FERRUM, Va. -- The Ferrum College community received sad news this morning with the passing of Sam Webb, Ferrum's former football, basketball and baseball coach.
Born Samuel Richmond Webb February 12, 1926, Webb was two months shy of his 93rd birthday. Ferrum's football wing inside the Hank Norton Center is named after Webb.
A native of Bluefield, Virginia, Webb graduated from Concord College in 1951. He came to Ferrum in the summer of 1955 after working at William Byrd High School in Vinton. Ralph Arthur, Ferrum's president at the time, hired Webb to start the football program and serve as head coach. Webb would also serve as head basketball coach, head baseball coach and athletic director. Up until then, basketball and baseball had been played on a competitive basis, but football was relegated to intramurals with six-man teams.
Webb's office, not much larger than a broom closet, was located in the basement of Schoolfield Hall, the College's chapel at the time. The lower level of Schoolfield was where basketball games were played. Baseball games were played on a rough diamond just outside of Schoolfield, with the outfield backed up against Ferrum Mountain Road (VA Rt. 602).
Webb initially made recruiting phone calls from President Arthur's office in John Wesley Hall, but eventually a phone was installed in his Schoolfield office. Many Virginia colleges and universities donated older football equipment to Ferrum, including University of Richmond, Virginia Tech, Virginia Military Institute and Washington & Lee University. The generosity of these larger schools helped Ferrum greatly in its early years and connects us to these schools.
Ferrum's football nickname the "Black Hats" stems from the earlier days. The Panthers would recieve used equipment from schools that included a number of different colored helmets. Hardware was stripped off the helmets, they were spray-painted black and the hardware was reattached. As the season wore on, colored streaks of blue, red, yellow, maroon, gold, etc. could be seen as the black paint was scraped away and revealed the helmet's previous color. When football season was done, hardware came off the helmets again, spray paint was reapplied, and the hardware was reattached. To this day, Ferrum's football helmets continue to bear no logos or numbers.
Webb and the Panthers went 2-5 in football during the 1955 inaugural season, then 1-9 in 1956. Health issues forced him to step away from coaching after the spring of 1957.
Ferrum alum Tom Berry '57 played all three sports under Webb at Ferrum. He describes Webb as a very gentle man, who never got upset or rattled, and always had a great sense of communication with student-athletes.
"Coach Webb was a mentor, friend and father figure to us all. He wore so many hats; football coach, basketball coach, baseball coach and athletic director. I don't know how he did it alll. Its hard to describe the impact he's had on my life. He was such a good person." --Tom Berry '57
Fellow alum Ed States '57 was a teammate of Berry's and recently reflected back on Webb's efforts to move Ferrum forward in the world of collegiate athletics.
"At a recent Ferrum home football game, as I looked out on the first class athletic facilities, I was reminded of how Coach Webb years ago had started it all. Everyone has heard the stories; limited funding, used equipment, rushed recruiting, a dirt and rocky practice field, no staff, three sports and athletic director. These were all handicaps that Coach Webb overcame successfully. His football team won the first intercollegiate game in Ferrum's name and his basketball and baseball teams had multiple wins, at least two against a 4-year colleges. Commendable achievements for a start-up program. But, perhaps his greatest achievement was that he introduced the Ferrum name in intercollegiate athletics by scheduling and playing games in Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Thus, this humble beginning, the Coach Webb era, paved the way for a history of athletic success and the development of today's first class facilities. --Ed States '57
Webb lived in Salem, Virginia. He is survived by his son Charlton Webb of Knoxville, Tennessee, and his daughter and son-in-law Whitney Webb Maddox and Rob Maddox of Vinton.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, people should visit cabinfevercharityevents.org, which contains a link to donate online in memory and honor of Coach Webb. All proceeds go the local humane societies and service dog organizations.
"Everyone who knew my dad, Coach Webb, knew about his love of life, people and especially his love of dogs. We know this will have Coach smiling down upon us." --Whitney Webb Maddox
Services will be held Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Salem Church of Christ, 401 West Main Street, Salem, VA 24153. Visitation is at 12:00 p.m., followed by service at 1:00 p.m.