A Coach Remembered

April 10, 2000


by Christine Wiley
UW Sports Information

Leonard "Fritz" Shurmur had one thing that all of us dream of having -a love for his job. In a recent conversation with Seattle Post writerClare Farnsworth, Shurmur told of his love affair with the game offootball and his job. "I kind of come to work each day with the sameexcitement I did 46 years ago. My wife says there's something wrongwith me. I suppose someday something will tell, or somebody will tellme, it's time to stop."

Last May something did tell Shurmur it was time to stop. Shurmur hadtold friends that he wasn't feeling well and during his annual physicalhis doctors found cancer, an aggressive form of liver cancer. Doctorsimmediately started treatment to try and defeat the deadly disease, butthe cancer was too far along for treatment to have much effect. Shurmurdied on August 30, 1999. He was only 67 years old.

During his life, Shurmur had a great impact on many people and manythings, most importantly the game of football. Born July 15, 1932,Shurmur began his football career at Albion College in Albion,Michigan. He was a center for the Britons and earned All-MichiganAthletic Association honors and was named the conference's most valuableplayer. After his graduation from Albion, Shurmur began his master'sdegree in education administration and started a graduate assistantshipwith the football team. He was a graduate assistant for two yearsbefore he was asked to be an assistant coach.

Shurmur stayed at Albion until 1962 when he was asked by head footballcoach Lloyd Eaton to come to the University of Wyoming as a defensiveline coach. Shurmur accepted and moved his small family to Laramie,Wyoming where he began a new chapter in his amazing life.

Under Shurmur the Cowboys began producing stats that were among thebest. They led the nation in total defense and in rushing defense,becoming the only college team to win as many as two defensive titlesduring the 1960s. Wyoming was ranked number one in total defense fivetimes during the same decade. Shurmur spent twelve years in Laramie,both as an assistant and then as the head coach of the Cowboys from1971-1974.

From Wyoming, Shurmur began a 24 year coaching career in the NationalFootball League. He coached five NFL teams including, Detroit, NewEngland, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Green Bay. While at Green Bay,Shurmur's defensive effort was key in leading the Packers to a 1996Super Bowl Championship.

As well as being a great coach, Shurmur also had a gift for writing.In the later part of his life he authored four coaching books titled,Coaching Team Defense, Coaching Team Defense: 2nd Ed., Coaching theDefensive Line, and Eagle 5 Linebacker Defense. He also createdcoaching videos, where he would feature some of America's finest coacheswith in-depth discussions and clinics.

Shurmur had three children with his wife Peggy, Sally Ann Michalov,Scott Shurmur, and Susie Plumb. His daughter Sally Ann Michalov is anaward-winning sports writer for the Casper Star-Tribune, and was namedthe 1990 Wyoming `Sportswriter of the Year.'

Recently, the Cowboy Joe Club has established a memorial scholarship inCoach Shurmur's name. Anyone interested in donating to the scholarshipcan make their checks payable to the University of Wyoming and mail themto the Cowboy Joe Club at P.O. Box 3414, Laramie, WY 82071.