Bridgeport coach Danny Henson wanted to dispel the story that Que Brittain once fired his defensive coordinator Mike Burt in the Texas Stadium tunnel at halftime of a Flower Mound Marcus high school football game.
“He fired him at the 50-yard line, not the tunnel,” Henson said.
The memories and stories flowed easily at the memorial service Wednesday of Brittain. Burt, Henson, John Pearce, Joey Florence, Steve Lineweaver, Ron and Don Poe, Ronnie Gage, Todd Rodgers, Randy Allen and Kevin Atkinson were among the Who’s Who of Texas high school football coaches present at Brittan’s memorial service at Cross Timbers Community Church next to Argyle Liberty Christian School.
Celebrated was a circle of a life from playing football and growing up in Sulphur Springs, SMU and coaching at power programs from McKinney, Euless Trinity, Lewisville, Flower Mound Marcus, Skyline, Dumas and most recently at Joshua as an assistant to Burt.
Serving as the pastor for the services was one of Brittain’s star players at Marcus, Chris Prater, who told of once being the recipient of Brittain’s sideline wrath for punting to Dominic Rhodes who returned it for a touchdown for Abilene Cooper in a state playoff game. Coaching Rhodes (who went on to claim a Super Bowl ring in the NFL) was Randy Allen at Cooper. Now a longtime coach at Highland Park, Allen had first met Brittain nearly 30 years before their coaching showdown when Allen was an freshman football player at SMU and Brittain was a starting lineman for the Mustangs under Hayden Fry.
Brittain’s childhood friends, including Pearce, talked of growing up playing electric football (the Godfather to Madden/NCAA video games) in a small town in the 9150s and ’60s. Brittain was known for being a loyal and trusted friend among his peers and colleagues. Henson also told of Brittain’s decision to hand the play-calling reigns over to Henson after just one game at Marcus because Brittain believed it would serve the program better for Brittain to oversee all phases rather than be so focused on the play-calling.
“He realized he wanted to spend more time as a game manager,” Henson said. “It takes a very special man to fire himself from calling plays after his first ever game as a head coach.”
Brittain had a unique style in blending an imposing presence with a generally soft-spoken style. He had an ability to concisely communicate ideas and strategies as well as keep a perspective on the larger picture of an individual player’s progress and the macro-planning of a long season.
Brittain did have a booming voice which could be used to get attention quickly. Burt described Brittain’s passion on the sideline as his ability to challenge someone to be better. But it was Brittain’s skill at strategy which led to his career highlight of building Marcus into a passing power even though Brittain’s background and training had been in scheming power-running offenses under Neal Wilson at Lewisville and John Reddell at Trinity.
Henson was Brittain’s offensive coordinator and marveled at Brittain’s ability to see Marcus wouldn’t have the personnel to operate traditional offenses and the kernels of contemporary spread offenses were planted as Brittain opened a Marcus campus down the street from Lewisville’s powerhouse, option offense which won state titles in 1993 and 1996 under Gage.
The Lewisville ISD was a 1990s apex for talent in North Texas. Marcus reached the 1995 state final and won the 1997 state championship. The 1997 Marcus team set what was then a state record for most points scored in a Class 5A title game with a 59-20 victory over Alief Hastings.
The Marcus coaching staff featured five future head coaches: Offensive coordinator Cody Vanderford, who started Flower Mound’s program; defensive coordinator Burt, receivers coach Bob Bounds (formerly of Carrollton Newman Smith), running backs coach Bart Helsley (Keller Central) and Rodgers, who has won back-to-back state titles at Argyle.
The Marcus quarterback that season was an unheralded Spencer Stack taking over after a a strong-armed Chris Sanders, who had set records in the new-fangled, one-back and empty backfield offense. Stack, currently a pilot for Southwest Airlines, threw for more than 4,000 yards in leading Marcus to its only state title.Football wasn’t Brittain’s only expertise. He knew students, players and coaches. Along with his football assistants, he hired one of the state’s top cross country coaches in Steve Telaneus at Marcus and the Lady Marauders’ successful girls basketball coach Kit Kyle.
One of the many proteges of Brittain, Rodgers echoed a familiar theme to Brittain’s legacy.
“I hope it’s bigger than being a football coach,” Rodgers told the Denton Record Chronicle. “He guided me to coach coaches and let them work and do their job and give them an environment to be successful. He was always a resource for me. He was always giving back. He loved the game. He had a passion for the game like nobody else.”
The 68-year-old Brittain had done well with health until the last year when cancer of the esophagus and pneumonia finally took its toll March 29, 2015.