AS I LIKE IT!
COACH BILLY MUSTIN
At Ole Miss they called him the Canton Comet. He was a 155 pound scat back, who could win ballgames with punt and kickoff returns. In Cleveland, Mississippi we called him “Coach.” Billy Mustin was 23 years old, when in 1950, he was named head coach of the Cleveland High Wildcats. In his first season he led CHS to the Delta Valley Conference championship.
The 1951 Wildcats compiled a 9–0–1 record. Their only blemish was a 7–7 tie with arch rival, Drew. The men graduated and left 1952 to the boys, and you can guess the outcome. The season was so bad that five of we eighth graders decided to turn up for spring practice in1953.
Coach Mustin was of the old school, and was an apostle of the “no pain, no gain” variety of football practice. He liked to start each practice session with a mile run in full equipment, and he believed in full contact. We eighth graders were shown no mercy, and would find ourselves going one-on-one against the seniors. After an hour or so of full contact scrimmage, he would finish the practice with wind sprints till we could hardly move. This was in March, with spring weather. We could only imagine what two-a-days would be like in August.
Unless you’ve lived in the Mississippi Delta in the summer, you can’t begin to understand about 100 degree heat and 100% humidity. Coach Mustin believed this to be the ideal environment for football practice, especially if the players were not allowed water during the session. We all kept a half of a lemon tucked into the webbing of our helmets to prevent cotton mouth.
Football is a contact sport, and injuries are going to happen. Coach Mustin believed in the “suck it up” brand of therapy, and would have treated a compound fracture with an hour in the whirlpool and some atomic balm. Another reality was athlete’s foot and jockey itch. Coach Mustin thought that both came on due to a lack of toughness, and he delighted in treating them with T4L. I suspect T4L was developed in the lab of Dr. Joseph Mengele.
The season of 1953 started with a loss to Cary, Mississippi. Coach had scheduled Cary as our powder puff opener, but did not expect to run into the Wysinger brothers. We were humiliated, and Mustin was furious. The following Monday’s practice was brutal, even by Mustin’s standards. After two and a half hours of full contact scrimmage, we were taken to the football stands and allowed to run up and down until players began to puke and pass out.
Finally, we were allowed to sit in the stands, and Coach Mustin gave us one of the most inspiring pep talks of all time. He stood on the bottom row of seats, hands on his hips, staring at us. When at last he spoke, he said,
“I’m a pretty damn good football coach, but there’s no way I can make chicken salad out of chicken s..t.”
He stomped off to the gym, leaving us to do our wind sprints under the supervision of the assistant coaches.
Coach Mustin was an avid hunter, and his main possessions were a jeep and two liver and white bird dogs. He hunted whatever was in season, and went every chance he got. One Friday morning in November he took the day off and went duck hunting over on the Mississippi River. By game time, he hadn’t returned. The assistant coaches got us on the bus to Belzoni in time for kickoff. Coach Mustin showed up at halftime still decked out in camo, and made no excuses about it.
One Saturday night he made a visit to The El Rancho, a local handout, in time to see one of his starters smoking a camel. Billy Mustin hated smoking, at least by his players, and we all knew it. On Monday after the usual wind sprints, he gathered the team together and told us to take a knee. He instructed the smoker to join him, where upon Coach Mustin took a full, unopened pack of Camel cigarettes and handed it to the offender and said,
“I know you enjoy an occasional smoke, so here’s a full pack. Eat it!”
We watched as the guilty party ate the whole pack of camels—cellophane, paper and all. I thought he was lucky he didn’t smoke a filtered brand.
Coach Mustin left Cleveland shortly after that day, taking over as head coach and athletic director at Holmes Junior College, and later joined Coach John Vaught’s staff at Ole Miss. Last Monday, Coach Mustin passed away at 87 years old. He retired as Director of the Ole Miss Loyalty Foundation in 1985, and was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. Seldom do I want to hear this, but in memory of Coach Mustin:
“Hotty Toddy, gosh almighty, who in the hell was he? Flim flam, bim bam—an Ole Miss Rebel by damn.”
YOU’RE OF MY GENERATION IF YOU CAN REMEMBER…
Chasing the DDT truck sucking in the fumes. Having your feet x-rayed to buy shoes. Putting on sun tan oil to bake your body. Starting to smoke and drive before high school. Firing everything from a shot gun to an M-1 without ear protection. Swallowing gasoline from a siphoning hose. Suffering concussions from football and boxing. Wrecking your knees, ankles and hips.
Is it any wonder that we are dedicated to continuing Medicare?”
GREAT MOMENTS IN SPORTS
No. 4 The Shot Heard Round the World. Oct 3, 1951 In the National League pennant race of 1951, the New York Giants won 37 of their last 44 games. They tied the league leading Brooklyn Dodgers, and forced a best-of-three playoff for the title and a trip to play the Yankee’s in the World Series.
The Giants won the first game on a late home run by Bobby Thompson off Brooklyn ace Ralph Branca. The Dodgers took the second game to even the series, forcing a final game for all the marbles. The game was played at the Polo Grounds, and just happened to be the first nationally televised sporting event. I listened on the radio because we were yet to get a TV. The Dodger’s took a 4–1 lead into the bottom of the ninth.
Alvin Dark, the Giant’s shortstop, hit a single to lead off the inning, advancing to third on Don Mueller’s single. Whitey Lockman doubled and drove Dark in, making it 4–2. With a pinch runner in for Mueller on third, and with Lockman on second, Bobby Thompson came to the plate. Rookie, Willie Mays was on deck to follow Thompson. Ralph Branca didn’t intend to give Thompson anything to hit, but hit he did. Thompson homered, and the Giants won the National League Championship 5–4.
Categories: As I Like It!
Do you recall Rabbit Brown of Bailey Jr. High and MSU? Boo
I do, he was the only guy in Mississippi that thought I could play SEC football. I got a walk on try out then failed the physical because of a broken ankle. A case of God doing for you what you didn’t have enough sense to do for yourself. One look at Tom Goode and Walter Suggs made glad I’d broken the ankle in the first place.
Thanks Tommy for remembering Billy Mustin. He was the first real football coach I had & of all the coaches I played for Coach Mustin was absolutely the most intense & passionate of them all.
Like you I wanted to play college football, Rabbit Brown offered a “walkon” BUT suggested that I was too small. I did not want to believe him, but when I got to Miss State & saw guys like Goode & Suggs I realized he probably saved my life!