This is the way it works.
Lester “Bear” Jensen is headed into another hall of fame. You may know him or you may not, but it’s notable because he grew up in Norman and lives in Norman now.
Eighty-seven years old and still married to Hazel going on 65 years, Jensen has lived quite a life, one charted by various enshrinements.
He’s in the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame for coaching stops at Davis, Pauls Valley and Claremore. He’s in the East Central University Hall of Fame for his athletic exploits between the lines. And the weekend of Feb. 15-16 he’ll enter Cameron University’s Athletic Hall of Fame for his work as a coach and administrator.
But you should know him because he’s seen it all, done it all and remembers it like it was yesterday. Because his enshrinement into one more hall of fame may not be a huge story, the opportunity to catch up with him is huge indeed.
Where’d “Bear” come from?
It was 1938 or 39 and the newspaper he’d been selling, The Oklahoma News was no longer in business, so he and his younger brothers, Bill and Harvey, approached B.M. Shields, who ran The Oklahoman and Times office in Norman. Shields gave them jobs and monikers, too.
“You’re going to be the three bears,” Shields told Jensen.
Maybe it stuck because he was the oldest. Whatever, it stuck so well that earlier this week, phoned for an interview and asked upon answering, “Is this Lester?,” it took him a moment to realize it was.
He graduated from Norman High in 1945, where he played for Arlo “Skivey” Davis. Though state titles were not recognized until 1944, Jensen remembers being ranked No. 1 in 1943.
“We lost one game, to the Amarillo Golden Sandies,” he said. “We used to play them every year.”
What he remembers most about that game was there being 25 Tigers and 75 Sandies, a number committed to memory because he counted them.
“They were the only high school in Amarillo at the time,” Jensen said.
He remembers his senior year well, mostly because so many players got hurt, including star running back Bill Remy, whose bloodline would eventually fill Norman pitches with some of the nation’s best female soccer talent.
“He was a fine football player,” Jensen said.
A star on the grid and the diamond, Jensen was part of NHS’ state-champion 1945 basketball team, too. Though, he’s not too proud to admit, he came off the bench on the hardwood.
He went to Oklahoma to play football for Dewey “Snorter” Luster, because, apparently, every football coach back then had a nickname.
He was an All-Big Six pick as a freshman (and you can look it up in the Sooner football media guide), but chose to exit for East Central, in Ada, when Luster departed following the 1945 season to make way for Jim Tatum.
The story there revolved around Frank Crider, who had an NHS stop on his resumé, but had become a veteran assistant at OU under Luster. Crider decided to take the head coaching job at ECU when Tatum replaced Luster and Jensen decided it would be a good idea to join him.
After starring at ECU, Jensen stayed as an assistant coach before taking the football reins at Davis High School. His 1951 team tied the state title game with Thomas, but lost on “penetrations,” a penetration being entry inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, the Red Zone before it had a name.
He spent two seasons at Pauls Valley before taking over Claremore’s football program, where he won only two games his first season, 1954, before going on to post a 74-25-4 mark over 10 seasons.
Next stop, Cameron, in Lawton, where Jensen became head football coach and athletic director in 1964. He led the football program for 10 seasons and went 60-35-4. His first bunch of Aggies finished the season ranked No. 1 and won an invitation to the Junior Rose Bowl played inside the actual Rose Bowl, in Pasadena.
As AD, a position held until 1981, he oversaw Cameron’s transition from a two-year school to a four-year school, and when the Aggies needed a baseball coach in 1975, Jensen took that job, too. Expecting to be in the dugout a season or two, he stayed until 1984.
Talking to him about it all, and other stuff, is a pleasure.
Looking back, he thinks he had the most fun coaching high school football. At home in Norman, if there’s a game on, he’s watching, even though that means having to put up with so many spread offenses.
“I don’t like it, personally. We played the other way,” he said. “The split-T formation, the I-formation and things like that. It was run, run, run and now it’s pass, pass, pass. I’ve always thought if I could get rid of the passing game, I would.”
He still drives, and frequently that means morning coffee at McDonald’s on Tecumseh, near the newest Norman Regional Hospital campus and evening coffee at McDonald’s on Lindsey.
Often the subject among Jensen’s crew is politics where, as a man who remembers when it was hard to find a Republican in Cleveland County and now regrets the fact that it’s often hard to find anything but them, he’s often outnumbered.
No that it bothers him.
“I’ve never lost an argument yet,” Jensen said, “but I’ve had some of them prolonged.”
Though his wife will leave the room to watch “Dancing with the Stars,” while he refuses to turn it away from football, he readily accepts that Hazel knows her stuff.
“She’s watched so many football games,” he said, “she knows as much about football as I do.”
Though he made his name as the winningest football coach in one high school’s history and one university’s history and, as an administrator, built facilities that remain busy and well-used today, he came back to his hometown in 1986, 40 years after he left it.
“I think Norman’s a great town,” Jensen said. “It’s not quite like it was, but it’s a good town.”
Track him down and you’ll find a good story to go with it.
This is the way it works.
VIDEO: NHL game postponed after player collapses
Monday's game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Dallas Stars was postponed after Stars forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the bench shortly after completing a shift in the first period.
North grad fuels OCU
Oklahoma City University clobbered St. Gregory’s 12-3 on Sunday at Jim Wade Stadium supported by three runs batted in by freshman Jared Baker out of Edmond North High School.
Ryan Wright, a junior from Fruitland, Idaho, drove in four runs while going 3-for-5 with a double and his first home run with OCU. The Stars, ranked fifth in NAIA baseball, improved to 14-3, 6-0 in the Sooner Athletic Conference.
Deer Creek boys make state; Bulldogs eliminated by Owasso
The Deer Creek Antlers made a run on Durant in the third quarter of a Class 5A area consolation championship game that thrusted Deer Creek into the state tournament for the first time since 1997.
The Antlers, 18-9, got up on the Lions by six points in the third and then held the ball, thus forcing Durant to come out of its zone en route to a 54-45 win.
Led by Conner Avants’ 26 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots, Deer Creek got some easy scores going against the Lions’ pressure in the fourth.
Antler Tyler Haddock added 16 points and five rebounds and teammate Brett Valentine contributed eight points.
UCO fights to MIAA championship; falls to Missouri Southern
A spirited postseason run came to an abrupt ending for Central Oklahoma in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Tournament finals Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, Mo.
The depth-challenged Bronchos played just six players and fatigue played a factor in the second half as Missouri Southern claimed an 84-72 victory to capture the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Division II national tournament.
Fifth-seeded UCO, playing for the third straight day, fell to 20-10 and is doubtful to earn an at-large bid into the playoffs when the full 64-team field is announced late Sunday night. The Lions improved to 24-5.
The Bronchos led 40-39 at halftime, but missed five straight shots during a key second-half stretch when Missouri Southern stretched a 45-44 lead to double digits at 54-44 with 14:21 remaining and UCO never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
Putnam North fires back in second half
The Lady Bulldogs of Edmond Memorial kept their heart beating by downing Bartlesville 48-42 Thursday night in an area consolation contest, but the momentum came to an abrupt stop Saturday afternoon in the consolation championship at Catoosa High School. Putnam North ended Memorial’s season with a 46-31 decision.
Deer Creek loses nail-biter; Memorial boys fall to Tulsa Union
The Deer Creek Antlers were just seconds away from entering the Class 5A state tournament, but Del City’s Brett Cannon scored on a reverse layup on a back-door move with one second left to down Deer Creek 47-45 in overtime in an area championship contest at Catoosa High School.
“We’re playing really well,” Antler skipper Matt Bailey said following the nail-biter. “They got us with the last shot in overtime.”
Deer Creek will face the winner of the McAlester/Durant game Saturday at 6:30 at Sapulpa High School in the area consolation title game with a trip to the big dance on the line.
After impressive road series, OC’s Coats receives NCCAA pitching honor
Oklahoma Christian’s Shea Coats was honored Tuesday as the National Christian College Athletic Association’s softball pitching student-athlete of the week.
Coats, a freshman from Tuttle, was honored for her performance as the Lady Eagles won two of three games last weekend at Texas-Permian Basin. Coats threw a complete-game 1-hitter to lead Oklahoma Christian to a 3-0 win in the series opener, then threw two perfect innings in relief to earn the save as the Lady Eagles took the series finale 6-2.
In her nine innings of work, Coats struck out 11 batters while walking four. She currently ranks fifth in the Heartland Conference in strikeouts with 46, in 43 innings of work.
She is the first OC softball player to win a NCCAA weekly award this season.
Broncho Gibbs stacks up honors
Central Oklahoma’s Josh Gibbs was a repeat first-team selection on the All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Team that was released by the league office Tuesday.
The 6-5 senior forward is averaging 20.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals a game .
Gibbs, who leads the league in rebounds and ranks third in scoring, has had 17 double-doubles this season. He’s also second in the MIAA in 3-pointers per game with 2.4, having made 66 treys while shooting 38.8 percent from beyond the arc.
SLIDESHOW: Lady Wolves win Area basketball title
The Edmond Santa Fe Lady Wolves won the Area basketball title with a win over Norman North at Choctaw Thursday evening.
Santa Fe thwarts Norman North offense
The Edmond Santa Fe Lady Wolves added another plaque to their collection and took one more step toward a gold ball Thursday night.
Edmond took down a feisty Norman North squad 64-47 at Choctaw High School to win the Class 6A west area tournament and advance to the state tournament that begins March 13.
“We’re going to enjoy that for tomorrow and now we’ve got to go find who we play on Saturday and we’re going to focus,” said Paul Bass, Santa Fe head coach. “It’s one game at a time. We’re 24-1, but that really doesn’t matter because now we’re in the third tournament of the year for us. This is the one that’s most important — get to state and try to get that gold ball.”
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