HOUSTON — The life of Bum Phillips was celebrated by family, friends and former players Tuesday night as several thousand paid their final respects to one of Houston’s most beloved sports figures.The former Oilers and Saints head coach died Oct. 18. He was buried under an oak tree on his ranch in Goliad last week.Former Oilers, including quarterback Dan Pastorini, linebacker Robert Brazile and center Carl Mauck, took turns reflecting on a man they compared to a father figure.Members of Phillips’ family, including wife Debbie and son Wade, former Cowboys head coach and current defensive coordinator for the Texans, were joined at the ceremony at Lakewood Church by two dozen former Oilers.The city of Houston, where Phillips led the Oilers from 1975 to 1980, said goodbye to a man at the center of one of the city’s most fondly remembered eras. Phillips’ teams from 1978 to 1980 captured the imagination of the city and forged a bond rarely paralleled for a team that never won a championship or advanced to a Super Bowl. Despite losing the AFC Championship in consecutive years to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Steelers, fans filled the 50,000-seat Astrodome for pep rallies when the team returned after the 1978 and ’79 seasons.“Bum Phillips made us all a little bit better,” Pastorini said. “Before you knew it, you had this inner strength far more than you could ever imagine playing with and that spilled over to the city of Houston. Luv Ya Blue will never die. It will live forever in our hearts.”Others who attended the ceremony included Texans owner Bob McNair and former Oiler and Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell. State Sen. Dan Patrick, who was a sports anchor in Houston during the Luv Ya Blue era, said Phillips was embraced by so many people because he loved them first.“There’s never been and never will be a relationship like Houston had with his team,” said Patrick, who came to Houston’s CBS affiliate from Baltimore in 1979.“What was it that made it special?” Patrick asked from the stage. “It was Bum Phillips that made it special. It was the hat, the quips, the smile. How do you get to be the most loved? Because you love someone first.”Several people paid their respects with video messages, including Hall of Fame Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw.“I have nothing but fond memories of him,” Bradshaw said from his Fox studio. “He is going to be missed. He was someone I would have loved to have played for. Bum was always Bum. I think he thought of me as much as an Oiler as he thought of me as a Steeler.”Phillips’ family is asking fans to help Debbie Phillips fulfill Bum’s dream of building a home for deaf children on their ranch in Goliad. The McNairs are matching up to $150,000 in donations.Donations can be made at Bum Phillips Charities at 2981 Riverdale Lane, Goliad, TX, 77963 or by going to www.bumphillipscharities.com.
Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs