2015 Recipient: Sam Harrell, Fort Worth Christian (Texas) High School

AFCA CONTACT: Vince Thompson, Director of Media Relations


WACO, Texas - Fort Worth Christian (Texas) High School assistant coach Sam Harrell has been named the 2015 Power of Influence Award recipient. Harrell was nominated by the Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA). Presented jointly by the American Football Coaches Association and the American Football Coaches Foundation, the award will be given to Harrell at the AFCA Coach of the Year Dinner on Tuesday, January 12, at the 2016 AFCA Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

The Power of Influence award was created as a way for the AFCA and AFCF to honor a deserving high school football coach. Coaches who receive this award are recognized for their impact on their team and players, as well as the legacy they leave with the school and surround community. This award is not based on wins and losses; however, it should be noted that coaches of powerful influence have longevity and success. This is the first AFCA award specifically designed to honor a high school coach.

"The coaching profession is the greatest profession in the world! You have a great opportunity to influence young men and young ladies at a critical point in their lives," said Harrell. "Football may be the last frontier for teaching discipline, hard work, teamwork, and selflessness. So, the power of influence of a football coach is immeasurable. However, we are held accountable for how we use that influence, so we must use it in a Godly, responsible, positive fashion, so we can truly make a lasting difference in those young people."

Harrell began his coaching career 36 years ago, in 1979, as an assistant football and basketball coach for the Plainview High School Bulldogs after graduating Summa Cum Laude from Abilene Christian University. After four years at Plainview and nine years as an assistant at Brownwood High School, Harrell got his start as a head coach and athletic director at Reagan County High School in Big Lake, Texas. His head coaching tenure started off as well as anyone could hope - Harrell was awarded the West Texas AAA Coach of the Year Award in 1991. After four years with Reagan County, Harrell moved on to Ennis High School where he would continue to make his mark in Texas High School football.

Starting in 1994, Harrell led the Ennis Lions to some of their best seasons in school history. He guided Ennis to three state championships, made 13 straight playoff appearances, recorded nine 10-plus win seasons and had a record of 153-51 in his 16 seasons as head coach. Harrell has an overall head coaching record of 189-59 and has received several different awards for his coaching ability and his impact on his students and community, including five different coach of the year awards and the THSCA Tom Landry Award. He has also been inducted into the Gordon Wood Hall of Champions, the THSCA Hall of Champions and the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.

"Over the years, I have seen the impact Sam has had on his community, his school, the faculty and especially on his athletes," said D.W. Ruthledge, Executive Director of the THSCA. "I have seen the care and concern, and the love he has given his students. He is truly a unique and talented coach."

Harrell played high school football at Brownwood (Texas) High School under legendary head coach Gordon Wood. When he returned to Brownwood as an assistant football coach in 1982, Harrell became the last head coach to play for and coach with Wood. Like Coach Wood's influence on Harrell, Sam's indluence has moved onto his three sons, who are all coaching football. Zac is coaching at Sweetwater (Texas) High School, Clark is a coach at Graham (Texas) High School and Graham is an assistant at Washington State University.

Harrell was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and, in 2010, stepped away from Ennis High School to focus on his health. The town of Ennis came together to support their long-time coach and held a benefit in his honor to help with medical costs. After a brief hiatus, Harrell was able to return to the sport he loves as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Fort Worth Christian High School in 2014. Harrell continues to prove and perpetuate the values and character that the AFCA and AFCF hold dear in everything he does.

Other finalists for this year's award were: Barry Lunney, Bentonville (Ark.) H.S.; Lewis Cook, Jr., Notre Dame (La.) H.S.; Jon Bakken, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (Minn.) H.S.; John Dabney, Milan C-2 (Mo.) H.S.; Gary DeBoer, Norris (Neb.) H.S.; Jimm Teague, Reidsville (N.C.) H.S.; Rod Oksendahl, Fargo Shanley (N.D.) H.S.; Jeff VanLeur, Bridgewater-Emery (S.D.) H.S.; Bobby Sharp, Lewis County (Tenn.) H.S.

Past Power of Influence Award winners include: Larry Dippel, Amarillo (Texas) H.S. (2002); John McKissick, Summerville (S.C.) H.S. (2003); Marcus Borden, East Brunswick (N.J.) H.S. (2004); Ron Stolski, Brainerd (Minn.) H.S. (2005); Sid Otton, Tumwater (Wash.) H.S. (2006); Rob Younger, Sweet Home (Ore.) H.S. (2007); George Smith, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) H.S. (2008); Jim Drewry, Booneville (Miss.) H.S. (2009); Brent Steuerwald, Shenendehowa (N.Y.) H.S. (2010); Noel Dean, Lowell (Mich.) H.S. (2011); Andy Lowry, Columbine (Colo.) H.S. (2012); Bob Burt, Cypress (Calif.) H.S. (2013); and Ott Hurrle, Scecina Memorial (Ind.) H.S. (2014).

“Coach George Smith is not only an influence on young people, but the influence is multiplied many times in the beliefs of the young people he helped mold into amazing human beings. George is an outstanding coach, but more importantly, he is an outstanding gentleman.” —Tina Jones, Principal of St. Thomas Aquinas High School