H.W. “Chief” Wilson, the state championship coach of the Bridge City Cardinals, died at the age of 85 Monday in College Station.

Wilson and the Cardinals won the 3A state championship in 1966, a year after being defeated in the title game.

Bridge City defeated McKinney, 30-6, in 1966 to win the Cardinals only football state championship in school history. The Cardinals went 13-1 in 1966 and Bridge City’s only loss was against Nederland.

Bridge City was 11-2-1 in 1965 and lost to Brownwood in the title game, 14-0.

Coach Chief Wilson and Steve Worster celebrate after winning the state championship in 1966. This picture ran on the front page of The Penny Record in 1966.

Coach Chief Wilson and Steve Worster celebrate after winning the state championship in 1966. This picture ran on the front page of The Penny Record in 1966.

Wilson coached the Cardinals from 1962 until 1973 and his best years were lumped together with three-time all-state running back Steve Worster. Worster went on to star at the University of Texas after rushing for nearly 5,500 yards while at Bridge City.

Wilson’s coaching career began back in 1952 under Bum Phillips at Nederland High School. Phillips, a native of Orange, went on to coach in the college level and also coached the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints in the NFL. His son Wade Phillips is currently the defensive coordinator for the Houston Texans.

Wilson stayed on with the Bulldogs through 1957. That year was the first time Wilson would taste a state championship as Nederland won the 4A crown under Emmitt McKenzie.

Wilson and Phillips’ paths crossed again in 1958 as both coached in Jacksonville while in 1959 Wilson followed Phillips to coach in Amarillo.

Longtime Bridge City coach and educator Troy Woodall got his start under Wilson in 1964. Woodall stayed with the Cardinals until his retirement in 2004.

“I was only 22 years old when I started out and I guarantee you I was more scared of Coach Wilson than any of the players were in the early years,” Woodall said. “I have always been Coach Wilson’s biggest fan. He gave me my first job and I was always appreciative of him for that. He was the best coach I have ever been around.”

Woodall was with Wilson long enough to see the coach’s legend grow through the years in Bridge City.

“I remember one time he took me over to Austin to see the Longhorns spring practice,” Woodall said. “Right when he walked in the door they marched Coach Wilson and myself back to Coach Darrell Royal’s office.”

Woodall recalled Wilson’s attention to discipline as being the coach’s strong point both on and off the field.

“He expected the players to do what he asked them to do and he also expected the same out of his assistant coaches,” Woodall said. “It all worked out for the best. Off the field he had the same mentality. There was always a right and there was always a wrong. And if Coach Wilson said it, you could believe it.”

Wilson did not coach again in high school after leaving the Cardinals in 1973. Wilson is an inductee in the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor and he served as president of the organization.

Joe Chenella worked along side Wilson at Bridge City High School. Chenella was a teacher at the time of the state championship and then became assistant principal shortly there after while Wilson headed into the classroom to teach special education.

“He was a great gentleman,” Chenella said. “He had a great coaching staff through those years and had a great network of people he could call upon for help when he needed it. I think that was one of the keys to his success.

“Chief was just a great guy and it is a great loss to the Bridge City family. My prayers are with his family in this time of loss. He had a lot great friends. He was a man of his word. We lost a truly great leader Monday.”

Wilson is survived by his wife of 61 years, Ramona; his son Rusty Wilson; daugthers Monica Jaynes and Renae Vargo; nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Memorial Funeral Chapel in College Station.