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Mesa Musings: Football coach loved life, God and his wife

February 22, 2011|By Jim Carnett

"Humpty-diddy, baby!" is an exhortation without precise translation, akin perhaps to Bluto's thunderous "Let's do it!" in "Animal House."

Or, more poetically, it's a bugle blast accompanying the charge of a cavalry unit.

During his life, the legendary football coach Paul Briggs often bellowed "Humpty-diddy, baby!" He died last week at 90. With that phrase he fired up players and coaches on his sideline.

Paul was a prince of a man who lived a long and rewarding life. He was a widely loved football coach for 57 seasons — 37 as head coach at Bakersfield High School and 20 as an assistant at Orange Coast College.

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I was privileged to know Paul for 23 years.

Daily Pilot Sports Editor Steve Virgen movingly eulogized Briggs in this paper last week. There's nothing I can add to Steve's eloquent prose but one final memory.

When I last saw Paul three or four months ago, he was battling several debilitating ailments and looked wan and frail. He had great difficulty walking. Yet the old "humpty-diddy!" was still very much evident. His foghorn coach's voice hadn't diminished one iota.

He slapped me on the back as we caught up for a few minutes. I asked him about Sally. He told me Sally, his beloved bride of 64 years, had passed away some months earlier.

"How ya doin', Coach?" I prodded.

"Jimmy, I miss Sally terribly," he said, his voice uncharacteristically muted. "Every night I fix dinner and I set two places at the table, one for Sally and one for me. I talk to her as we eat. She's always with me."

I couldn't respond. My eyes burned and there was a lump in my throat.

God broke the mold when he placed Paul Briggs on this earth. Paul loved "the Man Upstairs," as he called Him, and he had an ongoing love affair with life. He was passionate about football.

Briggs loved the thousands of kids who played for him over the years — many of whom advanced to major universities and into the NFL. But he gave his heart to his "girl," dear Sally.

And he gently took her hand in heaven on Valentine's Day.

Humpty-diddy, baby!

Golden State stories

Are you a writer or hope to become one? Do stories about the Golden State appeal to you?

The Friends of Orange Coast College's Library will offer a program at 7 p.m. March 1 geared toward you. The program is in the library's Lecture Room at OCC, 2701 Fairview Road. Admission is free for Friends of the Library members, and $5 — or a gently used book — for nonmembers.

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