for many years.
is survived by his wife of 62 years Bonnie Purcell of Laurinburg; son
Gary Purcell and his wife Beth of Holly Springs, NC; daughter Lucy Sojka and her husband Nick of Laurinburg; grandchildren John Purcell, Andrea Purcell and Ashley Purcell of Charlotte and Eleanor Sojka and Joe Sojka of Laurinburg; sister Elizabeth Newton of Alpharetta, GA; brother Edwin Purcell and his wife Tink of
Clinton, NC; brother Senator William Purcell and his wife Kathleen of
Laurinburg, NC; sister-in-law Joyce Purcell of Kernersville, NC, wife
of his late brother Archie Purcell of Fayetteville, NC; 13 nieces and
nephews; and 28 great-nieces and nephews. In addition to his brother
Archie, he was preceded in death by his son Jim Purcell of Hickory, NC.
The family will receive friends at McDougald Funeral Home and Crematorium in Laurinburg from 6-8:00 p.m. on Monday, March 28. Burial with military rites will be held at Hillside Cemetery at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 29. A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Laurinburg Presbyterian Church, Church Community Services, 108 South Gill Street, Laurinburg, NC 28352 or the charity of your choice.
Funeral arrangements by McDougald Funeral Home and Crematorium, 305 E. Church Street, Laurinburg, NC 28352. Condolences may be sent at: www.mcdougald.com.
Published in Charlotte Observer on March 27, 2011