Longevity is not a term used much in coaching these days. In football, it always seems that coaches are looking to move up the ladder or schools always seem to think that we can find a better guy than the one we have. Is it possible that a school and its coach could have so much love and respect for each other that they stay together for half a century? For Coach Buddy Anderson, his 49 year stay at Vestavia Hills High School wasn’t that complicated.
“For me it’s a calling, not a profession,” he explained. “January 12th, 1968, I was 17 years old, almost 18 when I knew that God called me to be a high school coach. It wasn’t a bolt of lightning out of the sky, He spoke to my heart. So I knew what I was going to do. I didn’t know what that looked like or what it was going to be, but that’s where it ended up. When I went to Vestavia, I never dreamed I would be here 49 years later.”
When Buddy Anderson first stood on the Vestavia sideline as an assistant coach, Richard Nixon was President.
Coach Anderson spent 43 of those years as the head coach of the Rebels. He looked at his job as a ministry rather than a pursuit of wins and coaching success. By focusing on his players, his coaches and his school, he achieved the coaching success he didn’t seek, becoming the winningest coach in Alabama high school football history with 345 victories. He retired at the end of the 2020 season.
Buddy Anderson played high school football at Thomasville where his father had a Hall of Fame career of his own, but got out of coaching because he didn’t want to coach his children. He went to Samford and played tackle and was part of the 1971 National Champion team there. Coach Anderson took a job as assistant coach at Vestavia Hills High School in the fall of 1972.
He had immediate success as head coach at Vestavia, going to the state championship game in the state’s biggest classification in his first three seasons. Vestavia lost in 1978 and 1979, but in 1980 they defeated Parker 15-13 when the Rebels drove from deep in the own territory and kicked a 17 yard field goal late in the 4th quarter. Buddy Anderson was a state champion and one of the state’s best coaches and he was only 30 years old.
Coach Anderson would have many great teams over his career at Vestavia. Like most teams with great coaches, they were all different but at the same time very much alike. His teams played a physical brand of ball, loved to get in that old “I” formation and just run it right at you.
But 1998 was a special year. The Rebels defeated Shades Valley in a hard fought opener 20-11. Both teams went undefeated until they met again in the semifinals three months later. It took 3 overtimes to beat the Mounties again, but Vestavia prevailed 42-35. The following week they beat Vigor 10-7 at Legion Field for the school’s second state championship.
Coach Anderson is a member of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame and in 2018 was inducted into the National Federation of High School’s National Hall of Fame, only the second football coach from Alabama so honored.
Jack Wood, the executive director of the Alabama Football Coaches Association, said ”many people think of Buddy as the good man he is, but what often is forgotten is what a fierce competitor he is on Friday nights.”
Buddy Anderson’s legacy is about teaching and winning kids and making their lives better through education and football. Perhaps he explained it best himself.
“My Dad was a head football coach for 31 years and taught math, while Mom taught English and history. I grew up in a home of educators. This gave me a different perspective about why somebody taught or why they coached. I’ve always felt like I was an educator first, whether in the classroom or on the field, you are educating kids”.
George Halas, the great Chicago Bear coach, said of his Hall of Fame runner Gale Sayers, “His like we may never see again.” Today we celebrate the career of Buddy Anderson, knowing that high school football will miss him.
His like, we may never see again.
The Alabama Football Coaches Association is proud to present its Lifetime Achievement Award to Coach Buddy Anderson.