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After living a dream as a high school football coach at one program for three decades, John Downey has been bestowed the ultimate honor.
Downey, who led the Archbold football program for 30 years, has been selected by his peers for induction into a prestigious hall of fame.
Downey was named to the 2014 class of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
He will be inducted at the association’s banquet in June.
“I was very fortunate to coach at only one school for 30 years,” Downey said. “It culminates in a hall of fame career. For any coach that starts out, that would be a dream situation and I lived that dream.
“I don't know if it's the ultimate recognition. But the bottom line is that it does signify I had a pretty good career,” he added. “It's the cherry on top as far as I'm concerned.”
Downey, who retired in 2009, posted a 222-99 record as the Blue Streaks' coach from 1979-2008. His career win total ranks 25th all-time among Ohio high school coaches.
Archbold won eight Northwest Ohio Athletic League titles under Downey and his 166 league wins are a conference record.
Downey led the Blue Streaks to nine state playoff appearances, including a state title in 1988. Archbold qualified for the state tournament in his last two seasons.
Bill Inslemann, who will enter his 23rd year as the head coach at Patrick Henry, called his former NWOAL adversary a “class coach and old-time disciplinarian.”
“Two things stand out about John. No. 1 was that his kids were always very fundamentally sound. No. 2, his program always reflected class from the coaches and the players,” Inselmann said
Inselmann added that they did things the right way at Archbold. He then bestowed the ultimate compliment on Downey.
“When I first started coaching, Archbold was the bar you wanted to get to. They were the team you wanted do be some day,” Inselmann said. “John raised the bar in the NWOAL.”
Bryan Miller, the current head football coach at Archbold, nominated Downey. He was selected by the OHSFCA board of directors, which consist primarily of current coaches.
Inselmann said Downey was “very well deserving” of the hall of fame honor.
“He is the all-time winningest coach in the NWOAL and we are the oldest continuing football league in Ohio,” Inselmann said.
Downey, a 1967 Napoleon graduate, helped lead the Wildcats to three NWOAL titles (1965-67). He said legendary Napoleon coach Charles Buckenmeyer was more than a mentor.
“Quite honesty when I started out I wanted to be like Charles Buckenmeyer,” Downey said. “He came to Napoleon and was there as head coach for 28 years. I wanted a career like that. He ended up having a hall of fame career. He was my role model. I wanted to establish a program just like he did. This [proves] that I did that.”
Downey said he was fortunate to present Buckenmeyer for induction into the same hall of fame in 1990.
“I played for him, then coached for him, and then he coached for me,” Downey said.
Buckenmeyer was an assistant under Downey at Archbold from 1983-88.
“He was on my staff when we won the state title,” Downey said. “That was really special.”
Downey said Buckenmeyer was a task master and disciplinarian. Buckenmeyer was Napoleon's head coach from 1948-1977 achieving a mark of 209-48-9.
“He expected you to be hard-nosed and tough, well conditioned and disciplined,” Downey said.
Downey borrowed the basics of Buckenmeyer's offense, which was based on the T formation and focused on running the ball.
“If you looked at my play book, it was the same he used at Napoleon in 1952,” Downey said. "We even numbered them like Napoleon did. We liked to run the ball.”
Downey played at the University of Toledo and was a member of the 35-0 Rocket teams from 1969-71. Downey said he based his defense on the one he played on at UT.
Downey said he misses the relationships he had with the coaches, officials, and the kids.
“What I don't miss is the time involved in football,” he said.
Downey remains active as a track coach, volunteering at his alma mater.
He said this fall he will serve as a color analyst on high school football games broadcast on radio station WMTR.
“I'll get to do all of the fun things and not have to do the negative ones,” he said.
Downey also volunteered as an assistant coach at the annual Northwest Ohio Regional All-Star Football game at Perrysburg earlier this month. He was the offensive coordinator for the Black team, which was led by a group of retired coaches.
“That gives me my fix for football,” said Downey, who has been involved in the event for three years. “We have a blast. It's tremendous fun with the retired coaches.”
Downey said he was fortunate to grow up in Napoleon in the 1950s. He credited other hall of fame coaches at Napoleon, including Bill Mossing, for establishing his foundation. Downey also credited a long list of assistants, many of whom also are in the hall of fame.
“All of those guys were tremendous influences,” he said.
He said his parents taught him how to treat people the right way.
“The person who really deserves most of the credit is my wife [Susan],” Downey said. “She kept everything on an even keel. Football took a lot of time away and she was instrumental in raising our five kids.”
Asked how he has enjoyed his free time, Downey said “I highly recommended retirement.”
“I've really enjoyed traveling with my wife.”
Downey described himself as “the luckiest guy in world” to coach at one school for 30 years.
“I have really fond memories. I was very fortunate to land at Archbold,” Downey said. “I lived the dream.”
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.