RICHMOND — Before Roy Kidd coached football at Eastern Kentucky University and won 315 games in 39 years, including two national titles, in his Hall of Fame career, he cut his teeth as a high school coach in Richmond.
In six years (1956-61) at Madison-Model and Madison, Kidd developed and shared his football genius and leadership with groups of teenagers who never forgot him.
On Friday, dozens of those players, now in their late 60s and early 70s, got together at Arlington Park to celebrate Kidd's approaching 80th birthday and thank him for making a difference in their lives.
Kidd was overwhelmed. He exchanged hugs, handshakes and pats on the back for the better part of an hour.
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"This is great, just seeing everybody and listening to their stories," he said. "It was six great years I spent coaching these guys."
Jerry Woolum, who quarterbacked Madison-Model in 1957 and '58, said the feeling was mutual.
"What separates Roy from every other coach or person I've ever been around is his positive attitude. There's an air about him that demands respect, and instills in you to be the very best you can be."
In late summer of 1956, Kidd was working as a country club lifeguard when the school superintendent stopped by to ask if he'd be interested in coaching Madison-Model's football team. The previous coach had quit just weeks before the start of practice.
Kidd jumped at the chance, and the rest is history.
In his first year in charge, Kidd guided the Royal Purples to an undefeated regular season. Jim Hinkle was the quarterback on that team. He attended the Air Force Academy, and after his service he became an airline pilot.
Hinkle now lives in Denver, but he came back to Richmond for Friday's reunion, wearing his letter jacket.
Hinkle remembered Kidd arriving at Madison-Model as an unknown quantity, but it didn't take long for the coach to impress his new team.
"He taught us we could win, and that attitude stayed with us the rest of our lives," Hinkle said. "And he brought us an imaginative offense and defensive alignment that people had never seen before."
Talbott Todd, the quarterback when Kidd's teams put together a 27-game winning streak (1959-61), also credited the coach's ingenuity.
"He was way ahead of his time in football thinking," Todd said. "Fifty years ago, we were doing audibles at the line of scrimmage, which was unheard of at the time. We were doing double reverses on punt and kickoff returns, which nobody else was doing.
"Coach Kidd was tough but he was fair. He was always honest with us. He was always honest with himself.
"Those are the traits that he acquired in high school that he carried over to the collegiate level that made him such a tremendous coach."
Kidd said he was just being himself.
"You've got to be your own person, know what you want to do, and learn from other people," he said.
The Roy Kidd who coached high school football a half-century ago hasn't changed a bit from the Roy Kidd who was feted by his former players on Friday.
"He's the same today as the first day I met him," Woolum said. "He even looks the same."