Norman’s Conquest in Oak Cliff

“If it weren’t for Coach Jett I’d probably be washing dishes,” says Harvey Martin, defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys.

“I’ve never thought of Coach Jett as a white man. He’s a man teaching his players to become men,” says Larry Jefferson, former South Oak Cliff player, now a Madison High School advisor.

“We do what Coach Jett tells us because we’ve learned that it’s always the truth,” says Darren Reagan, quarterback for the South Oak Cliff Golden Bears.

Norman Jett, now in his seventh year as head coach (after eight as an assistant), has impressive statistics – his Golden Bears have won 47 of 64 games going into this season. And during Jett’s tenure, South Oak Cliff has turned out six players now in the National Football League – Harvey Martin, St. Louis runner Wayne Morris, Cleveland receiver Oscar Roan, Kansas City cornerback Tim Collier, San Diego defensive back Danny Colbert and New York Giant cornerback Rondy Colbert. Add Kansas City quarterback Mike Livingston, a 1964 SOC graduate, and the Golden Bears have seven alumni active in the NFL. The University of Texas also has seven.

But Jett’s most remarkable accomplishments do not show up in the won/ lost columns or in the NFL. In his seven years as head coach, 85 players have received college scholarships.

“We teach all our players to shake hands firmly and look recruiters straight in the eye,” Jett says. “I never criticize hair styles or beards. We only advise them to try to look like a person they themselves would like to recruit.

We stress saying ’yes sir’ and ’yes ma’am’ even if they don’t feel like it.”

Jett is not averse to buttonholing friends. “I had this big ol’ clumsy player a few years ago who started just seven games in his career here. I called Boley Crawford at my graduate school alma mater, East Texas State, and asked him to take a chance on the boy. East Texas gave him a one-year make-good scholarship.” That player was Harvey Martin. Like most South Oak Cliff players, Martin could not have afforded a college education.

“Of all our players Wayne Morris is the only one who I’m certain could have attended school without financial assistance. We get a lot of poor kids here. Only two of our current players have cars. Several are on the free lunch program. Football might be their only path to success. Without an education they’d end up as parking lot attendants or cleaning schools somewhere. I think I take as much if not more pride in seeing one of my kids make it as a teacher or salesman or counselor as I do seeing them play in the NFL.”

If Jett’s won/lost record and history of turning out superb players did not set Jett apart, his color would. Norman Jett is white. South Oak Cliff is all black. It’s been eight years since Jett coached a white.

“I wondered about him at first,” Martin recalls. “But Coach Jett seemed so comfortable around blacks. After spring practice he took all of us out to Cedar Lake for fishing and swimming and boating and paid for it himself. He realizes that at 16 or 17 all young men need guidance and encouragement. He gave all of us that and so much more of himself.”


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