Reflections on Bennie Edens
by Bill Settles
|Eric Allen , Bennie Edens, Bill Settles and JJ
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
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.
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
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
Playing for him was the best, my only complaint was
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
Some of his players excelled beyond the Point: in
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?”
Kim Jessop, firstname.lastname@example.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
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
My best to all of you.
here to donate online to the Bennie Edens Scholarship Fund
here for printable Scholarship donation form (pdf)
Click for more
information about Bennie and these projects