The Metro Legends Award is awarded annually to a local coach or athletic director who has devoted his/her life to leading young men and women to success through successful experiences as an athlete within their programs. Ray Cliffe, long-time Southwestrern High School football coach, was the first recipient of this award.
METRO LEGENDS AWARD
For much of Paul Martel’s 40-year high school coaching career, including one decade at Bishop Miege in Kansas City, followed by nearly three at St. Louis University High, he turned out remarkable results with a remarkably thin coaching staff. Some of his most notable teams performed for Martel and his lone assistant, the late Ebbie Dunn, who went on to legendary status as SLUH’s head soccer coach.
“I’d see Paul lining the football field before games,” joked Ray Cliffe, the long-time Cleveland High coach who captured the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame “Legends of the Game” award last year. “Or taking tickets at the ticket window. Whatever it took to get the job done, he’d do it.”
Martel once made a pitch to the SLUH president for a third football coach. “Why do you need a third coach,” answered budget-conscious Father Gerry Sheahan, S.J. “Well, for one thing,” Martel answered, “Coach Dunn and I get worn out shaking hands with the other teams’ coaches before the games.”
If there was an overmatch, it usually went the other way. Martel’s head coaching career started at Immaculata High in Leavenworth, Kan., in 1948. He then went to Bishop Miege and SLUH. His coaching career concluded in 1988 when he took the St. Louis Gamblers to the semipro “Super Bowl” championship. Overall, Martel’s teams posted a 285-105-12 record. Resourceful and innovative, Martel led teams to the Missouri state high school playoffs six times, twice advanced them to the semi- finals, and took the 1970 Junior Billikens to the Missouri Class 4A championship. SLUH was champion of the Bi-State Conference eight times in its 12 years of existence during Martel’s tenure, and his teams ranked in the Top 10 of the St. Louis Prep Poll 17 times.
After his head coaching career, Martel served an assistant at Washington University and Vianney High School. “You know, coaches don’t get rich,” Martel once said. “Our wealth comes from having a part in so many lives. We’re touched by it.”
– Joe Castellano