Best friends Harold Keaton and David Wendt have been volunteering their time as football coaches for more than 40 years, and recognition finally has been paid to them.
Their team, the Deveaux Vikings of the West Toledo Lightweight Football League, is for children aged 9 to 13. Last week, the players and assistant coaches took time out from a practice to honor the pair with surprise lucite trophies acknowledging their contribution to peewee football.
The presentation was made by assistant coach Shane Lakotos, who played lightweight football under the two men, as did all of the assistant coaches. “It’s not usual for somebody who’s been doing something since 1972 to be doing it now,” he explained to the 60 players assembled on the lawn in front of DeVeaux Elementary School.
Mr. Keaton, 68, and Mr. Wendt, 66, expressed their thanks and explained that they coached to help the youngsters. Also, “We enjoy doing what we do,” Mr. Wendt said.
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Among those present was Toledo Public Schools Superintendent/CEO Romules Durant, who knows a thing or two about football himself, having played at Birmingham Elementary, Waite High School, and the University of Toledo, which he attended on a football scholarship. He still wears the Mid American Conference Championship ring earned while playing at UT.
Mr. Durant praised the two coaches for their voluntarism and delivered a stirring, off-the-cuff motivational address to the gathered young players.
“If no one expects more of you, expect more of yourself. Every one of you has a champion inside,” he said. “I take my hat off to Viking pride and these gentlemen for instilling that pride in you.”
The superintendent also spoke of the important role football played in his life. He noted that he grew up on the game and “everything I learned in football made me the man I am today in this position ... when it comes to data, guess where I learned about data — on the football field.”
One of the players was Elvis Syroka, 10, whose father, Paul Syroka, played lightweight football under the two coaches. Today he’s an assistant coach for the Vikings. Mr. Syroka said he and Elvis drive to West Toledo from their home in Metamora, Ohio, because he wants the boy to have the same growth experience he had.
“I want him to play for these guys,” said Mr. Syroka, who is 50. “They just want to coach kids. They love kids and they’ve motivated a lot of great players. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about playing.”
Contact Carl Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6095.