By DAVID GREEN
The decades old Morenci-Hudson football rivalry will never be the same, not with Tom Saylor on the Bulldogs’ side of the field.
Including the coaching he did while still in college, Saylor has more than 40 years of experience, despite taking off three years to develop a donut franchise and the past three years in an attempt at retirement.
Now he’s discovered that he’s not quite done with coaching. You might say that Tom Saylor has an itch that needs scratching, and he’s chosen Morenci to satisfy the urge.
“It’s kind of like coming home after all these years,” said the Deerfield native. “Deerfield is still very dear to me and I owe an awful lot to Pat Connors, my football coach there. He was a coach’s coach.”
Saylor helped another Deerfield coach, Dave Hinkle, while he was still a student at Eastern Michigan University. Hinkle was influential not only as a coach.
“He taught me to do donuts,” said Saylor, who bought Hinkle’s donut shop at Lake James, Ind., in 1968.
That enterprise has provided a livelihood ever since. With the help of a son, Saylor now owns Tom’s Donuts franchises in many locations.
Saylor took a teaching job at Hudson right out of college and at age 22, he volunteered to serve as head football coach when Jack Zimmerman became ill and a replacement was needed quickly.
He left Hudson after the 1976 season—with a 94-5-1 record—to take a job at Angola, Ind., serving as head coach for nine years before stepping down to the assistant level. He moved back up to head coach for one more stint until a younger coach was established, then three years ago he left football all together.
When Morenci’s assistant athletic director Joe Farquhar heard that Saylor wanted back in one last time, he gave him a call and Saylor was interested.
He’s aware of the football tradition in Morenci—despite defeating the Bulldogs all 11 years that he faced them—and he felt very welcomed by Farquhar, principal Nate Parker and superintendent Kyle Griffith.
“If they think it’s OK for an old guy to step in there,” Saylor said, then he’s ready to give it a try.
Although his name might be known to many parents and grandparents, he realizes that it probably means little to today’s students. That’s all right with Saylor.
“I’m not going to Morenci on an ego trip,” he said. “I’m going because I think it’s the right thing to do. I want to work with some younger coaches and see if we can get something going.
“I coach for the kids and about the kids. I don’t want it to be a spectacle about me. I want to help the kids.”
It’s not only about wins and losses, Saylor adds.
“It’s also about what you can teach,” he said. “About fighting battles to get them through life. They need to have some background in teamwork, about hanging in there when the going gets tough, about finishing what you start, about how to take care of your buddies.”
He’s committing to three years in Morenci to help establish a strong program. Saylor wants to start things off with a parents meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 30 to explain why he thinks he could be a good fit for the football program and to answer questions about his coaching.
About that itch to scratch.… Would Saylor like to reach the top with a team?
“Is there unfinished business? Yes. Is there time? In my coaching days? Lord only knows. Will it happen quickly? No.”
Sure, he would love to guide a team far into the playoffs, but there’s more to his return than that.
“That’s not at the top of the list,” Saylor said. “I just like to coach.”