Southern Miss

USM BLOG: Football legend Underwood dies

The Southern Miss community is mourning the death of former football coach P.W. Underwood today.

Underwood, who was also a standout football player at USM from 1954-56, died this morning at the age of 81.

“I believe that I can speak for most if not all former USM Football Student-Athletes who played for Coach Underwood,” USM athletic director Jeff Hammond said in a press release. “He gave each of us our start on life which began the day we arrived to USM. He brought us to USM (via an Athletic Scholarship) to teach more than just football; he taught Character and the Moral Courage to always do the right thing.  “He was a mentor, father-figure, friend, and most important a man we loved, and trusted.  He loved USM and his sons, Phil and George, were everything in the world to him.  We will never forget this man who for so many was larger than life.  It was the honor of a lifetime to have known him.”     

Underwood served as an assistant coach at USM from 1963-66 before moving on to work on the staff at Tennessee.

He returned to USM as head coach in 1969 and posted a record of 31-32-2 in six seasons. Underwood led USM to one of the biggest wins in school history when it beat No. 4 Ole Miss, 30-14, in 1970.

Underwood, who is a native of Cordova, Ala., served in the Army prior to attending USM. He was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1986.

Underwood was married to the late former Vera “Deedy” Sellers and he is survived by his two sons, Phil and George.