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Texas High School Football Hall of Fame: Ray Rhodes' long football odyssey began in Mexia

From the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame: Meet the Class of 2022 series
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Ray Rhodes

Ray Rhodes played at Dunbar and Mexia High Schools before going on to great success as an NFL head coach. He’ll join the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Standing near Ray Rhodes’ home is Allen Eagle Stadium, serving as a monument to how far Texas High School football has evolved.

The 18,000-seat stadium was completed in 2012 at a cost of $60 million. It’s far from the humble circumstances in Mexia where Rhodes began his long, successful football odyssey in the 1960s.

“It’s amazing, it really is,” Rhodes said. “It makes you realize how big football is here in Texas.”

On Saturday, Rhodes will return to his roots when he’s inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. Now 71, Rhodes was thrilled when he heard he would be inducted with the 2022 class.

“It’s a great honor, I’m elated about it,” Rhodes said. “I’m in my 70s, and my body has been through a lot, and I don’t move as well as I used to. But it was a nice surprise when I heard I was going to be inducted.”

Football took Rhodes a long way from his beginnings at segregated Dunbar High School to integration at Mexia High School to college football at both TCU and Tulsa, and finally to the NFL where Rhodes played and coached for nearly 40 years.

After a seven-year NFL playing career, Rhodes helped pave the way for Black coaches in the league as he rose from defensive backs coach with San Francisco to defensive coordinator for both the Green Bay Packers and the 49ers. In the 1990s, he served as head coach at both Philadelphia and Green Bay.

“I had a lot of great mentors,” Rhodes said. “Bill Arnspargar coached me when I was playing for the New York Giants, and he was a defensive genius. I worked on Bill Walsh’s staff when I was coaching for the 49ers, and he was an offensive genius. George Seifert was defensive coordinator and later head coach with the 49ers, and he was brilliant.”

Rhodes always had an open ear for coaching and a great work ethic all the way back to his high school days as a running back and defensive back.

“As a running back, I would say I had decent speed and was more shifty,” Rhodes said. “I liked offense better than defense, but I liked to tackle. I wasn’t a great hitter, but I would tackle you if you were big or small.”

After his first two years at Dunbar High School, Rhodes began attending Mexia High School at the start of integration in 1967. Mexia’s young coach was Bob McQueen, who would later go on to a legendary career at Temple High School.

McQueen expected his players to be tough and disciplined, which was right up Rhodes’ alley.

“Bob’s a great coach, a legend, and he did a good job coaching and teaching us,” Rhodes said. “I’m not going to say going from a Black school to an integrated school was smooth. There were a lot of prayers. But we had good teams both years I was there.”

Former Tribune-Herald and Bryan Eagle sports writer David G. Campbell played offensive line at Mexia during Rhodes’ era, and remembered the versatility he brought to the field.

“He was maybe the hardest hitter I’ve ever seen as a defensive back,” Campbell said. “Nobody could match our return game with Raymond and Willie Charles Dancer. As a running back, I don’t think he needed a blocker. He could have dodged his way to the end zone if he needed.”

Following graduation from Mexia in 1969, Rhodes earned a scholarship to TCU, where he played two years before transferring to Tulsa.

Rhodes played wide receiver and defensive back at Tulsa, where he was teamed with future Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent.

Picked in the 10th round of the 1974 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, Rhodes played on both sides of the ball like he did at Tulsa before finishing his playing career in 1980.

Rhodes’ discipline and attention to detail as a player paid off as he embarked on a coaching career that lasted three decades.

After the 49ers won Super Bowl XXIX with Rhodes as defensive coordinator, he became Philadelphia’s head coach. He was only the fourth Black NFL head coach in history, and enjoyed immediate success in 1995 as he earned coach of the year honors after leading the Eagles to a 10-6 record and the second round of the playoffs.

Rhodes coached four years with the Eagles before becoming the Packers head coach in 1999 for one season. For the final 13 years of his career, he coached defense for five NFL teams.

“I didn’t really think about coaching until I went off to college and then got into the pros,” Rhodes said. “All the coaches I worked with, I took a piece of what they taught me. It was a tough journey, but I learned from all the coaches, and I think the relationships I had were really special.”

Note: The Texas High School Football Hall of Fame will partner with Texan Live of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football to live stream this year’s induction banquet.

To view the free stream, visit The banquet will be 6 p.m. Saturday and will feature University of Texas and Bally Sports Southwest announcer Craig Way as master of ceremonies.

“We couldn’t be more excited to give football fans an opportunity to join us as we honor these outstanding Texas high school football players and coaches,” said Hall of Fame board president Mike Anderson.

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