2008.12.17 It's just high school football

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Joe Farquhar walked into the Observer a few days ago, came over to my desk and showed me a card in his wallet. There was a name and phone number.

He asked me if that name meant anything to me and it really didn’t mean much at all.

Tom Saylor.

“A Hudson coach?” I asked.

That was it. He was at Hudson during the big winning streak that the school claimed for a couple of decades, and Joe was trying to get him to come to Morenci.

This was early in the negotiations when Joe came in and he wouldn’t even speak the name. Hush hush.

I know I wasn’t appropriately excited or even sufficiently interested. Joe asked what I thought about it and I said something rude like, “Sounds like a novelty coach.”

Joe didn’t ask what I meant by that, but I was thinking that it would be a popular name who would stay a couple of years and then it would be over.

I Googled his name and found a website with some team photos of Hudson’s glory days and a not-so-glowing review of a book about the winning streak. There was a reference to a Sports Illustrated story about the national record and an interview in the San Francisco Chronicle when a California team bettered the record. OK, so the name Tom Saylor means a lot more to many people than it does to me.

Sure, I was on the losing side of a 47-0 drubbing by Hudson in my senior year, but that was nothing to boast about for Hudson. I was a member of what still remains one of the worst teams in Morenci history. Not the worst, but bottom 10.

I don’t remember if it was that day or later that Joe told me how the Saylor thing came about. It was a matter of people talking with their mouths full.

Joe was having dinner with relatives when he got a phone call. It was Mike Garwood, who was having dinner with someone else. The other guy knew that Tom Saylor wanted to get back into coaching for one last stretch before he called it quits for good.

So Joe gave him a call and the courting began. How ridiculous, I thought. This guy is going to drive 45 minutes every day to coach football? To coach Morenci’s 19 or 20 players? Does he know how far it is to Whitmore Lake?

Saylor was looking at some other schools, but in the end, he liked Morenci.  He now refers to Joe as his new best friend. They’ve spent a lot of time talking recently.

So now there’s this front-page story about a football coach. I told school superintendent Kyle Griffith I wasn’t all that comfortable making such a big deal out of a football coach. It’s just high school football in a small town.

Of course, and that’s exactly where I’m too dumb to see the obvious: It’s high school football in a small town. That’s a big deal to a lot of people.

Kyle said it’s more than a story about a coach. He said something like, “Trust me, the other media will be all over this.”

On the day Tom stopped into the Observer office for a photo, an Adrian radio station had already called. Later that night—around midnight, actually—he got a call from the Adrian paper. Wow, I’ve never called for an interview that late.

The new coaching job was mentioned in the Monroe paper and there will likely be more before the Observer goes to print. Maybe I’ll beat the Detroit Free Press to the story. Their high school sports page comes out on Thursday or Friday.

I mentioned that San Francisco Chronicle story earlier. Saylor was asked what he thought about having Hudson’s win streak snapped and he answered, “I think I’ll commit suicide.”

Of course he was joking, but it seems to give a good indication of who the guy is. He’s well aware of the magnitude of the feat. Setting a national record that stood for 22 years is certainly a big deal. On the other hand, it’s just high school football.

Saylor probably wouldn’t say it that way, but he seems to know there are other things in life besides the Friday night stuff in the fall.

So, should you expect to see a front page feature on the new mathematics teacher after Dennis Quist finally retires? Probably not, and that’s why I still feel a little funny about making such a big deal out of a football coach.

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