GATE CITY — Some names are forever linked.
On a quiet day, a light breeze blowing in the corner of the end zone at Legion Field, one can almost hear the public address announcer as such names as Fry, Colobro, Rogers, Beasley, Shoemaker, Kilgore, Wolfe, Osborne, Humphreys and Houseright echo off the concrete of the home-side bleachers.
Included are two of the biggest names tied to the tradition-rich Gate City football program: Houseright and Beasley.
Those names also are tied to one another.
Gate City players, coaches and supporters alike preach the philosophy of family when it comes to athletics at the school that’s produced state championships in a variety of sports, including five state trophies in football.
Bill Houseright is directly connected to three of those five state championships.
Houseright, named a Parade All-American his senior year of high school, was an underclassman on the squad that won the VHSL Group AA title in 1970.
In 1997, when the Blue Devils won the Group AA Division 3 crown, Houseright was the defensive coordinator under coach Nick Colobro.
Over a decade later — as coach of his alma mater — he led the Blue Devils to the 2010 state championship.
“I’ve been blessed to be in some wonderful communities in Scott County. I’ve really been blessed everywhere I’ve been,” Houseright said.
He’ll be the first to tell you that plenty of his blessings have arisen from family.
BACK IN THE DAY
Houseright was a starting linebacker and tight end for Gate City as a junior. A summer growth spurt led to him playing defensive end and offensive tackle his senior year.
“I went to being a pretty good size,” he recalled.
That size and his play on the field drew attention from college scouts, particularly from Virginia Tech and Tennessee.
He chose Tech.
“I stayed as local as I could,” said Houseright, who played four years, starting all, for the Hokies.
One of Houseright’s teammates was future NFL player Tom Beasley, but they had more in common than Virginia Tech football.
The teammates dated sisters, Jenny and Margie Bateman, at school. Bill and Jenny got married, and so did Tom and Margie.
“I introduced (Beasley) to my wife’s sister,” Houseright noted.
THE FAMILY DYNASTY
After college, the Beasleys went to Pennsylvania after he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A year later, Houseright graduated from Tech and returned to Southwest Virginia to start his coaching career.
Houseright was an assistant coach for Larry Smith at Lebanon from 1979-82, but when the 1983 season started, he was back at Gate City, where he was an assistant coach until 1997.
Knee surgery sidelined his coaching career until 2000 when he went to Rye Cove as athletic director and football coach. There he guided the Eagles to their first state semifinal appearance before leaving for Twin Springs to become assistant principal.
In 2009, Houseright returned to Gate City as head coach and stayed until 2015, a span that included that 2010 state title.
“It’s just time. Gate City football has been good to me and my family. What I want to do now is be the best ambassador for the program that I can be,” Houseright said in a February 2016 Times News article after announcing his retirement.
While Houseright enjoyed a successful coaching career, Beasley enjoyed a 10-year run in the NFL.
After playing for Pittsburgh and the Washington Redskins, Beasley retired, and he and his wife moved their family to Gate City.
FOOTBALL AND FAMILY GATHERINGS
Family reunions with the Houserights and Beasleys are a sure bet for football talk at some point. Each family’s sons all played at Gate City and went on to careers at the next level.
Billy Houseright walked on at Virginia Tech and became a successful special teams player. He also was a graduate assistant under legendary Hokies coach Frank Beamer.
Houseright brothers Jake and Jonas also played at Virginia Tech and had successful careers on the defensive side of the ball.
Jeremy Houseright played football at Gate City but was sidelined by injury for more than a season during the Blue Devils’ 1997 state championship run. He returned to the football field his senior year before going on to Virginia-Wise, where he played on one of the school’s most successful basketball teams.
Jeremy Houseright followed his father’s footsteps into coaching, and last season was his first in charge of the Gate City football program.
“Being fortunate enough to be around the program as a little boy was a real blessing,” he said. “You would hear stories of the ’70s a whole lot and then being able to see all the work that these guys were putting in during the late ’80s and early ’90s was a real eye-opener for a young boy.”
Jeremy watched brothers Billy and Jonas play for Gate City and was teammates with Jake for two seasons. But he’s heard tales of his dad’s play.
“I heard a few stories of Dad when I was little, but as I got older, I found out about how good he really was,” Jeremy said. “I’ve seen a highlight tape of his days at Tech and to see him and Uncle Tom was something to watch.”
The Houseright boys’ Beasley cousins from Gate City include Chad, who played football at Virginia Tech and in the NFL for three seasons; Danny, who played football at Carson-Newman; Jared, who played football at Emory & Henry; and Kerri, who played volleyball at Gate City and at Virginia Tech.
CARRYING ON THE TRADITION
The tradition of success his family helped build at Gate City is fresh in the mind of Jeremy Houseright as he prepares for his second season coaching the Blue Devils.
“Our goal right now as a coaching staff is to let these kids know what kind of tradition there is at Gate City,” he said. “Gate City has been extremely blessed to have such great coaching in the past.
“Coach (Harry) Fry, Coach Colobro, Dad and a bunch of great assistant coaches that bleed blue and a ton of former players set the standard for football at Gate City.
“That standard will never change because of all the hard work that was put in by all the former Blue Devils, and we strive every day to honor them with our hard work and commitment.”