Buster Gross

Former Arab coaching great Buster Douglas.

Buster Gross arguably is Arab’s greatest football coach of all time. He compiled a 46-17-6 record from 1966-72.

Others on the all-time list would include Larry “Pod” Patterson with a record of 41-22 (1989-94); William Bemon Lyon, with a 44-14-7 (1943-49); Earl Webb, with a 44-24-2 record (1955-61).

Wayne Trimble has the most victories all-time with 55 wins (55-51-3).

Gross was inducted into the Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night in Guntersville. He was represented by one of his players at Arab, Mike Shipp.

Here is how his plaque reads:


Fred “Buster” Gross was born on November 26, 1935, in Gadsden, Alabama, to Fred and Clair Gross. Buster had a brother, Joe, and four sisters, Marilyn, Carolyn, Melinda and Sharon.

Buster attended Emma Sansom HS in Gadsden, Alabama, where he became an outstanding football player for the Rebels. He received 1953 All-State Honors from both The Birmingham News and Montgomery Advertiser.

After graduating from ESHS, Gross received a scholarship to play football under Coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University.

He loved the game of football and was very competitive as a player. However, he received a career ending neck injury during his sophomore year. Since Buster was planning to become a coach, Coach Jordan kept him on scholarship to work with the Freshman Team under Coach Dick McGowan. He was part of the coaching staff in 1957 when Auburn won their first National Championship.

Gross received a National Championship ring and soon completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Education.

Gross’s first coaching job was at Southside HS in Etowah County. After an unsatisfying 4-6 record, he decided to go into retail sales for JC Penney Department Store. However, his love of the game was too strong and Buster returned to coaching at Alma Hinson Junior High in Attalla for 2 years before taking the head coaching job at Walnut Grove HS in Etowah County in 1963.

Over the next 3 years, Gross led the Patriots to a 20-9-1 record, which included the 1964 Class A State Championship. He was also selected as the 1965 Class A Coach of the Year.

Following the outstand-ing accomplishments at Walnut Grove, Coach Gross was offered and accepted the head coaching job at Arab HS in Marshall County. Arab was hungry for a winning team as they had not won more than 5 games in a season since the departure of legendary coach Earl Webb after the 1961 season.

In Gross’s first season, the Knights were 6-2-2, but that was only the start. Over his 7 years in Arab, the Knights had a 47-17-6 record and won 5 Marshall County Championships.

The high point of Gross’s tenure in Arab was the 1970 season as the Knights finished 9-1, including a 16-14 win over state powerhouse Tarrant HS. This team included MCSHOF inductees Roger Ralph (2002 Charter Class), Ken Tyler (2007), Danny Maze (2012) and Kim Porch (2013). Ralph, Tyler and Rudy Wooten also garnered All-State recognition.

The 1972 Knights lost only one game en route to a 7-1-2 season. Mike Shipp, a 2015 MCSHOF inductee, was the starting quarterback. All-State players included Danny Maze, Dick Bagwell and Jackie Yeager. The Arab coaching staff included Bill Morgan, Defensive Coordinator and a 2008 MCSHOF inductee, Tony Proctor and Melvin Henderson.

Following the 1972 season, Gross was lured back to his alma mater to become the Head Football Coach at Emma Sansom HS. Over the next 19 years, Gross built the Rebels into a dynasty, compiling a record of 127-73-4. In 1983, he led the Rebels to a 13-1 record and second place in the Class 3A playoffs, losing only to Escambia County in the finals. This loss did not deter the Rebels as they returned to the finals the following year, beating Greenville HS 10-7 in overtime to win the 1984 5A State Championship.

The team included All-State, Super 12, All-Southern and All-American players Gene Jelks and Larry Rose. Gross was selected the 5A Coach of the Year and coached in the 1985 Alabama All-Star game.

Buster Gross retired from coaching following the 1991 season with an overall record of 200-104-10. He had 10 State Playoff appearances, 8 Area and 8 Region Championships, 5 Marshall County Championships, 2 State Championships, 2 State Coach of the Year awards and coached in 2 All-Star games. He also had a winning record against all of his Gadsden City, Etowah County and Marshall County rivals.

In 1995, the City of Gadsden held a day in his honor. Coach Gross has been inducted into the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame, the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame, and now the Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame.

Coach Gross is currently living in Gadsden. He has a daughter, Kelly Gross, a deceased daughter, Lisa Jones, a son, Barry; grandchildren Justin Jones, Chris Jones, Cory Gross and Kassi Gross; and great-grandchildren Lily Epperson and Case Beasley.

Throughout an outstanding career as a coach and teacher, Fred “Buster” Gross has been a positive influence and motivation to countless numbers of players, students and football fans.

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