Douglas Clyde "Peahead" Walker
For those of you who missed the tenure of Peahead Walker as head football coach at Wake Forest, all I can say is you missed a real "character." Peahead was at Wake Forest during a time when "characters" in sports were not all that uncommon and I'm not talking about the kind of characters we have today. I'm talking about people with unique personalities and styles that did not offend others and whose antics added to the sport with which they were associated. Of course, as with all characters, tales of their antics get exaggerated and added to over time, so that the truth is hard to determine. The tales about Peahead bring back fond memories for me even if some of them have been enlarged upon.
I recently learned from a friend whose father coached at other area schools at the same time Peahead did and knew ole Peahead well, that he was at Elon before he came to head up the program at Wake Forest. He says one of the reasons Peahead left Yale was that they insisted on calling him by his real name Douglas and he wanted to be called Peahead. I can see where this could have been a problem for both parties involved. I'm not sure where Peahead was from but it seems like it was Alabama. I may be confusing him with the Bashful Bachelor From Barlow Bend, Frank Howard of Clemson.
In fact, it was easy to confuse Peahead with Frank Howard since they had similar body builds, their voices and deliveries were somewhat alike , they said the same kind of witty things and had similar mannerisms. In the off season, Howard and Walker used to attend various sports functions in the area where they would just talk to each other as a part of the program to the absolute delight of those present.
Back to the name Peahead. It's quite possible that he was nicknamed that because of the size of his head, but the truth of the matter is that his head was not small unless it was viewed in the context of his body. I would guess he probably was about 5'10" tall and must have weighed close to 200 pounds. He generally wore a hat which was not uncommon at the time for businessmen, but was somewhat unusual for a coach. I remember Carl Snavely at UNC frequently wore a hat also. Peahead was the first person I ever saw wear a necktie with a sports shirt. Fashion wise, he might have been a little ahead of his time.
Stories abound about Peahead's recruiting and practice sessions. When he was recruiting Bill George, a future All-American lineman, somehow he managed to drive him over to the Duke campus and told him it was the Wake Forest campus. When George asked Peahead what kind of wrestling team Wake Forest had, Peahead said that Wake Forest had a "fine wrestling program" when, in fact, Wake Forest did not even have a wrestling team. Bill George, who later became an all-pro lineman for the Chicago Bears, worked out with the Coach at N.C. State, Al Crawford and entered the Southern Conference Tournament as the WF wrestling team. Yes, that's right. He was the team and guess what. He won the heavyweight championship of the Southern Conference so the Wake Forest "team" scored points.
Bernie Hanula, who for years operated the Player's Retreat watering hole on Hillsborough St. in Raleigh across from State College, was one of Peahead's boys and I would love to talk with him about the old days, but I read in the newspaper recently that he sold the PR several years ago and I don't know his current whereabouts. When I asked the coach who coached at the same time as Peahead if he remembered Hanula, he said "he was a beast." Peahead spent so much time recruiting in the coal mining area of Pennsylvania, there were those who thought he ought to have a miner's union card.
A story made the rounds back then that Peahead was so disgusted with the play of the Demon Deacons in one game that he made them scrimmage behind the field house at HALFTIME. I didn't see it but it was the kind of story we loved to hear and we believed it.
Another story circulated about him having his players run through the woods, using the trees as sort of an obstacle course. When one of the players ran the course slower than Peahead thought he should have, he admonished him for his sub par performance and asked him for an explanation. The player responded by saying "the trees were in the way and slowed me down." Without missing a beat, Peahead said, "Well knock the trees down." Vintage Peahead.
Peahead left WF somewhere around 1950 and took over as Head Coach of the Montreal Allouettes in th Canadian League where he stayed for a couple of years. He later did some scouting for the New York Giants and then I lost track of him.
Peahead was from the Old School but so am I. He would have trouble coaching in today's culture because today's players don't regard the coach's word as gospel and therein would lie a problem for ole Peahead. He did a good job at Wake Forest, but there were those who thought his style didn't fit the institution and when he stumbled, he was out. Keep in mind that WF at the time had approximately 1800 students and I remember well the Deacons defeating the Volunteers of Tennessee during World War 11. The only school with a smaller student body playing big time football was Rice who had approximately 800 students at the time. Rice whipped UNC in the 1950 Cotton Bowl with an All-American named "Froggie Williams. It was the last game in a Carolina uniform for a pretty fair player named Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice.