football player, coach, mentor Jacobs dies at 82 | New
Some men are local legends and some are larger than life. Hershel Ray Jacobs was both.
The former NFL football player, coach and probation officer exemplified what it means to be a mentor, teacher and good neighbor.
His influence has never been more evident than after his death on Monday, November 15 in Dallas. The Corsican community mourned him as they remembered the man who made a difference in the lives of so many people, simply showing them how to bring out the “tiger tenacity” that they already had in them.
Navarro County District Clerk Joshua B. Tackett, himself a former high school and college football player, said Jacobs played an important role in his education.
“I considered him almost a myth, but most definitely a legend,” Tackett said. “He was one of the tallest, fastest, strongest and toughest people when he played sports and he carried that same vigor throughout his life in every aspect. Almost half of my life I would work with him and my grandfather Donald Tackett. He was well into his sixties when he still threw square bales of hay into neat piles, picking up a bale in each hand at the same time. On more than one occasion, I’ve bumped into Ray and Miami Dolphin star Larry Csonka, sitting on a tailgate in his pasture, pulling the breeze.
Tackett said he and so many others were fortunate enough to meet him in their lifetime.
“He loved talking with people and until two weeks ago he was still touring the county to stop and visit friends, local businesses and take care of his ranch,” he said. he declares. “Even though his stories were harsh and bloody, he still had a smile on his face when you heard him bellow, ‘Hey, neighbor! Or “hello, little brother”. Ray Jacobs’ contributions to the world go far beyond football. He was a great friend and mentor to countless people in Navarro County and beyond. And he was everyone’s “neighbor”. He will be sadly missed by a loving community.
Former ISD Corsicana administrator Danzell Lee was among the handful of Corsicana High School graduates who went on to play in the NFL, but one of many who benefited from Jacobs’ coaching style.
“I played under Head Coach Don Denbow and Coach ‘Bear’ Jacobs was on staff,” he said. “I knew his story and it was very impressive for me. It was hard not to listen to him because he was very loud and aggressive.
Lee said Jacobs made a huge impact on him when he took him aside for a frank conversation.
“One day during off-season practice it was raining and muddy and a lot of us were pouting,” he said with great love. “You are fortunate to have God-given athletic abilities and you must take this opportunity to improve yourself. Lee said. “He told me I could go as far as I wanted if I worked hard enough.”
Lee said he spent summers at home after college working on pipelines with Jacobs.
“He taught me that the tiger’s tenacity and true courage will get you through a lot of situations if you commit to improving yourself,” he said.
Corsicana mayor and former Tigers head coach Don Denbow said he hired Jacobs as an assistant coach, a move he has never regretted.
“Ray was one of the best athletes I have ever seen. He could run fast and had tremendous strength. Of course, he played for Denver and Miami in the pros and had several recognition awards for his game. He was Mabank’s head football coach and always had a competitive team. Our athletes loved him and respected his achievements as a player and loved being with him when he told personal stories about his childhood and football years, ”said Denbow.
“Ray comes from a farming background and has worked hard his entire life. He told the story of his father who never went to a game to watch him play in high school, college, and the pros until Ray persuaded him to come to the Astrodome (a covered venue ) to watch it play. His father entered the locker room after the game. Ray thought his father would be very impressed and asked him what he thought of the game and the stadium. He said Mr. Jacobs quickly responded, “This place could hold a lot of hay.” Ray told this story and many more about playing with Larry Czonka and other great athletes. He could keep a group of people spellbound during his storytelling and we all respected him. Ray loved life and valued many friends who valued him as well. God bless you Ray.
Susan Wilson said she and her husband Bill met Jacobs after buying their daughters ranch.
“We didn’t miss a chance to visit him and hear his stories, although with each story some of the endings have changed!” she said. “In September, Ray did a presentation with Joshua Tackett at Kinsloe House. Come to think of it, it wouldn’t have occurred to me that this was the last public speaking he would have. Those who attended have a special gift that we can play back and forth in our memories.
Navarro College athletic director Michael Landers said Jacobs had made an impact on so many people in Navarro County and beyond and was happy to have recently been inducted into the Bulldog Hall of Fame.
“Life well lived, neighbor,” he said.
According to his obituary, Jacobs was born on November 21, 1938 in Corsica to Myrtle and Arvel Lee Jacobs. He was one of 10 children and grew up on various hard farms around Navarro County, working the fields before and after school. Football was a way for him to finally escape the cotton fields, and he challenged his father to keep playing.
He escaped with his high school girlfriend, Gladys JoAnn Bryant, and the two moved together to Brownwood where they had their first daughter, Lisa, while they were dating Howard Payne.
At Howard Payne, he has been named a two-time NAIA All-American and three times selected as a Lone Star Conference selection. In 2005, he was inducted into the Howard Payne University Sports Hall of Fame. In 2020, he was inducted into the Navarro College Hall of Fame.
He was a first-round pick for the 1962 AFL Draft, picked by the Oilers (seventh overall) and the Cowboys in the 17th round (228th overall). Ray was in the hospital recovering from knee surgery when Mickey Mantle came with legendary football coach Bear Bryant to sign his first professional football contract. He blamed it on pain relievers and the thick pile of money they hung in front of him that he signed with the Houston Oilers and Dallas Cowboys at the same time. The ensuing lawsuit between the two teams ended with the Oilers winning, but they put the troublemaker on waiver. He was claimed on waivers by the Denver Broncos. Originally a defensive end, he switched to defensive tackle because he was quick and aggressive. He was twice a member of the All-AFL second team.
In 1967 he was traded to the Miami Dolphins where he met longtime friend Larry Czonka. The two hunted, fished, drank and played furious football together. Suffering from various injuries, Jacobs was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 1969, but was released before the start of the season. Picked up by the Buffalo Bills, he was traded to the Boston Patriots. In 1969, he only played part of the season before seriously injuring his back.
When playing pro, Jacobs was 6’3 “(depending on the team, he was billed 6’3” or 6’5 “) and weighed around 275 pounds. While undergoing back surgery, the anesthesia wore off and he decided to take a break, fleeing the operating room with blood streaming down his back, with surgeons and nurses chasing him. He was eventually parked, drugged much more heavily, and the operation was completed.
After playing soccer, he became a coach and teacher at Mabank High School, Corsicana High School, Navarro College and Ranger Junior College. The third phase of his professional life came when he returned to Corsica to become a probation officer for Navarro County, where he served for 20 years, retiring at the age of 72.
As a teacher and probation officer, he inspired young men to work hard, achieve their dreams, and respect themselves and others.
He spent summers working for Carmack Watkins on pipelines around East Texas. After his 22-year marriage ended in divorce, his sister Marie introduced him to fellow nurse Bobbie. They have been married for 30 years.
After retiring from probation, Ray was content to drink coffee with friends in the morning, play dominoes in the afternoon, and tend his farm on the outskirts of Corsica. Gregarious and charming, he called everyone “neighbor”.
Before the pandemic, he and his best friend Gene Bullard could be found six days a week at various restaurants around town, discussing politics, sports and everything under the sun.
He was a member of the Westside Baptist Church.
He is survived by his wife Bobbie, his daughters Lisa and Janet Jacobs, his stepdaughters Amy and Rhonda Tatum and his stepson Malcolm Tatum. He is also survived by his brother David Jacobs and his wife Michelle; sister Eleanor Greer, and sister Sandra Hughes and her husband Johnny. He has two step-grandchildren and several cousins, nieces and nephews.