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June 20, 2003

A few years ago, the Perry high school football Maroons were known and feared by most of the much larger athletic teams in this area. Wrestling already was an established sport in schools from Tulsa and Oklahoma City but Perry Coach John Divine's teams also were beginning to earn a reputation for strength and endurance, even though our school system was one of the smallest offering that sport.

Maroon wrestlers were well on the way to the pinnacle of success. Football, then as now, was the sport with the greatest following and the PHS teams coached by Harold "Hump" Daniels won the respect of fans in Ponca City, Enid and Stillwater among others by outplaying and outscrapping any of their football teams.

There was a kind of invisible mystique hovering over Hump Daniels. He could take a rawboned farm boy from the black jack hills of Noble county and in a single season turn him into a rough, tough gridiron dreadnought. There was no secret to his success. He ran the team's practice sessions like a Marine drill sergeant. Youngsters experiencing his methods for the first time learned quickly that they were not to question any order handed down by Coach Daniels. He usually reinforced his instructions by ordering bewildered youngsters to give him a few laps around the football field, which by the way, now bears his name.

Hump also was athletic director at PHS for several years and he regularly scheduled games with much larger schools. Most of the time the Maroons won, using a seldom-seen box forma-tion on offense with waves of blockers running interference for the ball carriers. Local fans loved it and Hump was regarded as something special, which he was. He had a disarming smile (seldom seen by his players on the practice field) and he was articulate. I believe every kid who played for Hump considered him a surrogate father. He had no children of his own but he regarded each of the youngsters in the local school system with the kind of affection usually demonstrated by parents.

Hump retired a few years ago and eased into that period by teaching drivers training classes and some social studies. He died of a coronary attack in 1974 and the town was saddened. The football stadium at the north edge of town was named "Daniels Field" in his honor, but one of the finest tributes came from our neighbor in Stillwater, the late Otis Wile, who wrote a column for the Stillwater NewsPress in addition to serving as sports information director at OSU.

Otis wrote, in part: "Another former Aggie worked alongside Hump for many years at Perry, John Divine, as many of you know. There are a lot of worse careers than helping boys improve their lives through athletics. They'll remember Humpy (he never really was that stooped) for a long, long time in Perry town -- and in his first hometown of Stillwater, too."

Darned right, Otis. Hump is still part of this community, and I guess he always will be.