When former Woodrow Wilson High School football, basketball and track star Robert “Frog” Young began researching the history of Flying Eagle football, the WWHS football and basketball hall of famer was intrigued by the story of Clarence “Buckshot” Underwood.
Underwood graduated from WWHS in 1934, 23 years before Young’s graduation, after starring on the gridiron for the Flying Eagles. He continued his football playing career at Marshall University and eventually returned to Beckley, where he became the Woodrow Wilson head football coach in 1942, beginning a career that would take him to the top levels of football.
Underwood — a member of the Marshall Circle of Honor — had to put his coaching career on hold when he served in the United States Navy for four years in World War II, but it was during that stint in the Pacific that he met another coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant.
After the war, Underwood followed Bryant to the University of Kentucky, where he became the Wildcats’ offensive line coach. It was at UK that Underwood earned a master’s degree in education.
Bryant eventually left for Texas A&M, before reaching legendary status at Alabama, but Underwood was unable to go with him because of a serious illness.
When Underwood returned to health, however, Bryant recommended the Beckley native for a position as athletic director and head football coach at Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur, Texas. He went on to become a Texas football legend, winning eight district titles in 10 years at Thomas Jefferson and taking his team to the 1957 4A state championship game.
He was named the coach of the South team in the Texas All-Star game in 1960, and he was the director of the Texas High School Coaches Association from 1957 until 1962. He coached University of Miami and Dallas Cowboy coaching legend Jimmy Johnson during that stint.
In 1966, Underwood returned to the University of Kentucky, and he remained as an assistant there before retiring in 1977. He served under five different head coaches at UK.
This July, Underwood, who passed away at the age of 73 in Houston, Texas, in 1985, was inducted into the Texas High School Hall of Honor, and Young was there to witness the moment.
“It was really a special thing,” said Young. “He got three standing ovations and there was a whole section of former players there to see it.”
Young, who said he’s thrilled that he was able to witness the ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas, has put together a video tribute to honor Underwood. It can be found online at http://jeff560.tripod.com/underwood.html.