Madison Heights Madison HS's Page All Football Stories

Jim Myers in front of the sign over the entrance to the stadium named in his honor. (For The Oakland Press/LIZ CARNEGIE)


JIM EVANS: Jim Myers returns to where it all began

'George the Animal Steele' was known as a teacher, first

Jim Myers responds to a comment made about him during a ceremony marking the dedication of the Madison High football field in his name. (For The Oakland Press/LIZ CARNEGIE)

For much of the world, Jim Myers was known as the wrestler "George the Animal Steele." But to those in his hometown of Madison Heights, he was an educator.

Game Info

>> View more scores

Related Articles

>> View more news

The sign above the entrance says Jim Myers Stadium.

Time was, when the man himself might have a hard time deciphering it.

Jim Myers overcame dyslexia to graduate from Madison High School and earn a Master’s degree from Michigan State. He endured when nobody really had even defined dyslexia.

He remembers being put in the brown bird reading group when he was in grade school.

To Myers, it was color appropriate.

“That meant we read like poop,” he said, chuckling.

He can read the Jim Myers Stadium sign just fine, thanks. He appreciates the fact it mirrors the name on his birth certificate and not the one he carried into the professional wrestling ring for so many years.

That is the way he wanted it. George The Animal Steele was an alter ego, a part-time job.

Jim Myers was an esteemed educator and coach at Madison High for three decades. Like most good teachers and coaches, he imparted lessons and impacted lives the entire time he was there.

Although he eventually became internationally known as professional wrestler George The Animal Steele, his greatest impact was in his hometown.

“I was never an all state athlete,” said Al Morrison. “I was never the star of the team but the other guys treated me the same as everybody else. We were teammates and that came down to leadership. It was all because of Coach Myers.”

Jim Myers coached Morrison in both football and wrestling. Morrison is now president of the Board of Education in Madison.

Morrison was just one of the many former players who appeared at a ceremony at Madison High Thursday evening honoring Myers.

The auditorium was filled with the Hall of Fame coach’s family, friends, former fellow teachers and former student-athletes. They were there to recognize a man who left many fingerprints in his time.

And, not all of them were around the necks of men like Bruno Sammartino, Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan.

“Teaching and coaching go back to mother and father and my roots. Education was very important to my mother and my father. My dad came to Michigan out of the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. He was a brilliant man without an education. He knew how important an education was, and once I got that degree, I wanted to help other people get an education and succeed in life,” said Myers. “Believe me, not everyone liked me. With me, it was black and white, right and wrong. I was a disciplinarian.”

There are plenty of people who believe that teachers make too much money these days. That is certainly a mantra heard in some circles.

When Jim Myers started teaching and coaching, his pay was $4,300 a year. He started wrestling because he needed extra income. Jim and his wife, Pat, had two young children with another on the way.

Since the folks from Abercrombie and Fitch weren’t hiring male models at the time, he eventually decided to try wrestling.

That meant climbing into the back seat of cars with other big men and driving to places like Kalamazoo and Muskegon and Toledo. He’d make 50 bucks or whatever, stop for some bread, bologna and beverages for the drive home, and then cough up gas money when the trip was over.

Wrestling would eventually become much, much more lucrative than that. Ultimately, George The Animal Steele was flying to venues across the country and the world. Fifty bucks would not even handle a week’s worth of tips to people like bellhops, waitresses, and chauffeurs.

For years, George The Animal Steele was one of wrestling’s most hated villians. Later, he was a loveable cartoon character who sported a green tongue and habitually munched on turnbuckles.

But to Myers, up until the very end, wrestling was always just a part-time job.

He loved teaching. He loved coaching. He loved impacting kids like himself; kids who never breezed through school. He loved the National Honor Society kids. He also loved those who populated the other end of the grade curve like himself.

“Later on, back in those days, top wrestlers were making $250,000 to $300,000,” said Myers. “The deal was, I was a school teacher looking for a part time job. Teaching and coaching were what I loved to do. While the part-time job became more lucrative than the full-time job, the full-time job was my love. A lot of people found it unbelievable that I turned down all of that money for so many years, but I had found my calling.”

That calling was at his alma mater, Madison High School.

Pat and Jim Myers reside in Florida these days. He eventually left Madison High to go into wrestling full time, but he was nearly 50 years old and his career was mostly in the rearview mirror by that time.

Crohn’s disease nearly laid claim to him, and they even blew Taps in his direction once or twice.

Jim Myers, 75, walks with the help of a cane these days. Still, he walked proudly into the stadium named after him Friday night. The Madison High Eagles were playing the Shamrocks from East Detroit.

He even ate a hot dog, not the stuffing from a turnbuckle. Welcome home, coach.

Jim Evans is a sports writer for Journal Register Company. Email him at

Last Updated: 10/8/2012 1:29:13 AM EST

blog comments powered by Disqus