Shortly after I started working in radio running the board for Brewers games, I decided that I wanted to try coaching football. Football was always a passion of mine and while I was going to college, that was always one of my goals to coach a football team. I felt like things were in a rut so I was looking online at a website and I answered an ad looking for an assistant high school football coach in a town just outside of Columbus, Ohio. I had been to Columbus many times before as a child and I loved it, I thought it would be perfect. I sat around and finally got the call I was waiting for. The head coach of the team wanted me to drive down to Ohio and interview for the job. I knew I had to do it.
I remember packing a few things in my car and driving to Ohio, I got to the town where The coach, "Buzz" Kirkhart, lived late that night. I figured I would stay the night and meet him the next day. He had other plans though, he said come on over to my place and we will talk. I remember getting to his house and a million thoughts went through my head thinking, "Is this really happening, am I really doing this right now". I got to his house and he invited me in, I sat on his couch and his wife brought me a glass of cold lemonade. "Buzz" was a short older guy that was balding, and had a really rough, grumbling voice with his southern accent. (southern to me anyways).
We talked awhile and he threw me right in the mix, he set me up with the principal to talk about being the In-School Suspension supervisor, and he had me meet the team that morning. You could tell the respect that the kids had for this man, I knew a little bit about his history but not a lot. Some coaches are driven by going to a tradition rich school where football is king, and to keep that program at the top winning championship after championship. Buzz was exactly opposite of that, he would go to a school that barely even had a football team, and he would take the program over building them from next to nothing into a constant playoff team. The team that I was honored to help coach was already on the rise, they were on the brink of being that playoff team.
Buzz, would probably be looked at as an X and O type of coach to those looking in, but to those that sat in a team meeting, or made it through a practice knew that he was a motivator. He seemed grumpy, and extremely hard to please on the outside, but those that knew him and saw that smile knew the real man. I have always respected the "old school" way when it comes to football, I have seen many teams win using "outdated" techniques, and Buzz was for sure old school. There was a team pastor who led the team in prayer before and after every game, at a public school.......yeah, I know, I will give you a minute to process that........ I had played high school football for legends, and it didn't take me long to realize that I was coaching football for a legend when I was in Ohio.
I haven't been to Ohio since my oldest son who is now 9 was a baby, I got news the other day that "coach" isn't doing well and I have a feeling that a trip back to Ohio is going to be in my near future. He is now I am sure in his 80's, I have been reading old articles about him online a lot lately and I am amazed at the number of young men that he has inspired. He always expected more from a kid that they seemed willing to give, but he always knew the right buttons to push to make that kid a better player and person than they even knew they could be. He had so many stories and did so much educating through football that it is hard to pick just one, but the thing that I will never forget him telling the team was, "This isn't the greatest thing we will ever do with our lives, but it is the greatest thing we will ever do together". In the end, it wasn't just the "kids" that he was inspiring, it was everyone around him.