Even in his final hours, Terry Ennis was doing what he loved. "Look in the bottom left drawer," the Archbishop Murphy High School football...
Even in his final hours, Terry Ennis was doing what he loved.
“Look in the bottom left drawer,” the Archbishop Murphy High School football coach instructed an assistant who called his hospital room to check on him. “There’s a Coupeville file in there … Get them ready for Friday night.”
Twelve hours later, Mr. Ennis was dead.
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The man who influenced thousands of young men’s lives and in 1999 was named The Seattle Times Coach of the Century for high-school football lost a five-year fight with prostate cancer early Wednesday. He was 63.
His condition worsened in recent weeks, but he found the strength to coach the Catholic school near Mill Creek to victories in Las Vegas over Labor Day weekend and in Tumwater against Black Hills on Saturday.
Mr. Ennis ranked second in state history in prep football-coaching victories, with a record of 287-87 and three state championships. He was a head coach for 36 years, with stops in Stanwood, Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma, Renton and Cascade of Everett before starting the football program at Archbishop Murphy in 2000.
Mr. Ennis came out of retirement to build the Archbishop Murphy program from scratch and also served as athletic director until this school year. The Wildcats won the Class 1A state championship in 2002, only the school’s third season, then added another title in 2003. The school’s stadium was named after Mr. Ennis in a ceremony eight months ago.
He also coached Cascade to the Class 4A championship in 1991.
Mr. Ennis had offers to join college staffs, but he stayed at the high-school level, attracted by what friend Dennis Erickson called “the freshness of it, the purity of coaching and dealing with high-school kids.”
“He was smarter than the rest of us,” quipped Erickson, a former NFL coach now at Arizona State University.
Mr. Ennis was a born coach who had a knack for pulling potential out of teenagers.
“He was so good at getting everything out of you,” said Grady Sizemore, a former football player at Cascade who is now a baseball star with the Cleveland Indians.
“He demanded a lot. He expected a lot. You wanted to work hard for him.”
Mike McCloskey, fund-raising director at Archbishop Murphy, said watching Ennis work the locker room before games “was like watching a master at work.”
“The players were seated and Terry bent down, put his hands on each kid’s shoulder pads and looked him straight in the eye,” McCloskey said. “He whispered specific instructions or words of encouragement. Then the kid would nod, and Terry would move to the next player.”
Mr. Ennis, whose late father, Jim, was a famous Everett High School coach, came from a branch of the Snohomish County “cradle of coaches.”
The county produced Mike Price, now at University of Texas-El Paso; Keith Gilbertson, former coach at the University of Washington and now a Seahawks assistant; and Erickson, whose stops include the NFL’s Seahawks and 49ers and two national titles at the University of Miami.
Mr. Ennis, an undersized Everett High School quarterback at 5 feet 6 inches and 150 pounds, played football at Santa Clara University, where he was an All-Coast defensive back, before entering coaching.
His death cast a shadow over Archbishop Murphy on Wednesday. Players wore their game jerseys to a prayer service and throughout the day.
“The kids are hurting,” said Rick Stubrud, Mr. Ennis’ brother-in-law who joined the staff this year and is expected to be named interim head coach.
Dave Lutes, former coach at Kentwood High School in Covington, battled Mr. Ennis’ Renton teams in the late 1970s and ’80s.
“You’d better have better talent than Terry, because if you don’t he’s going to outcoach you,” Lutes said. “He had an incredible football mind.”
Lutes recalled one year when Renton didn’t have a girls soccer coach. Mr. Ennis volunteered.
“He knew nothing about soccer,” Lutes said, “but they won the league championship.”
One indication of Mr. Ennis’ impact was that more than 20 of his former players or assistants went on to become high-school head coaches in the state.
“He loved dealing with kids,” Erickson said of Mr. Ennis. “You can’t count the number of lives he influenced.”
Friend and fellow coach Sid Otton, of Tumwater, whose 291 victories are the most in state history, talked to Mr. Ennis at his last game Saturday.
Otton said he considers Mr. Ennis coaching in that game “a tremendous act of courage.”
“I’d see him go sit in a chair for a while then get up and call plays,” Otton said. “He was doing what he loved to do.”
Mr. Ennis is survived by his wife, Fran; son Joe; and daughters Jenny Leger and Amy Schaffler. Funeral arrangements are expected to be announced today.
Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Ennis’ coaching record|
|Terry Ennis, who died Wednesday, had a record of 287-87 (.767), the second-most victories in state high-school football history:|
|* State championships|