Collected Wisdom: Bruce Hendrickson, Oklahoma's winningest high school football coach

Bruce Hendrickson still holds the state record for most wins by a high school football coach with 351. Hendrickson won state titles at Seiling (1988), Okeene (1981) and Texhoma (1971) and coached at four other schools — Commerce, Wynnewood, Cordell and Wewoka. Now he's back at Seiling.
by Ryan Aber Published: May 18, 2013
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photo - Wynnewood coach Bruce Hendrickson and players have a prayer in the locker before a 1999 game after the death of Daniel Knowles. PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES
Wynnewood coach Bruce Hendrickson and players have a prayer in the locker before a 1999 game after the death of Daniel Knowles. PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES

Bruce Hendrickson still holds the state record for most wins by a high school football coach with 351. Hendrickson won state titles at Seiling (1988), Okeene (1981) and Texhoma (1971) and coached at four other schools — Commerce, Wynnewood, Cordell and Wewoka — before retiring following the 2005 season. He wasn't thinking much about coaching football again when a chance meeting recently led to him accepting the job at Seiling once again. Over his career, which started off as an assistant at Fairfax, he's also coached basketball and baseball. While his career has had plenty of peaks, it's also had its valleys. Hendrickson was the coach at Wynnewood when Daniel Knowles collapsed on the field and eventually died during the 1999 season.

There were extenuating circumstances. I was at Seiling for 14 years. I have a home there. I was at a funeral a week ago Monday and the superintendent, who was a real good friend of mine, said after the funeral, ‘Come by my office, I want to talk to you.' One thing led to another and I'm back in it. I'm really excited about it.

When I quit at Cordell, my arthritis was giving me problems in my right knee. The last couple of years, I couldn't play golf, I couldn't exercise like I wanted to. About six months ago, I got a complete knee replacement surgery. I feel like I'm 30 years old again. I rode my bike five miles this morning. It's amazing. That was very important. If I hadn't had the knee replacement surgery, I don't think I would've considered coming back. That and it being Seiling. I already have a house there so I don't have to worry about a place to live. The other contributing factor is Seiling is eight-man.

I'd done everything I wanted to do in 11-man other than winning more state titles. I didn't have any goals or challenges when I left Cordell. The last two weeks, I've spent talking to coaches like Chuck Goodner, who was an all-state football player for me at Texhoma, Jim Kerbo at Tipton and guys like that. It's just like getting married to a 25-year-old woman at my age. It's a whole new deal. It's really reinvigorated my thought process. It's a fascinating game. It's a different ballgame. It's still blocking and tackling and it's still working hard and playing hard but it's different. I think this year is going to be a real learning process. It's a challenge. We're in probably the toughest district in the state.

I'd say that 35 or 40 percent of the kids that I will have, their daddies are former players of mine or I taught their mamas how to drive. I don't have to worry about any credibility issues or them being unsure of who I am.

I lived by myself when I was 14 and a freshman. I raised myself and have always been independent. I couldn't live with either of my parents and my granddad, who I just idolized, he had a duplex and he let me move in there. I worked and made some money that summer. I didn't even have a driver's license but I bought the best looking car in high school. It was a '61 Pontiac, white with red interior. I lived by myself but always had people staying over. They think you had a tough upbringing but at the time, I didn't think anything about it. It was just kind of like that, I just kind of raised myself.

I became a coach because I basically ran out of playing days. When you can't play anymore, you start coaching I guess. I was fortunate to play for some great coaches in Bear Jensen at Claremore and Red Rogers in college. Red started the football program at what was then Oklahoma Military Academy in Claremore. We had some really good players and had several guys that went on to play in the NFL. Back then, they had a really good junior college conference with teams in Miami, Tonkawa, Connors State played. I kind of had a football background and in college, I just started thinking that's what I wanted to do.

My first head coaching job was at Commerce. I was playing golf with a superintendent friend of mine and he asked if I'd take the job. I didn't even go up there before taking it. I think we went 1-8-1 that first year and I learned more there than at anywhere I've been.

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by Ryan Aber
Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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