Pat Tuggle spent more than 25 football seasons in the press box at Yellow Jacket Stadium as the Cleburne ISD Athletic Department secretary.
Her years of dedication to Jackets football as an employee, parent and fan will be recognized at Saturday’s Helmets and Heels, sponsored by the Cleburne High School Football Parents Association. This first, of what organizers believe will become an annual fundraising activity, will bring together women of the community who are Jacket Backers — and would like to learn more about football.
Head Coach Casey Walraven will be among the morning’s speakers, with team members and varsity cheerleaders serving at the “girls only” brunch, taking place in the CHS cafeteria. But the recognition of one special woman who has been a major contributor and supporter of Jackets football will highlight the festivities.
Amber Witte, who is among members of the Helmets and Heels organizing committee, said Tuggle’s name stood out among the list of possible honorees for Saturday’s event.
“We wanted to recognize a woman who has supported the football program through the years,” Witte said. “When I think of Jackets football, Pat Tuggle is the person who pops into my head. When I bought football tickets as a student at CHS, and later, buying season tickets for our family, I came to Miss Pat.”
“She is someone who has poured everything into the football program,” committee member Kaci Lowe said. “She loved the kids, helped the coaches and was so giving of her time to not just football but all the sports programs at CHS. She’s always at the games, cheering the teams on. When she was the athletic department secretary, you could tell it wasn’t just a job to her. She didn’t just sell tickets — she was there supporting.”
“She was so humble when we asked if she would be our honoree,” Lowe said. “I was very touched by that.”
Tuggle, who is a 1967 graduate of CHS, came to work for the district in 1975 as a classroom aide at Adams Elementary. As the mother of young children, she was interested in an opportunity to work, with time off with them in the summer.
In 1981, she was approached by the district’s assistant superintendent who asked if she would interview for the position of secretary for new Athletic Director and head football Coach Chuck Curtis.
“I did a lot of praying because I knew it would be a 12-month job,” Tuggle said. “My husband, Charles, and I both prayed. We felt like we could work it out so I accepted the job. I began that fall — just in time for football season.”
Tuggle says working alongside the legendary Chuck Curtis was “quite the introduction” to athletics. She admits to not attending football games — or any games — throughout high school, so she was going into her new position as a rookie.
“Chuck Curtis was such a big deal, an icon,” she said. “I was kind of nervous coming in, but he was great to work with. He made you feel comfortable. People loved him and flocked into our office to see him. He was always very positive — he felt he could do anything he set his mind to. That attitude couldn’t help but rub off on you.”
Some of Tuggle’s most memorable moments in the athletic department were the seasons Curtis led the Jackets.
“That game he set up at TCU between Brownwood and Cleburne stands out to me,” she said. “It was a huge rivalry and Coach Curtis just egged it on. It was amazing. That game was so fun, the Cleburne fans were so excited. We beat Brownwood. He knew we would — but Brownwood didn’t.”
She also had her share of adventures during the Curtis era.
“I remember the year we made the playoffs — and we ran out of tickets,” Tuggle said. “We told the printer what we needed and when, which was ‘right now.’ I wound up being flown in this small plane to Wichita Falls where the tickets were being printed. We needed them that fast. I was told someone had to go and get them and it was decided that it would be me. I was so nervous — it was something else.”
“Chuck was such a good PR person and had so many contacts, including someone with a plane,” she said. “If he needed something done, he always knew who to call. I truly enjoyed my time with Coach Curtis. He was a good coach. He loved his family — and the Jackets.”
When Curtis left Cleburne to coach football at the college level, Pat found herself working with Jerry Cunningham. She was a great teammate, according to Cunningham.
“Pat was very thoughtful, efficient, patient and kind,” Cunningham said. “It was such a joy to work with her every day. She was accommodating in every way. What I remember most about her was the way she showed so much exuberance and excitement for the Jackets — no matter the program. Football, the Golden Pride, the cheerleaders, basketball, baseball. She was just ready to jump in and be supportive.”
“She and Charles were great friends to my wife, Donna, and me,” he said. “Pat is most deserving of this honor, for her love and devotion to Cleburne football, athletics, CHS and the community.”
In addition to her role with the district, Pat was also a parent to a second generation of Cleburne Yellow Jackets: Bethany (CHS ’89), Tiffany (CHS ’91) and Ryan (CHS ‘98). Charles is also a Cleburne alumnus, from the Class of ’64. He and Pat didn’t cross paths while in high school — they met while both were working at Rangaire.
“I worked for the Cobelle division of Rangaire when I was a student in the VOE program,” Pat said. “Vocational Office Education was new to CHS and I was one of Larue Barnes’ students. A number of businesses in our community hired VOE students as temps. After I graduated, Rangaire kept me on. That’s where I met Charles.”
As CHS parents, they watched their daughters march in the Golden Pride and their son compete for the Jackets in football and baseball.
“We were very involved,” Tuggle said. “We moms would decorate the football lockers and feed the players pizza after home games. Back then, the bands were eligible to go to state every year and we got to see the Golden Pride compete at the state contest. I know how important parents are to these programs. Cleburne has always had strong parent involvement — mothers and grandmothers are great supporters, no matter the sport or activity.”
Tuggle would ultimately serve with eight CISD athletic directors. She took a six-year hiatus after the first three to serve as attendance office secretary at the high school, returning to athletics for the remainder of her career, retiring in 2015 with 40 years of service.
Her 28 years with CISD athletics gave her a front row seat to some of the biggest moments in Jackets sports.
“Our boys’ basketball program went to state on several occasions,” she said. “It was so much fun going to Austin, including the year we were in the playoff finals. I was also there to see the Lady Jackets win the state 4A basketball tournament.”
Retired Cleburne basketball Coach Jeff Cody says words can’t describe the gratitude he has for Tuggle, and those like her.
“How very important are the ‘Pat Tuggles’ in our world who have helped you be successful in your job,” Cody said. “They do so much behind the scenes to get the job done. Pat helped all of us coaching get things done — on time. She is a first class Christian lady who took care of business and coaches. She was always there to help you. She was just like a coach. She came early and stayed late. She is the unsung hero of a very successful program.”
“I was so fortunate to work with Pat, and others in her capacity,” he said. “She was a servant to coaches and kids. She had a servant’s heart.”
Head baseball Coach Ross Taylor also expressed his gratitude for the role and service Tuggle gave to the coaches who were in her office daily.
“Pat is just a really nice lady,” he said. “She stayed on top of things in the athletic department and kept us abreast of all we needed to do, helping us when we needed it. She always had time to answer a question or tell us how to do something, in the face of her own busy day. I really appreciated that.”
Some of her most busy times were the Friday nights at Jacket Stadium — in the press box.
“Part of my job was to get the meals for our coaches, visiting coaches, radio personnel, sports writers and staff working the clock and related duties,” Tuggle said. “The press box could be quiet at times and loud at others. With all that responsibility I was too busy to watch much of the game. We also had a phone in the press box and kept a tight rein on who was allowed in. So on top of everything else, I was the security guard and phone operator. I am so very grateful to Kay Kelm, who was my right hand through the years. She helped me in my office as a volunteer.”
They were great days with great memories for Tuggle, who just renewed her tickets for another football season. She only misses a game when she and Charles are spending time with their seven grandchildren.
“It’s a little more relaxing now,” she said. “I get to go a game and actually watch it. I love going to the football games--in Cleburne it’s like your spending an evening with friends. Jackets football and baseball are just a part of us and always will be. We still make some basketball games, too.”
“When I was with the district, we didn’t miss anything,” she said. “I sat out in the cold and the heat, especially when my kids were marching or playing. I didn’t have a favorite sport, but football, girls’ and boys’ basketball and baseball are among my top three.”
“I felt like all those players were my kids and I enjoyed watching them,” Tuggle said. “People would ask me if I had someone playing and I would say ‘yes — they’re all mine.’ It is so wonderful to see kids who played for the Jackets and they call my name and say hi. It’s great when you see former players come back to their school and community to work and live. They are giving back and I love that.”
Tuggle has continued to be a servant to others since her retirement from CISD. She volunteers twice a week at Texas Health Resources Cleburne and is secretary of the hospital auxiliary. The Tuggle’s are active member of Field Street Baptist Church where Pat sings in the choir.
She admits to being a nervous wreck over the prospect of being honored at Saturday’s Helmets and Heels.
“I’m not one who wants to be the center of attention,” she said. “But to be the first one recognized at this new event is so cool. There’s been a lot of interest in Helmets and Heels from women in the community and I am so glad for that. I want women to come and learn about football, visit together and help raise funds for kids. That’s what this is about, not me.
When I retired, I cleaned out my closet, but kept all the T-shirts from each program and all those playoff shirts. I have wanted to get them made into a quilt. The black and gold have always been a part of my wardrobe colors — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”