Hidden In The Hall: Tyson Leads Waco High's Decade Of Dominance

(July 2, 2014) Inside the Texas Sports Hall of Fame is a tribute to one of the greatest dynasties in Texas high school football history.

On display, are four state championship trophies, pictures and clothing worn by the Waco High Tigers in the 1920s.

But inside a crumbling playbook lies a blueprint for the team's incredible success.

So, who owned the book and how did it revolutionize high school football in America?

In 1921 Waco High had emerged as one of the best football teams in Texas, thanks in large part, to head coach Paul Tyson.

"During the 20s, Waco High scored over 100 points eight times and it's all due to Coach Tyson's innovation," Texas Sports Hall of Fame interim director Jay Black said.

And it was all thanks to this play inside Coach Tyson's playbook.

"Coach Tyson's biggest innovation was the fact that he came up with this spin play," Black said.

"Back in those days, when your opponent centered the ball, we knew that's where the guy was going to run. Well, when the quarterback ran that spin play, he rarely seldom ended up with the ball. They were confused about where the ball was going to be. Nobody had ever seen it before," said John Sheehy, Waco High's running back from 1938-1940.

The "spin play" was a revolutionary change in high school football.

"Football probably more closely resembled a rugby match. You would just try to line up, overpower your oppone nt, kind of three yards and a cloud of dust. Nothing really fancy, just straight ahead dive football," Black said.

The results of the spin play were extraordinary.

"They won four state championships, lost in the title game two other times and in one of their better years in 1921, they scored over 500 points, didn't allow a point," Black said.

And it 1927, Waco High beat one of the best teams from Ohio and earned the claim the best high school football team in America.

"It wasn't anything for Waco High to score 75, 80, 100 points," Sheehy said.

And soon Paul Tyson shared his ingenious ideas with one of his best friends, Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne.

"I don't think there's any doubt that they shared," Sheehy said.

"Oh there's no doubt there was some cross-polination from some of the ideas between coach Tyson and coach Rockne," Black said.

And today, Tyson's playbook, in the archives at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, is a testament to Waco High's decade of dominance and the coach who revolutionized football in the state of Texas.

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