Reflections on Bennie Edens
by Bill Settles


Eric Allen , Bennie Edens, Bill Settles and JJ Stokes

Dear San Diego and Point Lomans.

My best friend, your friend, our mentor, our “Coach” Bennie Edens passed away peacefully in his sleep around 3am Friday morning February 8th . Coach was 82 years old, born December 7th, 1925. He and his son Jimmie (who has been visiting since Christmas) came over to my house to watch the Super Bowl game last Sunday. It was like old times watching the game with him. The next Day (last Monday) he suffered a serious heart attack and had been in the hospital since then. Although he was weak, Jimmie, myself and a few others including his Pastor shared some private time with him.

I wrote the following piece for the PLHS Foundation and Alumni Association last December prior to his Birthday and hundreds of you responded with email greetings wishing him the best and sharing your memories. We spent that day and many days afterwards reading through pages and pages of “love”. On his behalf may I tell you how touched he was to hear from all of you.

Following this e-post to the Alumni I am happy to announce that due to the efforts of Alumni Association President Kim Jessop and John Freeman there is a Scholarship fund set up in Coach’s name and a large sign over the entrance to the Men’s locker room at Point Loma that says

“In Honor of
Bennie Edens
Coach* Motivator* Friend

A couple of weeks ago Coach was taken back to “Bennie Edens Stadium” at PL and proudly observed this tribute in person.

Bill Settles
PL ‘66
Quaterback

Coach Bennie Edens

He’s touched so many lives in Point Loma and San Diego. First he was a boxer and linebacker at Hoover High, then he played center for the Aztecs. As a young man he was a lifeguard in Ocean Beach. Then following graduation from San Diego State he came to Point Loma High School as a student teacher in 1948 the year I was born. He coached the Pointers for 55 years but he was much more than our coach wasn’t he?

Over the years hundreds of Point Lomans learned to swim each summer at the Kona Kai Club where Bennie served as “Activities Director” for 20+ years. I got to lifeguard there, thanks Coach! Some of you were classmates of son Jimmie and daughter Kathie (she was my girlfriend in Junior High and one of my best friends in High School). Tragically at age 23, Kathie and her newlywed husband Jim were returning to Whitworth College for “homecoming weekend” when they were killed in a fatal collision. Kathie survived long enough for her mother, Maxine and her father to fly up to Washington to say their good-byes. It would be the only missed days of work this educator ever took in his long, long career, never a sick day, never a well day off!

Many of you were on the faculty with Coach. For a number of you he was your gym class teacher. And for some of you around the county, he was that competitive son-of-gun head coach of the Pointers, and you knew year in and year out that when the Maroon and Gold lined up opposite your team that it was going to be a hard fought, tough battle. He had a history of head to head collisions with some of the finest football mentors in San Diego, Herb Meyers at El Camino, Birt Slater at Kearny, Escondido’s Chick Embry, Morse’s John Shacklet and Gene Edwards at La Jolla just to name a few. Did you know that at Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 he was named the NFL’s High School Football Coach of The Year!

Here’s something I never knew until recently, in the fifties he coached the Pointers to a Lion’s Tournament Championship in BASEBALL, really.

Playing for him was the best, my only complaint was he didn’t let me pass more, he always said it was my limitations not his coaching, then he would let out a big laugh. I hope many of you had a chance to share a meal, or share a moment or a laugh, perhaps talk a little about life, or reminisce about days gone by. Maybe you had the opportunity to philosophize with him about the “cover 3 defense versus cover 2 man under”. The man could talk football.

I think the luckiest of us were those who got to coach under his guidance, early on there was Punky Fristrom, Bill Hall, and Hugh Simpson, later Dick Huddleston, David Aros, Dave Schuler, Eddie Johns and many many more. Win or lose his staff would go out for an after game meal. Those were special times, lots of pride after a victory, lots of “what ifs” and “coach ‘em up guys” if the team had fallen.

Some of his players excelled beyond the Point: in the 60’s LB Jeff Staggs played for the Cardinals and Chargers, and in the 70’s Greg Slough, USC All American LB played for the Raiders and the Patriots. Later in the 80’s there was All Pro DB Eric Allen of the Eagles ( a soon to be Hall of Fame candidate), followed in the 90’s by PAC Ten Player of the Year, All American wide receiver, JJ Stokes, 1st round draft choice of the 49ers. La’Roi Glover is currently captain and starting defensive tackle for the St. Louis Rams. Six years ago while a member of the Saints La’Roi led the NFL in QB sacks.

While Coach appreciated the gifted athlete, the Team came first and his recognition of the contributions from the 3rd and 2nd string as well as the 1st string, endeared him to all. Over the years he evolved with the times. When I played for him his game time garb was a coat and tie, a la Landry, Lombardi orThe Bear. His hair was close cropped and so was ours. He was “the Coach” and when he barked we moved. His teams were always known for hard nosed defensive football. The quarterbacks of the 60’s yearned to air it out but most of time we ran a power trap or a sweep. We were a respected and a formidable opponent mirroring our Head Coach. Years later, in my second PL assistant coaching tour from ’87 to ’90, boy had things changed! There was Coach E usually in a Hawaiian shirt at practice his hair slightly longer and the hair of many of the players definitely longer. They still moved when he barked but there was less barking and more laughing and overall fun. We still played great defense but one year we had the two leading pass receivers in the state. He must have been doing something right, two of those five teams won CIF titles.

Coach just loved the kids at PL, those on or off the team. He cheered for all of them, girls and boys, in the classroom, on the basketball court, science fairs, surfing, orchestra, it didn’t matter what it was he just wanted them all to succeed. Ask Coach about “Pointer Pride” and chances are instead of football he’ll talk about his players becoming doctors, lawyers, cops, clergy, coaches and a especially those in the Armed Forces. There was a time when PL had 4 volunteer team doctors on the sideline during games, all of them former Pointer players. If you had a problem there was no better friend to have, his perspective, common sense and steadfast values served many a wayward PL adolescent well. He was the consummate father figure. I remember a time when I was one of his assistant coaches when he kept a kid on the team that football wise didn’t make the grade but Coach knew this kid was headed for problems if he was cut and being on the team may ultimately save this kid’s life, so a member of the team he became. He didn’t get a lot of playing time but he was a member of our PL football family, fraternity and legacy and by season’s end the roots of self discipline and hard work had grown deep and you could see this lost boy growing into a man and a winner. Years later the “kid” is a solid member of our community raising a family of his own.

And it didn’t end there, more than anything (except maybe a monster linebacker transfer) Bennie loved to run into the “grown ups” that played for him or learned to swim from him years ago. There are lots of us, from our 20’s into our 60’s. Some have even had the pleasure of watching their sons play for Coach. I can’t tell you the hundreds of times (really) someone has come up to Coach when we had been out for a meal and said “Hi Coach, I played for you in so and so “ or “you taught me to swim 30 years ago” Coach’s face would light up, and more times than naught he would totally remember the person. That always thrilled him, seeing old friends and players always made his day. As a matter of fact every time I see Coach now the first thing he asks is “Who have you seen? How’s so and so doing?”

Addendum 2-8-08

Kim Jessop, pointers@pointerassociation.org , Executive Director of the PLHS Foundation and Alumni Association has launched a long overdue “Coach Bennie Edens Scholarship Fund”.

In addition to any contribution we may choose to honor Coach, let’s simply acknowledge his gift to each of us instead; that gift being his example to each of us of “a life well led, well lived and well loved.”

My best to all of you.

Bill Settles
PL ‘66

Click here to donate online to the Bennie Edens Scholarship Fund

Click here for printable Scholarship donation form (pdf)

Click for more information about Bennie and these projects

*We are also happy to accept donations of appreciated stock. Please contact Kim at the
PLHSFAA office for more information (619 226-4509)

 


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Point Loma High School Foundation and Alumni Association
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