Prep Football

Jim Bellamy, winner of 320 football games and 3 state championships, dies at 83

Not always beloved but widely respected, Bellamy coached at Mount Vernon from 1970 through 2006

Mount Vernon football coach Jim Bellamy, in 2003. Bellamy, who died Monday at age 83, won 320 games and led Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon football coach Jim Bellamy, in 2003. Bellamy, who died Monday at age 83, won 320 games and led Mount Vernon to three state championships. (The Gazette)

MOUNT VERNON — He wasn’t always friendly. But Jim Bellamy was tough. And according to his players, he was fair.

“Practices were tough,” said Paul Hufford, a 1980 Mount Vernon High School and one of Bellamy’s most accomplished football players. “We were well-coached, and we were ready to go, every Friday night.”

Bellamy, who led Mount Vernon to three state championships in a 37-year Hall of Fame coaching career, died Monday. He was 83.

“It’s a sad day for me,” said West Branch Coach Butch Pedersen, whose program — along with Ed Hansen’s at Solon — were the Mustangs’ chief challengers in the old Eastern Iowa Hawkeye Conference. “Jim was a good man.”

Usually called “Bells” in the Mount Vernon community, Bellamy finished with 320 coaching wins, including a 268-93-1 mark at Mount Vernon (1970-2006).

His teams won state championships in 1974, 1993 and 1994 and were runners-up five times (1973, 1978, 1989, 2002 and 2003).

Under his watch, the Mustangs were 20-time state playoff qualifiers.

“It was a lot of fun playing for Bells,” Hufford said. “He did a lot for the school. Mount Vernon was fortunate to have had him that long.”

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Now living in suburban Kansas City, Paul Hufford was one of seven siblings who were coached by Bellamy in one of several sports. Cathy Hufford (Class of 1983) played basketball for him.

“He brought a football mentality to basketball,” Cathy said. “And because of that, we were probably in the best shape of anybody in the state.”

Matt Kroul played on Bellamy’s teams that reached the semifinals in 2001, then the finals in 2002 and 2003.

“He was a legend long before I came through,” Kroul said. “He has an innate ability to get the most out of his guys. He wasn’t always well-liked, but he was very much respected.

“He wasn’t one to pat you on the back. But when he did crack a smile and joke with you in a man-to-man manner, it just made you feel so special.”

Per Bellamy’s request, there will be no services.

Pedersen recalled a face-to-face meeting with Bellamy early in his coaching career.

“I asked him for advice on his 5-2 defense, and he sat and talked to me for a good two hours,” said Pedersen, whose son Lance is now the Mount Vernon head coach. “He was a significant part of my development as a defensive football coach. His teams always played hard and hit extremely hard.”

About 30 of Bellamy’s players became first-team all-state selections, including the Hufford brothers, the Pospisil brothers and Kroul.

In an essay by the late Dick Peters, a former teacher and coach at Mount Vernon, “Perhaps the greatest quality of (Bellamy) was his impeccable fairness. Parents were always guaranteed that their sons would be treated fairly.”

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During Bellamy’s career, the Mustangs played — and usually won — at the downtown stadium. Now, most of the games are at Ash Park.

“I really hope they name that old field in his honor,” Hufford said.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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