W.D. Wilson got his initial coaching experience in Tallahassee. In 1916 he became Fort Myers High School's Athletic Director as well as a teacher of History and Math. From 1920-1922 he became Fort Myers very first head football coach. Highlights of his tenure included establishing Fort Myers’ Athletic lettering system in 1916, organizing and coaching Fort Myers first football team, and leading Fort Myers to their very first football victory. His record during his only season as Coach was 1-4-1.
Coach Orr was born in Mars Hill, N.C. and went to the University of North Carolina where he was a hurdler on the track team. He did his postgraduate work at Columbia University in New York City where he studied Physical Training. In 1914 he became Assistant Principal and a Math instructor at Fort Myers High School. In 1915 he became Director of Athletics for the Tampa City Schools and also coached Hillsborough High's football team. He remained Director of Athletics thru 1916. When World War I broke out he was in charge of athletics at Columbia University. He joined the Army and was commissioned a Captain. He became Physical Director at the Field Artillery Central Officer's Training School at Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville Courier-Journal said of Orr's work at the school on January 19, 1919, " There never has been in any Army training camp so thorough a course of physical training as obtained in the F.A.C.O.T.S. here, and the main spring in the whole business is an expert in physical culture, Captain James L. Orr of Mars Hill, N.C., Physical Director of the Artillery School."
One of his loves was scouting.He became a graduate of Columbia's School of Scouting and an instructor there. He was also an instructor at the School of Scouting at the Headquarters of the Louisville Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He was recognized as the National Authority in Scouting on the subject of First Aid. He later taught Scouting at the University of Cincinnati. In 1921 and 1922 he was Principal of Fort Myers High School and in 1923 and 1924 he was Superintendent of City Schools. These four years coincided with his tenure as Head Football Coach at Fort Myers High. In 1925 he left to become Lead Coach at Rollins University. He believed in loyalty, selfsacrifice, courage, a fighting team spirit, and clean, square sportsmanship. Two former players who played under him commented on their late Coach: Herman Hastings played for Coach Orr in 1924, "He was a very strict man. He believed in strict discipline, strict hours, and a good life for all of his players. If anyone got caught smoking or the like then he was dismissed from the team, he wouldn't allow it. He was well respected, loved by his players, and wanted to win.His object in coaching was to win honestly and be good citizens. He knew his business and was a good Football Coach.”
Robert Halgrim, also a member of that team, added: "He really taught us something, we all respected Coach Orr. When we were preparing for a favored opponent, his favorite expression was ‘they put their breeches on one leg at a time just like you do’."
ir breeches on one leg at a time just like you do’." Coach Orr's tenure included many highlights and firsts. He established the first Armistice Day game with Arcadia in 1921 and the first Thanksgiving Day game with St. Petersburg in 1923. He led Fort Myers to their first winning season in 1922 (7-3-1) along with their first state ranking in the poll that same season (7th). He entered the Greenies into their first Football conference in 1923 and finished 3rd in the state poll, one spot away from playing for the state championship. It was also under his leadership that Fort Myers placed their first players on the All-State Team, Elmer Ihrig (1923) and Charles Stewart (1924). His four year overall record was 22-12-4 as he firmly established Fort Myers as a competitive team and a football community.
Coach Sidney Ellison had been a football star at Mercer College in Macon, Georgia. In 1925 he took over the helm of the Greenie football team. He taught Biology, P.E., and Sociology. In 1927 he became Athletic Director. He left Fort Myers High School from 1928 to 1930. He returned as Coach in 1931 where he remained until 1935. Between 1933 and 1935 he was the Principal at Fort Myers High School. He later became Superintendent of Schools in Dade County. He is the only Green Wave coach with two tenures. Ellison's teams were disciplined and they played for community and school pride and prestige. Coach Ellison moved the Greenies home games to Terry Park in 1925 and 1935 saw his dream of a lighted field come true.
Highlights of Coach Ellison's career are numerous. He entered Fort Myers into the South Florida Conference in 1932 and in 1934 he led Fort Myers to their first ever Championship in football as they won the Conference Title. A trademark of Coach Ellison's teams were winning big games against favored opponents. In 1925 his team became the first ever to defeat Bartow, in 1926 Fort Myers was the only team to defeat State Champion Hillsborough High School, and in 1927 gave Wauchula their only loss of the season. Coach Ellison entered Fort Myers into its annual Thanksgiving contest with Sarasota in 1935. The first All-American player from Fort Myers High School received his tutledge under Coach Ellison--Moon Mullins, who went on to star at the University of Florida. Honey Bartleson (1931) states, " He was tough, He was a good Coach. He knew the game." And Carlton Thompson (1932) added "He was a good Football Coach, He had a great personality with kids and knew how to handle them. But he was strict, He would really get on you. He ruled the roost."
Coach Ellison's overall record during his eight seasons as Coach was 48-25-7.
Charles Whitnel was born in Martin, Tennessee and grew up in nearby Fulton, Kentucky. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1925. In 1925 he coached at Hillsborough High School in Tampa. In 1926 he became TampaPlant's first football coach and stayed thru the 1927 season. In 1928 he came to Fort Myers High School and taught History. He became Principal in 1936 and 1937. He eventually became sick with tuberculosis and left the area. He taught for years at Scarsdale High School outside of New York City but never coached again. He was approached about coming back to Coach the Greenies in 1948 and later to become President of Edison Community College. He declined both because of his health. Carlton Thompson and Honey Bartleson fondly remember Coach Whitnel as an organized, fine football coach, who wouldn't tolerate alcohol or smoking from his charges. His wife, Margaret Boyd Whitnel, said,"He was a Southern Gentleman, a brilliant man. He would tell his players “I might not be the greatest football coach but I'm going to make gentlemen of you’."
Coach Whitnel's two year record was 13-5-0 and he coached the first Greenie superstar in LaFayette "Buck" Armeda.
" Lefty " Whitnel was also born in Martin, Tennessee and grew up in Fulton, Kentucky. He took over for his brother in 1930 and taught History. He was less strict than his brother or Sidney Ellison had been and the players considered him one of the boys. He would often go hunting or fishing with his players. But he got the most out of them as they finished with a 7-3-1 record. Coach Whitnel then moved to Indian Rocks, Florida where he opened a hotel and lived the remainder of his life.
Coach Moye came to Fort Myers High School right out of the University of Florida where he played football for the Gators and boxed. He was Assistant Principal and a Math teacher while at Fort Myers High School. In 1938 he was appointed Director of Athletics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, but shortly thereafter entered the service. Coach Moye was a young coach who had some players on the team older than he, as in those days you could play until the age of 21. He was the first coach to invite an out of state team to play the Greenies in a post season game as Rhea County of Dayton, Tennessee came down for the "Coconut Bowl" in 1936. He was also the first coach to have players participate in the State All-Star Game: Jimmie Randall and Harold Stambaugh in Jacksonville in 1936 and Everett Kelly and Billy Reynolds in St. Petersburg in 1937. He also had both Captains of the All-Conference team those years -- Jimmie Randall (1936) and C.T. Tew (1937). His 2 year record at Fort Myers was 13-5-4.
Floyd Christian became Fort Myers' first high profile coach. He was born in Bessemer, Alabama and moved to Florida when he was 6 and he graduated from St. Petersburg High School. He attended the University of Florida where he played Tight End for the Gators from 1934-1936. In 1936 he was All-SEC and All-American. He was also inducted into the Florida Hall of Fame and Captained the basketball team. In 1937 he accepted his first coaching job as the line coach for Clearwater High School. In 1938 he got married and moved to Fort Myers to become the football coach. Coach Christian recalled his initial visit to Fort Myers:
"Fort Myers had a good reputation so I went down to visit. I have never been so unimpressed with what I saw. The dressing rooms were small and shabby, dirty, I mean filthy. There were no decent uniforms. They weren't properly washed. Practice equipment was next to nothing. There was no soap or towels and we played out at the fairgrounds where the field was covered with sand spurs. It scared the hell out of me because at Clearwater we had a large coaching staff, new uniforms, and excellent facilities. Well, I joined the Kiwanis Club and Frank Prather, also a member, owned a cleaners and offered to clean all the uniforms weekly. The Kiwanis club collected soap and towels at several meetings and I hired a field worker to help maintenance the field. We cleaned up our locker room and all the lights at the field were out. So a fellow came out and put those in for us. That was the beginning of re-building the football team."
Coach Bevis played football at the University of Florida and took his first job at Palmetto High School. He then came to Fort Myers in 1941 where he taught P.E. and became Athletic Director. Coach Bevis was one of the most successful coaches to ever lead the Green Wave. Between 1942 and 1946 he coached the Greenies to 2 Conference Championships (1943 and 1944) and 3 runner-up finishes (1942, 1945, 1946). During his six year stint he won 42 ball games and to this day has the highest winning percentage of any Greenie Coach (.778). Morgan House, Greenie Of The Year in 1944, commented on his ex-coach:He was one tough man but he could get the most out of you. He knew when to be tough and when to be mild and mellow. He really made you have that drive to win and instilled that desire to win on game day. The most important thing Coach Bevis taught us was that football is not "I" but "We", he made us aware that there were a bunch of people around us helping. Team was number one. He would say ' The game wouldn't have 11 men if they weren't needed'."
The community really loved the Greenies and Coach Bevis. He brought a lot of pleasure and success during a time of turmoil. He had touched so many people in a positive way that Green Wave fans presented him with some special gifts during his last football game on Saturday November 15 vs Fort Lauderdale. Green Wave fans' Hoy Black and Cracker Crawford presented the beloved Coach with a 2-Tone Blue Hudson Automobile in appreciation for his service. He was also presented with a fine set of silver. Upon receiving these wonderful gifts he remarked," For once in my life I'm stumped for something to say. But I would like to express my really heartfelt thanks to the people of Fort Myers for this gift. The real answer to what success I have had here as a Coach, however, lies not in me but in the fine boys - and I have never found any finer fellows anywhere else in the state - who made up this year's Greenie squad and those who have played under me in past years and have graduated into manhood. It has been a great pleasure to work with these boys and with loyal football supporters of Fort Myers."
As Superintendent of schools in 1948, he presided over the dedication of Edison Stadium and presented it to Principal Ray Tipton.
Coach Swing took the reigns of the football team in 1947. He taught American Democracy, Psychology, and Business Law and coached for just one season. This was the last season that football games were played out at Terry Park. His record that season was 4-6.
One of the most special people to coach the Green Wave was George " Jock " Sutherland. He was born in Bartow, Florida and played high school ball at Summerlin Institute in Bartow. He played quarterback and kicked for the University of Florida for two years. During World War II he joined the United States Marine Corp. His first head coaching position was at Leesburg High School. After one season he came to Fort Myers High where he taught P.E. and Shop. Coach Sutherland was a master tactician and motivator. He was beloved and respected by all of his players, most of whom considered him their second father. His players fondly remember him :Leroy Nottingham (1957)," He was our second dad. He instilled in us desire to win, not only in football but in life. He was our hero, not only from a coaching standpoint but from also being a Marine. He never raised his voice or embarrassed a player. He would take you aside and let you know in his own way that you were letting the team down or not putting out 100 percent. No one wanted to let down Coach Sutherland. His players still get together today and talk about the things he taught us and how he affected us. There has never been a finer human being or role model than "Jock" Sutherland."
Coach Sutherland coached the Greenies to 71 wins in 11 seasons. During his tenure he won 2 Conference Championships and finished with a .703 winning percentage. Between 1955 and 1956 his teams went 17 games without a defeat. This is still the school record. In 1950 he led the Greenies to their first undefeated regular season but was in the hospital with kidney stones the week Plant City beat them in the playoffs. His place in the history of Greenie Football will always be a special one. Coach Sutherland did as much with his personnel as any coach could have. The Greenies under "Jock" were well prepared and disciplined. Each of his players took great pride in their individual assignments as part of a greater whole. He worked meticulously in practice on offense and defense but he was the master of deception. Much of his time was spent on a detailed, sophisticated system of fake handoffs, reverses, and double reverses on kick returns. Fort Myers' kick return became so potent and unstoppable that many teams resorted to just kicking the ball out of bounds. He exploited teams' weaknesses and paid close attention to aspects of the game often neglected by his opponents. This attention to detail and exact preparation made Fort Myers one of the finest football teams in the state during his tenure as Coach. In his 11 years, the Greenies were ranked in the State Football poll 5 times (1950, 1951, 1952, 1955, and 1956). "Jock" Sutherland and success went hand in hand.
Coach Ibach was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and attended Frankfurt High School there. He served in the United States Navy for 3 years during World War II. He then went to the University of Miami where he played guard on the football team. He later received his Masters Degree from Florida State University. While at Miami he was also a first string basketball player. In 1949 he accepted his first job as Assistant Coach at Fort Myers High School. He taught American Democracy and Drivers Education. In 1959 he took over as head coach of the Greenies. Coach Ibach was extremely organized and a tireless worker. He introduced more specialization into Greenies practices which allowed position coaches more time to work their specific groups. Bay Gruber, Coach Ibach's quarterback in 1964 and 1965, recalls,"Monday afternoon's chalk talk was always a definite concern of ours and I mean as early as Monday morning if we played poorly. He never got angry Friday night. But we sure did want to play well."
George D'Alessandro remembers "Coach Ibach was ahead of his time. He told the position coaches what he wanted and would make sure what he wanted was being done. Coach Tremont, Coach Ferreira, and Coach Kendrick were his assistants and coached the different position groups. Coach Ibach was the boss, he directed things. He called the meetings and set the curfews. He ran things more like they do today where position coaches closely monitor their players. At the time this very innovative."
Coach Ibach's 1960 team was ranked 5th in the state. In 1967 Fort Myers entered district play under Coach Ibach. Also in 1967 Fort Myers played their first inter-county competition, defeating Cypress Lake and North Fort Myers. Coach Ibach coached 10 seasons. In 1967 and 1968 his teams won the Bud Cook Trophy symbolic of the County Championship. On November 25, 1991 the Lee County Alliance Of The Arts on McGregor Blvd. dedicated a bronze bust and 60 rose bushes opening the Erv Ibach Memorial Rose Garden in honor of the late beloved Coach. The plaque reads:"Fort Myers High School Coach and Lee County Educator for 39 years, World War II Veteran, Devoted Family Man, Civic Leader and Community Volunteer, who wanted to give back to Lee County some of the blessings he had received there."
Sam, that one word is synonymous with Green Wave Football. All one has to do is say "Sam" and everyone knows who you are referring to. Coach Sam directed the Green Wave for 33 years! He is truly a legend and as loved and well thought of as any Coach to lead the Greenies. Under his direction the Greenies have experienced their most successful seasons. Sam was a dedicated, hard-working coach, who even after all those years still got butterflies before ballgames. He was a perfectionist, wanting everything to go as planned. His teams were well coached, fundamentally sound, and well prepared. It is an incredible tribute to his adaptiveness and flexibility that from 1974-1992 -- 19 seasons --the Green Wave did not have a losing season! There are few schools, let alone coaches, that can boast of such an accomplishment. Coach Sam, was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia where he graduated from Roosevelt-Wilson High School. He then attended Marshall University on an athletic scholarship while he majored in Social Studies and Physical Education and Captained the football and baseball teams his senior year. He played fullback and outside linebacker on the football team and was catcher for the baseball team. He was All-Mid-American Conference in both sports: second team in football, first team in baseball. He was offered a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates but deciding on a more stable future, accepted his first job as an assistant coach to Erv Ibach at Fort Myers High School in 1959. He taught History and coached for three seasons. In 1962 he went to West Virginia University on a graduate fellowship and earned his Master's Degree in Administration and Supervision. While there he coached the freshman backfield. The head coach at West Virginia was Gene Corum. In 1963 he came back to Fort Myers High as its first Dean of Students. He was Dean and Assistant Football Coach for two years. In 1965, Coach Corum informed him that Wheeling High School was replacing Bob Rowe who had been there for 24 years and that this was one of the best jobs in the State. Coach Corum said that if he pursued it he would get it. In 1965 Coach Sam took his first head coaching job at Wheeling High School in West Virginia. He stayed at Wheeling from 1965-1968 where he registered an impressive 25-13-2 record, winning the City and County Championship in 1968. In 1969 his family was suffering from ill-health and he was looking to move back to a more favorable climate. He interviewed with Oliver Payne, Principal at Cypress Lake, and was offered the head coaching job at Cypress Lake. While staying at Bob Sauerwine's house, Superintendent Ray Wilson called and told him of the possibility of the head coaching job at Fort Myers. He then interviewed with Harold Thompson, Principal at Fort Myers and was offered the head coaching job there also. He had two jobs and until Friday, when he was leaving to go back to West Virginia, to decide. It did not take long to make a decision. He had enjoyed Fort Myers during his previous time there and had experience at the school. He also knew they had a fine tradition. In 1969 he took over as head football coach at Fort Myers High School. Little did he know that 33 years later he would have the same title! In 1969 he was part-time Dean part-time History teacher. In 1972 he went to Drivers Education. In late 70's he switched to P.E. and in January of 1992 took over for the retiring Dub Kendrick, Ex-Greenie Assistant Football Coach, as Athletic Director. Coach Sam pays tribute to several men in influencing his style and approach to the game." My dad gave me the foundation to work from, the love of the sport, fairness. My stability, level-headedness, coping with adversity, comes from him. At least I try to have these things. My dad inspired me and from day one I had a ball in my hands and was involved in athletics. I knew I was going to coach. I learned alot watching Bill Szalay and Elmer Tremont. They got alot of kids and could get that little bit extra. I leaned heavily on them. And of course, my wife, Margaret. She has always been behind me, supporting me, pushing me to go that one step further. She has given me encouragement and inspiration."
Andy DeSalvo " I thought he was a very good Coach, very interested in his players. Sam has influenced a couple of generations."
Jammi German " He was like a father figure to me. When I first came there, nobody knew what to expect from me. He sat me down and talked to me a lot and told me to do the right thing, not only on the football field, but out of season as well. He could be rough when he got you on the field. Off the field, he could be rough enough to tell you the right things to do."
Richard Ibach "I think one of Coach Sam's biggest strengths is his will ingness to adapt with the times. Be flexible. One year we had a strict hair policy and we didn't have too many guys at practice. The next year there was no hair policy and we had a tremendous number of people, and they all worked hard too cause they wanted to play."
Richard Mallory "He was very innovative, he changed game plans week to week based on the opponent. Coach Sam also cared about us off the field as much as on it."
Darin McMurray " Coach Sam was like a second father to me. He was a great coach. He prepared me for things in life and college. I really respect the man. The Sirianni's was my second home."
Eric Riley " My entire time at Fort Myers High I was fortunate to be surrounded by classy people. It helped me during my first year in college. I was prepared for the next level. The amount of knowledge I learned from Coach Sam and the system we used was just incredible. Just a class operation. In hind-sight what I remember most was that he believed in me more than I did myself. He had bigger goals for me. That helps me now in life, that he believed in me."
Richard Shafer " Sam had a saying that has always been real important in my life : However tired or frustrated you feel, you can always go one step further and then another step and another step and you can always use that to conquer any problem."
Mike Smith “Coach Sam was a great motivational leader and a great role model. He could really get the team fired up and whipped into a frenzy. just a great football coach."
Steve Strickland " I think the biggest part that nobody ever really sees about Sam Sirianni is behind the scenes he works for his kids to try to get them places."
Coach Sam won a total of 244 football games at Fort Myers High School and 269 overall. He has won 20 county titles, 15 conference titles, and 10 district titles (1975, 1977, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1992,1996 , 1998, 1999, 2000). In 1991 and 1992 he led the Greenies to the State Semi-Finals. His teams won a record 26 consecutive Lee County games, had 3 undefeated regular seasons, and he only had 3 losing seasons in 37 years as a head coach. He sent numerous players on to play college football as well as one to the NFL.
Coach Frank called the defensive signals for 40 seasons at Fort Myers High School. Coach Frank was born in Clarksburg, West Virginia and graduated from Roosevelt-Wilson High School. He attended West Virginia University and played offensive and defensive tackle there. He graduated in 1962. He then became a graduate Assistant Coach for the Mountaineers while working on his Masters Degree. In 1965 he joined Coach Sam at Wheeling High School as Defensive Coordinator and offensive line coach. In the summer of 1970 he headed to Fort Myers where he taught P.E. and coached football and baseball. The numbers are quite impressive. In his 432 games as defensive coordinator, 211 times his defenses gave up 10 points or less (including 77 shutouts)---49 percent! In 1992, Barron Collier’s state leading 49.7 points per game offense was shutout. Thirteen seasons his Greenies defense averaged giving up 10 points or less per game. In 1975, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1991, and 1992 the Greenies have had the number one defense in Southwest Florida based on fewest yards per game.
Mike Smith " Coach Frank is the best position Coach I've had from Pop Warner thru college. He made me into a football player."
Pat Hayes " Coach Frank made me everything, I was in football. He took extra time with me and worked with me. I owe a lot to Coach Frank."
In 2002, Coach Sam Sirianni Jr. took over the helm of the Green Wave football program. Since that time, the program has experienced continued success that his father “Coach Sam” had established. Sam Sirianni Jr.’s record in his 13 seasons is 98-45, trailing only his father in career wins. Coach Sam Sirianni Jr. has won 8 District Titles and 7 L.C.A.C. Titles. In 2013, he was selected Head Coach for the South Team for the 59th F.A.C.A. North-South State All-Star Game. During his head coaching tenure he has had 8 State All-Star Game participants, 17 All-State Players, and has had 65 players sign college scholarships. After his second 10-0 regular season in 2014 he was named L.C.A.C Coach of the Year and News-Press SW Florida Coach of the Year.