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Jerrell "Jerry" Wizig '55 August 30, 2021 11:03 AM updated: August 30, 2021 11:52 AM

Jerrell L. Wizig
August 19, 1937 - August 27, 2021

Jerry Wizig, the longtime Houston Chronicle sports reporter who died Friday at age 87, was several decades into his career when he was approached by a cantankerous coach with more bark than bite on his résumé.

“Jerry,” the coach said, “I want to chew on you about a story you wrote.”

Wizig is said to have replied in his distinctive bass voice, “Hoss, I’ve been chewed on by Bear Bryant, Darrell Royal, Bill Yeoman and Frank Broyles. What’s your question?”

The coach replied, “Aw, it’s nothing,” and walked away.

Wizig, indeed, traded questions and answers with Hall of Famers Bryant, Royal, Yeoman, Broyles, Guy V. Lewis, Tom Tellez, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Andre Ware, Carl Lewis, Leroy Burrell, Elvin Hayes and hundreds of other University of Houston and Southwest Conference coaches and players during a half-century in the newspaper business.

Aside from earlier stints at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Austin American-Statesman, where he was known as the "Orange Aggie" while covering the Texas Longhorns, Wizig spent the bulk of his career at the Chronicle beginning in 1963.

He was best known to Chronicle readers for his coverage of University of Houston sports from the 1960s into the early 2000s. He also wrote a book, “Eat ’Em Up, Cougars,” about the history of UH football.

Although among his earliest mentors was Jones Ramsey, the sports information director at Texas A&M under Bryant and Texas under Royal, who once famously said, “The only thing more boring than track is field,” Wizig lavished equal attention on the Cougars’ track and field glory days as well as its basketball and football successes.

“One of the greatest guys ever,” said former UH basketball player and coach Clyde Drexler. “He loved basketball and was the consummate professional.”

“He was one of my favorite people,” said UH alumnus and longtime Houston broadcaster Bill Worrell. “When he was writing about UH football, we were getting ready to play Texas in 1968, and Darrell Royal was about to spring a new formation on the world called the wishbone.

“It wasn’t all that secret, and Jerry wrote about it before the game. Darrell wasn’t too happy with him.”

Worrell said Wizig wrote about UH during its formative years as a college sports powerhouse, from the integration of the basketball program with Hayes and Don Chaney, the 1968 “Game of the Century” between UCLA and Houston at the Astrodome, and UH’s entry into the Southwest Conference through the Cougars’ later years in Conference USA.

“There were so many great stories in the emergence of UH athletics, and Jerry wrote a lot of great stories about us,” he said.

Former UH basketball player and assistant coach Reid Gettys said Wizig “was the quintessential beat writer. He was a friendly face, fair and polite. His criticisms were valid, but he didn’t take cheap shots. He was a professional and a friendly face.”

“He was a good friend and a true friend who was equally good at his craft,” said W.H. Stickney Jr., a longtime Chronicle colleague.

Wizig was born in Waco and graduated from Texas A&M in 1955. His stepdaughter, Cristy Herman, said he had been suffering from kidney failure and other medical issues in recent months but retained an interest in sports and current events.

“It was fun to grow up in a household where college sports celebrities like Hakeem Olajuwon would call,” Herman said. “He had so many stories to tell about athletes and all his travels.

“He was a loving father and a great grandfather who tried to teach his grandchildren to speak properly and write properly and not wander into teen-speak. He was a kind, wonderful human being. I aspire to be like him.”

Survivors include his wife, Maralyn Hershman; two stepdaughters, Cristy Herman and Nicole Daniels; a stepson, Scot Hershman; and five grandchildren as well as a favorite cat, Eloise.

Memorial arrangements are pending. The family has designated the American Kidney Fund or other charities for memorial contributions.

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