When Bryan Gray was struggling to find success in his early years as head football coach at East Hall, he always drew inspiration from his talks with Chuck Clausen.
Retired as an assistant coach with 15 seasons in the NFL under his belt and five years as defensive line coach at Ohio State, the warm-natured Clausen had since retired to the area and was a welcomed fixture in the high school football community of Hall County.
“Chuck was just always so supportive, and would always call with encouraging words,” said Gray, who has been East Hall’s coach since 2007.
Clausen, who lived in Flowery Branch, also wrote a column for The Times for many years, his weekly Power Ratings of all the high school football programs in Hall County. Clausen died Thursday. He was 75. The memorial service for Clausen will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 9 at Gainesville’s First Baptist Church.
One gesture, in particular, was meaningful to Gray. It was in those early years, almost a decade ago, when the Vikings had little success. Gray opened the mail and Clausen had sent him a copy of a poem written by former US President Theodore Roosevelt. In the poem, Roosevelt writes conveying the message that great success can’t come without a certain amount of error and shortcoming.
“Coach Clausen was just a wonderful man,” said Gray, who has guided East Hall to back-to-back playoff appearances. “I’m very sad to hear that he died.”
Clausen never played favorites. The mild-mannered coach with a big smile, who was on the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl staff from the 1980 season, wanted to see all the local high school football programs succeed. Clausen had other interests outside of football.
Clausen, along with his wife Betsy, were faithful member of Gainesville’s First Baptist Church, served in community organizations and worked many years locally in the commercial real estate market.
A graduate of the University of New Mexico where he played football and wrestled, Clausen got his big break when he was hired in 1971 by legendary coach Woody Hayes at Ohio State. During his time with the Buckeyes, Clausen coached in four Rose Bowls.
The pinnacle of Clausen’s career was serving as defensive line coach for the Philadelphia Eagles during the 1980 Super Bowl season. After 10 years in Philadelphia, he coached with the Atlanta Falcons, before retiring from football as defensive line coach for the San Diego Chargers in 1991.
During his coaching career, he also worked for three seasons at William & Mary College with coaching legends Lou Holtz and Marv Levy.
Clausen also gave a current NFL coach his first shot in the pros. In 1983, Philadelphia’s defensive line coach went out and picked Tom Coughlin as its new wide receivers coach. Coughlin, who won a Super Bowl championship in 2011, is now in his 12th season as head coach of the New York Giants.
Despite all his accomplishments, Clausen felt just as comfortable following high school programs in Hall County. In fact, Clausen was always eager to share what he knew about the game with coaches in the high school ranks.
Gainesville coach Bruce Miller, a longtime friend of Clausen’s, recalls that the former pro assistant coach was helpful with schemes when he hired Jim Pavao as Red Elephants defensive coordinator. According to Miller, Clausen would help give insight into play calling in the 3-4 defense.
“Chuck always loved to talk football,” said Miller, who knew Clausen since he took over at Gainesville 14 years ago. “I was always so impressed that someone of his background lived right here on our doorsteps in Hall County.”