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Pipe Smoker Profiles: Coach Howard Schnellenberger

Posted by Joe S. Kimbrough II on 12/29/2020

Tobacco pipes build a legendary college football head coach.

 Around here, few things excite us like pipes and tobacco. On our short list is college football. Crimson and white or orange and blue dot our tobacco pipe shop all year. Then, the First Saturday of September comes with a rainbow of colors. We welcome travelers from other states with previously unseen mascots. All while, we celebrate wins and loses with our regulars.

As this wild, whacky season concludes, I was reminded of Coach Howard "The Pipe" Schnellenberger. He became a legendary college coach as well as an iconic pipe smoker.

Coach Schnellenberger started his football career at Flaget High School in Louisville, Kentucky. After a state championship team, he caught the eye of Paul Bryant at the University of Kentucky. Coach Bryant left Kentucky for Texas A & M in Schnellenberger's second year, but Schnellenberger won all-American awards at Kentucky in 1955. [Wikipedia]

Schnellenberger would rejoin Coach Bryant in 1961 at the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide won 3 national titles with Schnellenberger as offensive coordinator. Then, a call from George Allen at the Los Angeles Rams brought Schnellenberger to the NFL. Don Shula remembered his old Kentucky colleague. Schnellenberger would join the Miami Dolphins for their 1972 perfect season.

After learning from three of the greatest coaches, Howard Schnellenberger answered the call from the University of Miami. The school's board debated cancelling the program. Schnellenberger won the chance to coach the team with the promise of a national title in 5 years. He delivered on that promise for the school's first national title. Then, Coach Schnellenberger went to Louisville; here, he elevated the school to its first New Year's Day Bowl. His team beat the University of Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl, 34 - 7.

Throughout his storied career, Coach Schnellenberger never left his pipes behind. He claims to have smoked 18 hours a day. The smell of bulk bourbon pipe tobacco announced his presence to his players. He preferred Meerschaum pipes, but he used his briars for press photos. [ Pipe Magazine #168]

Coach Howard's pipes made a special impression on the recruiting trail. Rumor has it: he nearly lost a pipe and a recruit on a trip to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Coach "Bear" Bryant sent his offensive coordinator, Schnellenberger, up north to sign a star quarterback. With pipe in hand, Schnellenberger made visit after visit to the boy's home. His family wasn't keen on the idea of their son going so far away. Schnellenberger left the last night without a recruit or his pipe. When he returned the next day for the pipe, the family changed its tune. The concern for the tobacco pipe persuaded the family. To this day, Howard Schnellenberger mentions Joe Namath as his first college coaching success. [Roll Bama Roll]

Our pipes accompany us down all of life's roads. In fact, we're often accused: "we are never without our pipes." Howard Schnellenberger became an icon of that pipe smoking charge. With pipe in hand, he became a legendary college football coach. For the championships this year, let's smoke a bowl for Coach Howard "The Pipe" Schnellenberger.

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