ROCHELLE — More than 100 former players, coaches, colleagues and friends came out Saturday night to celebrate the career of Rochelle Township High School football coach and athletic director Kevin Crandall at a retirement banquet in his honor.
Crandall, who has spent 24 of his 31 years on the sidelines guiding the Hubs to a 160-96 record and 18 playoff appearances over that span, announced his retirement last year.
An Illinois Coaches Association Hall of Fame member, Millikin University Hall of Fame member and RTHS Athletic Hall of Fame member, Crandall has compiled an overall high school record of 201-127 at three different schools over 31 years.
During Saturday night’s event, put on by the Hub Athletic Booster Club, many of his past players and longtime colleagues came back to not only joke around with Crandall, but to also share the positive impact he left with them.
Oregon High School superintendent Tom Mahoney, who was an assistant coach for several years at RTHS under Crandall, served as the emcee for the event and said he was honored to have a big part in the ceremony.
“He was a mentor to me and I learned from his ability to organize in a systematic way and see the bigger picture relative to success later in the season,” Mahoney said. “It was never about just winning, but it was about doing things the right way. There were times we could lose and Kevin was OK because he knew we executed well, but there were also times when we might have won by 40 points and he was upset because we weren’t doing some things correctly and it would cost us later in the year.”
A few of Crandall’s coaches and friends took some light-hearted jabs at his well-known run-heavy offense coaching philosophy and stoic nature, while several former Hub players, including Kyle Zick, Mike Wetzel and Jacob Ricketts shared some of their favorite memories while playing for the focused and no-nonsense coach.
“I’m afraid to even look over there at your table,” joked Zick at the podium after giving the coach a little zinger. “I can feel coach staring at me right now.”
Ricketts, however, summed up the feelings of many in the room who learned from Crandall that effort was a huge key success.
“Coach taught us that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” Ricketts said. “That was a great lesson and many of us who played for coach still take that to heart to help us be successful in what we do today.”
After the banquet, Crandall said he was honored by the large turnout.
“It was so much fun to have all the ex-players, former assistant coaches, co-workers and friends who came out for this,” Crandall said. “I think it was really a celebration of Rochelle football and not just about me. We have had some great kids come through the program and many of them are doing a lot of big things in their career right now. It is humbling to think we might have had a little part in their success.”