The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By David Grieder
Staff writer 

Coach remembered as 'velvet hammer'

Army Salinas credited with building Portales grid squad.


June 10, 2018

Courtesy photo

Former Portales High School head coach Army Salinas died May 10 at age 73.

PORTALES - Beyond a record of wins and losses, a coach's legacy can be measured by the influence made on their students. Army Salinas can safely claim an impact on both accounts, across an accomplished coaching career that spanned over 40 years in the region and included an important period in Portales High School's athletic programs.

He died May 10 at age 73, and was credited in his obituary with "building the (PHS football) program from a squad with too few players to scrimmage at practice to a program with over one hundred high school players," starting in 1973.

"I think as a coach you're always a combination of a little bit of everybody you've played for or coached with," said PHS head basketball coach Rickie McBroom, who played football under Salinas at PHS in the mid-1970s.

McBroom is not the only coach to have played under Salinas - not even the only one who played under his leadership on the PHS varsity football team in that era.

Steve Speck played under Salinas then and had his first coaching job with him in Seminole, Texas, in the early 1990s, while Don Herbert, another student athlete of the time, went on to coach football for years in Friona, Texas.

"He had a lot to do with me becoming a coach," Herbert said. "I saw what he did with students and kids and young adults and I wanted to follow that example."

Herbert said Salinas made it his work "not just to win games, but to develop character."

"Army was a great man. I mean, he was as fair a person as I've been around. He taught what he believed in," said Herbert, who graduated PHS in 1977, attended college in Portales and is now retired in Lubbock after over 30 years teaching in Friona.

Speck, now a football coach and head coach for girls golf at Clovis High School, first met Salinas during his freshman year at PHS in 1973 and attended his funeral almost 45 years later.

"He always made me feel good about myself, made me feel confident," Speck said. "The number of kids that came out (for football after Salinas became coach) was really an improvement, but the teams weren't bad. Probably my seventh-grade year they went to state championship. They weren't bad; they just didn't have the numbers out."

With that said, McBroom recalled some of the novel approaches Salinas took to training his football players, pressing them to their full potential.

"I just remember some of the stuff we did we had not ever done before. For us it was extremely hard. We were challenged, and I think it caused us to step up and meet the challenge," he said. "To start each two-a-day practice we had tires, and we had to run a mile with one of them around our shoulders. We had to meet a time, and if you didn't meet that time you had to stay after practice and do it again. That was, I'll be honest with you, crazy. It was really a physical and mental challenge. Everybody during the summer was trying to pick out the best tire to run with."

The team was still small in the first year or two of Salinas' coaching there, which made it all the harder to take relief from challenging practices.

"Again, we're talking 25, 26 kids," McBroom said. "So that makes it even more difficult, because there's really not a whole lot of standing around when there's so few."

By his senior year, the team had as many go out for football among seniors alone. McBroom said they ended the season with a winning record while almost making the playoffs in a challenging district.

The tires workout was just a part of Salinas' strong yet attentive and caring approach to coaching, according to another football player from that era.

"Like a velvet hammer," said Mike Davis, who in 1976 moved to Portales just before his junior year. "We'd all have blisters on our shoulders (from the tire runs). I guess that was a character builder. ... He loved the guys. He took an interest in your personal life and wanted to mentor all his football players."

Davis went to college in Portales and now lives in Midland, working not as a coach but as a bank president.

"He (Salinas) was instrumental in forming my character at a young age, and that's what I think coaching is all about," he said.

Salinas' obituary also credits him as PHS' first girls basketball coach. McBroom's wife, who played under Salinas on that team her junior year in 1976 as Donna Fields, said the team had a teacher in that position the previous year. Salinas was the first experienced coach, then, having come from three years as head football coach in Hagerman, New Mexico. After PHS his next head football coach position was for Lubbock High School in 1978, and he later held coach and athletic director positions in Plainview, Seminole and Hobbs.

"I remember he really loved to win," Donna McBroom said. "That was really instilled in him, that he wanted to win, and he tried to instill the same."


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