(Photo Credit: SLUH’s official website)
Former St. Louis University High School football coach Paul Martel has passed away at the age of 91. Martel, who coached at St. Louis University High from 1959 to 1987, had passed away Sunday morning at St. Anthony’s Medical Center.
It was just two months ago that he had received the Metro Legends Award at the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony at the Millennium Hotel in downtown St. Louis.
As SLUH’s head football coach from 1959-87, Martel recorded more than 200 wins and was selected as “High School Coach of the Year” for Missouri in 1973. In 1970, he achieved his greatest accomplishment when he led the Junior Billikens to the Class 4 state championship, and winning.
Martel led teams to the Missouri state high school playoffs six times, twice advanced them to the semifinals, in addition to the championship victory. Also, SLUH was champion of the Bi-State Conference a total of eight times out of 12 years in which the conference was around.
John Houska, who is a former SLUH player, had escorted Martel to the SLUH-Kirkwood football game in October, and told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch what the experience was like.
“He needed help and a walker to get around,” according to Houska, who was a quarterback on the 1967 Junior Billikens. “But he was still sharp. He could sense what was going to happen before it ever did. It was impressive to see.”
Over the course of his legendary 40+ year career, Martel compiled a 285-105-12 total record, including coaching stints at Immaculata High in Leavenworth, Kan., and also at Bishop Meige High in Kansas City, Kan.
And aside from his impressive coaching career, it was his reputation and popularity that also resonates with him.
“We had so much respect for him,” said Joe Castellano, who was a center and linebacker on the 1970 state title team. “Even back then, as kids, we knew how lucky we were that we were getting the opportunity to play for him.”
His health had been failing over the past few weeks, and he would have turned 92 in two weeks.
“He was one of my dearest friends,” Houska told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He touched everyone involved in football one way or another. He will be missed.”
I personally would like to send my condolences to the Martel family at this rough time. Visitation for Martel will be held Thursday from 3-8 p.m. at Kutis Funeral Home, 10151 Gravois Road in Affton. A funeral Mass will take place at 9:30 a.m. Friday at St. Catherine Laboure Church.