AMERICAN ROLE MODELS: COACH FRANK
Third of a Series
By Grant Hall
Rumors floated around about him being fired as an assistant coach at a big ten school-something to do with him refusing to complete a Master’s Degree. Someone said his pro career had been cut short by a crippling injury. A local newspaper proclaimed he was a war hero. When pressed about his Dad’s past, his kid said he didn’t know. None of us knew very much about this huge, gray haired man with the Brooklyn accent who was now the head coach.
Rich in talent, strong with desire, and given more fame than any high school-aged kids ever had in our part of the world, we became known as “The Red Machine.” Fans and Fathers cheered us, girlfriends wore our letter jackets and class rings, and our singleness of purpose was to make high school, football history in a town where passage to manhood included helmets and shoulder pads. Sportswriters and alumni alike expected, predicted and believed “The Red Machine” would at last, win them all.
In his arena, Coach Frank was seldom excited. No one knew the game better and no one risked more. Unbalanced lines, tackle eligible, extra wide outs and I formations-pro sets of the day, were his style.
This was the post-Lombardi era. Strict discipline and “winning is everything” was copied by coaches everywhere who tried to pattern themselves after the great, Vince Lombardi and the world champion, Green Bay Packers. Coach Frank did not follow.
We prayed under his direction to be given extra strength to play better than we had ever played. Some of us muttered, “and God, let us win” prior to trotting out to the standing room only, stadiums and honking horns of mob-like crowds who believed high school, football perfection was now, “ The Red Machine.”
Talent is temperamental. He understood that as he punished our most gifted who smoked, stayed out late or missed practices. We all ran wind sprints and did endless, grass drills for the sins of a few, and the talented played instead of being expelled from athletics.
He molded skinny, pulling guards and under-sized, quarterbacks into young men who never forgot him and his penchant for the big score at the risk of losing everything. And we won them all.
Years and years later, after a long life, Coach Frank died in his sleep at home.
He never told us very much about his life or football accomplishments. We had to read about his outstanding service record and all pro honors after he had passed on.
Some of us have no interest in football today though we will forever remember being a part of “The Red Machine.” All of us and many others were influenced and taught valuable, lessons by the big, gray haired man with the Brooklyn accent who made it possible for us to win them all.
Copyright: James Clark King, LLC, March 29, 2009