Mr. Football & The Atlanta Rabbits
Written by Gordon Pynes
The sport of football had an unusual beginning in Atlanta, Texas. Following World War I, a young lawyer came to town bringing a football with him. William Edward Rabb literally brought the gridiron game to our town. A native of Rains County, he played at Weatherford College and was the team’s most outstanding player.
Rabb soon organized and began to coach a team of players in Atlanta. They evolved into a high school team with Wolves as their mascot. The Wolves opponents were teams in Arkansas, Louisiana and East Texas. As indicated by the scores from the early 1920’s, he certainly knew the game. Results of games reported in 1922 & 23 editions of The Citizens Journal give interesting accounts of how the Wolves performed against schools with much larger enrollments than Atlanta. In fact, most teams significantly outweighed the local players.
A report of a 1922 encounter with Hope, Arkansas, tells how the Wolves rode to a hard fought 24-6 win. After fumbling to Hope, they fell behind 0-6 but soon roared back for a 6-6 halftime tie. The second half was all Atlanta scoring three touchdowns. Arkansas High suffered a 42-0 shellacking from the Wolves that season.
The big game in the 1922 season took place in Texarkana against the Texas High Tigers. According to the Journal reporter, Coach Rabb’s boys “fought like demons and completely outclassed the Tigers”. Final score: Atlanta Wolves win 20 -7. It was also reported that the crowd attending this clash was the “greatest ever seen in this part of the country”. A big game versus a big school took place in Tyler. Despite holding their opponent to no first downs, the Wolves fought to a 0-0 tie. Big win of that season came against Mount Vernon. No doubt Rabb’s eleven were at their best by running up an incredible 117-0 tally. The team met defeat for the first time in the season’s last game as Sulphur Springs won a close victory 10-6. However, the game brought controversy over ruling a touchdown for Sulphur Springs or a touchback. A TD was called and that brought the Atlanta defeat.
Arkansas Highs Razorbacks came to Atlanta to open the 1923 season and suffered a 20-6 loss. Other wins came over Hope, Nashville, Winnsboro and Texas High again.
Coach Ed Rabb indicated he would retire from coaching in Atlanta after the 1923 season as Texarkana College bid for his winning ways. This change so upset his players that they met and decided to honor their coach by changing the school mascot. In Rabb’s honor, the team abandoned the name Wolves and chose to become Rabbits beginning the 1923 season. Almost a century later, few folks know that our team is NOT named for a small, meek, furry creature but for an outstanding coach who gained the ultimate respect of his Atlanta players. They did adopt the symbol of a Rabbit jumping through an A for their letter jackets.
Coach Rabb stayed on as Rabbits coach for three more seasons, then went on to practice law, command the local National Guard, serve in World War II and be very involved in a number of local civic organizations. Always a close follower of his Rabbits, Ed Rabb passed away in 1975. A monument honoring Coach Rabb as the person for whom the Rabbits were named is located between the home stands and concession stand at our Rabbit Stadium. As Mr. Football and Father of the Atlanta Rabbits, he should be among the first to enter the Atlanta Athletics Hall of Fame. His excellent coaching established the strong football tradition that Atlanta upholds today.