Football in the life of young Men in Mount Vernon, Iowa
When I left the Army in 1962, and moved to West Liberty, Iowa I met Jim Bellamy on awarm August afternoon. As it turned out, I was to spend 25 years with Jim on hot August afternoons. When led by a football enthusiast, dedicated to the lives of young men, there is no excitement like preseason football in Iowa. Jim left West Liberty and so did I, but I soon rediscovered him because of Mr. Adrian Ringold. I was walking down the hall way on a spring afternoon in 1970 when behold, there walked James Bellamy carrying an old brief case walking toward the auditorium to meet his new team – Mr. Ringold, our Principal, had crowned him the new Head Coach of the Mount Vernon Mustangs, and there he would remain for the next 37 years! He came to us from an all-state career at Des Moines RooseveltHigh School, an All-America performance at Cornell College, and winning records from Schaller, Perry, and West Liberty.
Jim Bellamy exuded every quality a great coach could have possessed that day on the stage in front of assistant coaches and prospective football players. It was clear that he was committed to the game of football, he was genuinely affectionate toward high school age students, and solidly knowledgeable about the game of football. We liked him.
That fall, he began to teach us all what football means and how it’s played. Mothers, fathers, and fans in general feared him as if he were Woody Hayes or Bear Bryant. Two mothers came to me after the season and said that he must stay another 10 years to coach all of their sons.
Now comes the truly exciting event – the implementation of the kickoff/punt return. In high school, the special returns team is usually a figment of imagination, but within2-3 practices the return of kicks became a reality and a joy to behold due in equal part to the ability of Ivan “The Ghost” Kuntz. For one of the years’ early games, my mother, Doris, drove the 207 miles to Wilton to see this phenom. Ivan ran the opening kick off back 87 yards tothe house. There are people who know the exact number of returns we made in those years, but I remember 11 TD returns for sure. The punt/kickoff return is an exciting, carefully blocked, ballerinically wonderfully orchestrated football play. With Mr. Bellamy calling the direction, this play came nearly every game.
There is also beauty and excitement in the off tackle plunge. This play was mastered by everyone of Jim’s teams, but seldom resulted in just one or two yards gained. He loved this play and so did his teams. Often the line to gain was missed by 30-45 yards as theneedfor two yards turned into a field stretching touch down. I clearly remember this play being run 9 straight times against Solon.
Cold, rain, snow, and mud were never mentioned. He left the elements of weather tohis field captains; he expected success because the opponents were facing the same obstacles
as the Mustangs. In three cases, success followed blocked kicks – brothers Joe and Paul Hufford did the work on those days.
Perhaps the greatest quality of Mr. James Bellamy was his impeccable fairness. There is no way to explain the feelings in the heart of parents when it comes to being fair. Parents were always guaranteed that their sons would be treated fairly in every way and they were. Every starting player could be assured that his place on the team was safe until a teammate could out play the starter. Every coach in America should be this good.
The men who helped Jim start the Jim Bellamy era are still with us – Bob Landis inCedar Rapids, Larry straw in New Hampton, and Dick Peters and Jim both live in Mount Vernon.
Dick Peters, teacher and assistant coach