‘Father figure’ Sam Houston football coach dies
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Beloved Sam Houston assistant football coach Phil Jimenez died Tuesday morning. He was 49.
Jimenez had been hospitalized with COVID-19 since Dec. 15 and had been on a ventilator since Thursday. On Tuesday, Jimenez went into cardiac arrest and died.
“We’re heartbroken and devastated,” said his sister Debra Jimenez-Munoz. “We were really praying for a miracle. We knew the chances were slim. We feel robbed. COVID’s taken a lot of people, and now, my brother.”
Jimenez was the youngest of four children. After graduating from Burbank in 1989, Jimenez attended Southwest Texas State (now Texas State), to study acting. After pursuing that field for several years, Jimenez contacted his defensive line coach at Burbank — George De Leon — about what he needed to do to get into coaching.
De Leon told him he needed to get a teaching certificate. Once he did, he eventually made his way to Sam Houston seven years ago, joining De Leon on the Hurricanes’ staff.
De Leon first became acquainted Jimenez at Burbank when he needed a nose guard to fill a varsity spot for a scrimmage against Judson.
“They told me he was a freshman, and I said I don’t care,” said De Leon, who retired last year. “From what I’ve seen the last two weeks, he does a good job, and he’s very good at it. … He wasn’t the best defensive tackle I’ve ever had, but he was the best you could ask for when the time came. He rose to the occasion. He was tough, and he was smart. That was the thing. You taught him one thing, and he knew it.”
Quincy Stewart, who just completed his first season as the Hurricanes’ head coach, said Jimenez made an immediate impression on him when he arrived at the Sam Houston campus.
“His love for Sam and the relationship-building ability with the community just spoke volumes to me,” Stewart said. “He was truly loved by the community and the school, and he was a real big asset to my coaching staff.”
Jimenez-Munoz said her brother found coaching to be a rewarding profession.
“He was a father figure for many of the kids that perhaps didn’t even have a father or much of a home life,” Jimenez-Munoz said. “He was influential for many.”
Stewart said Jimenez was always upbeat.
“Phil always had a smile on his face no matter what the day was or how the day went,” Stewart said. “He’d always say, ‘Coach, there’s a brighter side to these things.’ He always made sure that you would see the brighter things.”
Jimenez was the defensive line coach in football and coached baseball, soccer and track.
“We’re dealing with it tough,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be hard to move on with somebody who meant so much to our program.”
Jimenez-Munoz said the school is planning a memorial service and planting a tree in his name. The team will wear a “PJ” patch on their uniforms next season.
“This is not a thing we’ll let go,” Stewart said. “He’ll be on our coaching staff for a while, and we’ll honor him in everything we do as long as I’m at Sam Houston.”