Newberry: Lavender coaching for his family in 78th Oil Bowl

By:  Andy Newberry
June 10, 2015

The Oil Bowl has long been a football game Jayson Lavender didn’t want to miss.

He loves sports, loves football.

But coming back to the 78th Oil Bowl as a coach, the offensive coordinator of the East team, was all about family.

The Lavenders have a legacy with this game and Jayson won’t claim really any of it is his.  He played for Texas in the 1990 game, won 20-0 by Oklahoma.

But he’s here more because of the 1983 Oil Bowl.  His cousin Robert, who starred at Lawton Eisenhower, had made two interceptions that night and helped Oklahoma win 27-3.

“After my cousin won MVP he was standing on the 30-yard line, the home side and away from the scoreboard and he’s getting interviewed, by the TVs or the newspaper, and he looked over at me and said, this is going to be the next MVP player,” Lavender said.

The family having faith and expectations for Lavender to achieve is what really stuck.  “Obviously, I didn’t end up being MVP,” Lavender added.

But a look at the roster and you can tell that once Lavender’s name was added to the coaching roster he jumped in with the same enthusiasm cousin Robert and uncle Keith showed when they starred in the Oil Bowl.  Lavender doesn’t have either to celebrate with this week.  Keith Lavender played in the 1964 Oil Bowl, and had starred at Cameron State Agricultural College where he was an All-American and later became Cameron University’s football coach.  He died this February, and his son, Robert, 50, died in May.

“I’ll coach with a heavy heart in honor of those guys in my family,” Lavender said.

His dad, Jay Lavender, who graduated from Wichita Falls High School in 1961, has been on the sideline at Oil Bowl practices this week.

“That’s why I thought of my dad joining me on the staff and helping out,” Lavender said.  “He’s been around a long time but not sure he’d ever been a part of (the Oil Bowl).  I wanted him to be a part of it and he and I had never coached together.

“And this game is for charity.  I have three kids and coaching in this game is for a greater cause. Raising money for the hospital is really important.”

Lavender isn’t sure he’d be coaching today if not for uncle Keith.

“What a lot of people don’t know is, I didn’t graduate from Texas Tech (where he played on a Cotton Bowl football team),” Lavender said.  I graduated from Cameron.  He had a very heavy influence, I wanted to come back and be a cowboy and work on a ranch.

“Keith would always say, ‘Son, you need to be a football coach.’  He influenced me to enroll in Cameron and next thing I know, two years later, I’m walking out with a degree.”

The Lavender legacy lives on for this Oil Bowl.  They’ve contributed to the classic from both sides of the Red River.  Jayson will no doubt hand out some high-fives Saturday night.  But some memories of his loved ones are bound to come flooding back, too.  If you watched five minutes of practice you know Lavender is planning on winning, giving the East Texas All-Stars victory Saturday night.  He didn’t say, but I bet he hopes to trick’em a time or two.  But in his heard he’s coaching for his Oklahoma family.  This one’s for Keith and Robert Lavender.