CHERRY, JOHNSON BLAIR (7 AUG 1901–10 SEP 1966)
Blair Cherry put Amarillo on the map in the 1930s when he led Amarillo high to three straight football championships in 1934, 1935 and 1936. Amarillo High became the first program in state history to win three straight championships.
Before Cherry arrived, the Sandies had never advanced past the bi-district round of the playoffs. After he left, Cherry’s teams were the subject of a Look Magazine feature.
During Cherry’s tenure from 1930 to 1936, the Sandies went 84-5 and outscored opponents by an average of 30 points to 5.
Amarillo High shut out 45 opponents and beat Corpus Christi in the state title game 48-0 in 1934, a championship game record that stood until 1962. Amarillo High went into the game as a decided underdog.
In 1937, Cherry joined Dana X. Bible’s staff at the University of Texas, where he coached future NFL Hall of Famers Tom Landry and Bobby Layne. Cherry was one of the pioneers of the T-formation which he designed to take advantage of Layne’s passing skills. As the offensive coach at UT, Cherry also pioneered the use of motion, multiple formations and split backs, which Landry helped perfect in the NFL. In 1947, Cherry took over the head coaching position in Austin and guided the Longhorns to a 32-10-1 record over four years, winning the Southwest Conference title in 1950. During World War II, Cherry also coached the Longhorn baseball team to a SWC championship.
Cherry is the only head coach in history to have won a state high school championship and a Southwest Conference championship. He was also the first coach in state history to win three straight state titles.
Cherry believed a coach should look businesslike and professional and always dressed in a suit coat and hat during football games. Landry believed that as well, and Landry carried that fashion legacy into the NFL.
“Coach Cherry wasn’t the kind of coach that would rant and rave all the time,” said Rooster Andrews, a former UT baseball player and football manager during Cherry’s tenure. “He was really quiet and in control. He would just work harder. We all worked hard to earn his trust because if he was your friend, he would go to the wall for you.”
In 1951, Cherry retired from coaching to get away from the microscope of big-time college athletics and to spend more time with his family. He entered the oil business.
Cherry is a member of the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame, the Texas High School Coaches Hall of Honor and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. He died of 1966 of heart failure at age 65.
Scholarships awarded in his name carry on his legacy.
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BIBLIOGRAPHY: Amarillo Globe-News, December 28, 2000.