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Deer Creek coach Grant Gower's mother Gay has lived a football life

A wife of a football coach, mother of two football coaches and the grandmother of another has been watching high school games for the past 57 years.
by Ed Godfrey Published: November 15, 2012

“I played 44 college football games,” Andy Gower said. “They were at every single one of them.”

One time, Grant played for Tecumseh on a Friday night, and Andy was playing for East Central the next day against Eastern New Mexico in Portales, N.M.

After Grant's high school game ended in Tecumseh, the Gowers drove all night to get to Portales in time for Andy's game.

When Andy started coaching high school football at Kiowa, his parents made a habit to go to all of his games.

Grant, still in college and playing baseball at Oklahoma Baptist University, even scouted Kiowa's opponents for his older brother.

“In my opinion, that was really beneficial to him,” Andy said. “My brother is really intelligent. He is a really good student of the game.”

Grant knew then that he also wanted to be a football coach.

“That's what we all have done,” he said.

This is the first year in the last 32 that Andy has not coached high school football. He is now principal at Madill High School after coaching high school football in Oklahoma at Kiowa, Okemah, Konawa, Ada and Purcell.

Grant's baseball and football coaching resume over the last 29 years includes Olive, Perry, Putnam City West, Tecumseh and now Deer Creek.

He came to Deer Creek 11 years ago as a principal but a year later became an assistant football coach.

He took over as head football coach at Deer Creek in 2008. Five years later, he now directs a 10-1 football team with state championship aspirations.

Football is more important

In many ways, Gay is very much what one would expect a 79-year-old grandmother to be.

Her three-story, nearly century-old brick home in Tecumseh is filled with knickknacks and memories.

Her refrigerator door is covered with photos of her family, most notably her grandchildren.

The lunchboxes that her sons carried to school when they were boys — a Green Hornet and Get Smart — sit on top of the refrigerator. She can't remember which lunch pail belonged to which son, but they can't either.

She loves to bake Hershey pies for her family but frets that she never made a good cup of coffee.

She volunteers at the local senior citizens center and loves to grow herbs. She often gives herb workshops at garden clubs, teaching others on the different kinds of herbs, how to grow them and the different ways they can be used.

But she rarely conducts an herb workshop during football season.

“Football is more important,” she says.

Another Gower to follow

Gene Gower died in 2001 at age 72 from a massive stroke, a day after watching Deer Creek's Class 3A state semifinal playoff loss to Seminole.

“It was too (sudden),” Gay said. “He was the best person that ever walked.”

After her husband's death, Gay kept going to her coaching sons' football games.

Before Deer Creek's playoff game with McAlester on Friday night, she and Grant will do something they do before every game — say a prayer together.

“We don't pray for them to win,” she said. “We pray for them to do their best and give it their all and to play with good sportsmanship and to play with integrity.”

The integrity portion of the prayer is especially important to her.

“If you don't have integrity, you don't have anything,” she said. “That's the way Gene and I were raised.”

After the prayer, she will take her seat in the stands with the rest of the Gower clan, Grant's wife, Paula, his in-laws and any aunts, uncles and cousins who also show up.

If anyone in the stands criticizes the coaching, she likely will speak her mind like she has done a few times over the years.

“I say ugly things to them, but they ask for it,” she said.

After the game, she will go down on the field with the rest of the Deer Creek football family and offer words of encouragement to the players, win or lose.

If Grant were to quit coaching football today, it wouldn't stop Gay from going to high school football games. There is another Gower for her to follow around the state.

Andy's son, Ty, is in his first year as an assistant coach at Broken Arrow, marking the third generation of Gowers to coach Oklahoma high school football.

Broken Arrow plays at Norman North in the Class 6A quarterfinals on Friday night.

And Gay feels guilty that she won't be there.