Texas high school football coaching icon Eddy Peach, who led the Arlington Lamar football program to prominence, died Friday. He was 76.
The cause of death is unknown. Arrangements were pending.
Peach was remembered Friday as a tough and classy competitor and a gifted educator whose influence spans generations.
Peach retired after 39 years at the school with a 309-124-6 record, the first coach in history to win 300 games at the state’s highest competitive level.
Peach is a member of the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame and in July was inducted into the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor.
An elementary school in the Arlington school district is named for him and his wife, Debbie, to whom Peach was married more than 44 years.
“I’m heartbroken for Debbie, for Scott [his son] and the entire Peach family,” said Laban DeLay, Lamar’s football coach. “It’s a sad day for the Vikings family and community.
“I was fortunate enough to play against Coach Peach when I was in high school. I looked up to him and admired him. Recently, I got to know him as more than just a football coach. Most impressive is what a fine man he was. I hold him in the highest regard. I’m in shock, still.”
Peach was Lamar’s first football coach when the school opened in 1970. He remained there until his retirement in 2010.
His teams won 16 district titles in those 39 years, and he led teams to the playoffs 13 consecutive seasons from 1988-2000.
Peach’s 1990 team advanced to the Class 5A Division II championship game in 1990, losing to Houston Aldine. He led the Vikings back to the semifinals in 2000 and 2003.
Peach’s 1991 team was ranked No. 1 by USA Today throughout the entire regular season. They were led that year by Parade All-American running back Shawn Walters.
Many of his teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s were distinguished as being “Tailback High” for producting players such as Joe Walker, Walters and NFL player Fred Turner.
From 1988 to 1990, his teams won more games at Texas Stadium than the Dallas Cowboys did at home.
“It’s a punch in the gut to me,” said Kevin Ozee, a former Arlington school district athletic director who played against Peach as a student-athlete at Arlington High.
Ozee’s father, Ken, coached against Peach at Sam Houston. “He’s iconic,” Ozee said. “There’s nothing in Arlington that doesn’t go back to Eddy Peach.
“How many kids did he impact, not only him, but his wife, Debbie. They have an elementary school named after them. How many football coaches have an elementary school named after him?”
Eddy Ellis Peach was born June 7, 1941, in Oklahoma to Corrine Ardis Sneed Peach and Nelson Willard Peach. A brother, Rudy, followed in 1944. The family lived on a farm before moving to Elks City in 1956.
Peach said last year that his dream was to play professional baseball and, to that end, he went to the University of Oklahoma to play baseball. He starred in Norman as a slugging outfielder for the Sooners. He was a third-team All-American in 1963.
However, professional baseball wasn’t in his future.
Instead, the father of a friend helped set up a meeting with Arlington schools athletic director Mayfield Workman.
Peach was hired to coach the baseball team at Arlington High in 1965.
“When things don’t happen the way you always wanted them to, it seems things always turn out for the best,” Peach reminisced last year.
Five years later, Workman called Peach into his office. When Peach arrived, he recalled, he found Workman, Arlington’s principal and the school district superintendent.
They wanted him to become the football coach at the new Lamar High School in 1970.
It was, he said then, “a conversation that completely changed my life.”
When he was inducted into the THSCA Hall Of Honor, Peach said, “It’s not something you dream about, you don’t ever think about happening, so you feel blessed when something like that does happen. There’s a lot of people involved in accomplishing what we’ve accomplished. So you’re proud for a lot of people.”
Earlier this year, the city of Arlington proclaimed Jan. 28 as Eddy and Debbie Peach Day to commemorate the couple’s combined 81 years of service to the school district.
“He just had a way to win,” Kevin Ozee said. “I coached against him when I was at Duncanville. We had to beat them in 1999 [for playoff positioning] in the last game of the season.
“We had nine games of film on Lamar. We had a tip off on one of their linemen. They came out Week 10, and the guy didn’t do it. We had been Eddy Peached. He did that just for us.”
The Peaches’ sons both followed in their parents’ path. Scott is the head football coach at Arlington High School. Shawn is the athletic director and head football coach at Moody High School. Their wives are also educators.
“Everybody knows Coach Peach as this iconic football coach, but those who got to play for him know he was much more than that,” said Scot Waterbury, who played for Peach from 1988-1990 before a career at Oklahoma State. “He was the consummate builder of men. A lot of guys came from place that weren’t great. Coach Peach got them going.
“He was so humble. It’s a huge loss for Texas and high school football. For those who know him and the family, it’s devastating news.”
Staff writers Eric Zarate and Kevin Casas contributed to this report.