WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Willie Jeffries is a legend to some in the Wichita area, but to others across the country he also happens to be the first African-American Division 1 head football coach ever.
Wichita State is a place he once called home and now is being honored, a crowd full of fans cheering at the Heartland Classic. The former head coach says he appreciates this moment.
"You know the old expression give flowers when they can still smell the flowers and it's great to be honored, at my age it makes you feel good," said Jeffries.
Jeffries coached at Wichita State from 1979 until 1983, outside of bringing the Shockers it's last winning season at 8 and 3 before the program discontinued, Jeffries broke down a much bigger barrier, becoming the first African-American Head Coach of a Division 1-A school at a predominately white school. He says the opportunity was too big to turn down.
When Jeffries was hired at Wichita State he wasn't thinking about all the pressure he would face with being the first. He says he knew his success could open doors for African American coaches to follow.
"I was happy that i was able to open the door, they call it a glass ceiling but more than that the doors had been locked for many years but someone had to open it," said Jeffries.
Jeffries wasn't only successful at Shocker Nation, in his career he's been inducted into the HBCU Alumni Hall of Fame, the Kansas Hall of Fame, the Wichita State and the College Football Hall of Fame and many more. Jeffries says outside of all his accomplishments seeing former players become successful is an even bigger joy.
"Those are the rewards that a coach gets or inherits because he's a coach because it means so much to see your players prosper," said Jeffries.
He says this is a weekend he'll never forget and these moments only happen but once or twice in a lifetime.