( A few years ago I was asked to write an article about Tom Kohuth, who was my teacher, coach and mentor once upon a time.)
It has always been about more than X’s and O’s when you have taught and coached football at Padua as long as Tom Kohuth has. He’s one of the last of a breed of teachers and coaches, the lifelong Catholic school teacher and coach who spends his whole career at one school. There aren’t too many of them left, at Padua or anywhere else. And it hasn’t been just 28 years of being a football coach, but really over 35 years as a math teacher, as well as streaks as athletic director, wrestling coach, and whatever else needed to be done in all those years.
Of course, Kohuth downplays the whole thing. “Hey, I got lucky. I found a place I liked to work and stayed there.” But as his run as head coach ends, former players, assistant coaches, and rival coaches remember more than just wins and losses. The stories always seem start with football, but seem to end up somewhere else. Stories about character and determination, doing your best off the field as much as on, mentoring young coaches, and once insignificant moments that turned into lasting memories.
Rick Miller (Padua ‘81) was one of the stars of Kohuth’s first teams. “When I first came to Padua as a freshman I was a nobody, he didn’t even know who I was. I lived near him, and he started to give me a ride to school. For four years I rode with him to school every morning. By the time I was a senior there were a couple of other kids in the car too, and they weren’t even football players or athletes. We were all just Padua kids that needed a ride to school.” Miller remembers the camaraderie of the 1979 state-runner team. “We had so many high school super stars on that team, lots of stars. But he never let it go to our heads. We melted together into a great team because we kept our egos in check. The coaches treated everyone on that team equal.”
Current John Carroll Head Football Coach Regis Scafe remembers coaching against Kohuth’s teams in the 80’s, when Scafe was the head coach at Chanel High School. “His teams always played to their potential, always were prepared, and played the game the right way. Coach Kohuth definitely has my respect. Anyone who spends that long at one school, especially a Catholic school, is dedicated to his profession and the kids at Padua. People don’t know how much has to be done behind the scenes. It is a great loss to the Padua Community.”
Another former opponent and admirer is long time Parma and Solon Head Coach Jack Ruvolo. “Coach Kohuth has shown true dedication to the school, program, and especially to the kids. It wasn’t about football, it was about doing the right thing for the kids. How many kids went to college because of him? What a great job he has done.”
Current Solon Assistant Coach Bruce Heinrich (Padua ’67) looks back with appreciation on his time with Kohuth as a Padua teacher and coach in the mid 70’s until the early 80’s. “I’ve been under some great coaches, from Augie Bassue to Chuck Preifer to Jim McQuade, and he is as good as any of them. A coach’s coach. Plus how he has dedicated his life to Padua. We as alums from all eras owe him so much.”
Another assistant from that era, current Hudson Head Coach Tom Narducci, also remembers the time on Kohuth’s staff fondly. “Tom was not just a mentor, but a true friend. He gave me responsibility and leeway as a coach, and I give that to my assistants today. Plus I never remember a time in my life that I laughed so often. Those were special days.”
Hank Durica (Padua ’87) was the quarterback on the Bruin championship teams from the late 80’s and he remembers Kohuth as a teacher first. “His primary concern was teaching. Whether it was on the playing field or in the classroom. He will always be “Coach” to me no matter how old I get. He will always be part of my Padua experience, and I am truly grateful for that.”
It isn’t just long ago players and coaches who remember Kohuth for more than just football. “In class, just like at football, he pushed me to my full potential. He never let up on me, “ states Matt Sass, a recent 2005 Padua grad. “He made you believe in yourself, always giving you determination and confidence.” Jim Perkins, Sass’s former classmate and teammate adds, “He wasn’t afraid ever to call you out. You make a mistake in school or on the field and he’ll let you know about it.”
Kohuth credits others for his success and longevity. “I’m fortunate to find a place where I don’t mind getting out of bed and going to work. The people have been decent, the kids have been great, and so has the environment.” He also knows that it takes a certain type of wife to be married to a coach. “Like all coaches I was pretty much an absentee father most of the time. My wife took care of things and raised our daughters. They survived very nicely without me, my wife is very special.”
Andy Wozniak (Padua ’75) first got to know Kohuth as a student/athlete for the Bruins in the mid 70’s, and now again as a parent of current Padua tight end/linebacker Mark Wozniak (Padua ’08). He probably says it best about Kohuth’s legacy. “I am proud to have my son play for him. It’s great that Mark and Coach Kohuth have crossed paths. I know I’m fortunate I did.”
Greg Cielec (Padua ’76) is an English teacher, college football coach, and novelist.