Sports

Return of the king | Prep Football

The Kentwood football team will add a Hall of Famer to the sidelines, when former head coach Tom Ingles returns to the Conks staff. - File photo
The Kentwood football team will add a Hall of Famer to the sidelines, when former head coach Tom Ingles returns to the Conks staff.
— image credit: File photo

He’s back.

Former Kentwood football coach, and two-time state champion, Tom Ingles will return to the Conks sideline for the 2014 season as a quarterbacks coach. Ingles, who had guided Kentwood to a 102-32 record from 1989 to 2003 moved back to the area and retired from head coaching after leading a squad in Sacramento for the last two years.

“I’m hoping to be able to blend in,” Ingles said. “Learn to be an assistant coach again… It will be a little bit of an adjustment I’m sure.”

Ingles left Kentwood for Puyallup in 2003 after exhausting his eligibility with the Kent School District’s retire-rehire process. He resigned in 2009 after six years as the Vikings’ head coach, finishing as one of the most successful high school football coaches in state history. Over 33 years as a head coach in Washington, he finished with three state championships (Kentwood, 2001 and 2002, and Liberty, 1988) and a record of 248-103. He was inducted into the Washington State Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

Tom and his wife, Zena, commuted back and forth between Washington and Northern California, as Tom took care of his ill parents and she worked as a principal in Davis, Calif. After his parents’ deaths, Tom resigned from Puyallup and joined his wife.

In Sacramento, Ingles worked as a substitute in various roles for his wife’s school district — librarian, paraeducator, security guard, etc. - and also began a rebuilding project for the Bella Vista High School football team, a school that drastically improved in his first season that ended with four wins.

“It was more than they had won in a while,” Ingles said. “We beat a team they hadn’t beaten in 10 years. It’s different when you are in a program that isn’t used to winning. I was a little shocked. I haven’t been a part of a losing team in a really, really long time.”

Ingles said he enjoyed the experience with the Broncos, building offseason programs and creating a football culture.

“It takes a little time,” Ingles said. “We worked at it day by day and started to get a little stronger, faster, bigger - things you have to do to stay competitive.”

After Zena retired last year, the pair moved back to their Covington home, arriving earlier this month.

Ingles remained close with current Conks head coach Rex Norris, who Ingles hired as a Kentwood assistant in 1995, and recalls some of the other assistants as his former athletes.

Ingles listed proximity and comfort with the coaching staff as reasons for his return to Kentwood.

“At this point I don’t want to be a head coach anymore,” he said. “There is a system in place that I had a part in putting together so I know a little bit about it.”

Norris couldn’t believe his luck.

“It’s a pretty cool thing,” said Norris, in his 11th year as head coach. “He’s been an extraordinary man and one of my mentors. I feel blessed that he’s even considered it.”

With Ingles working with the quarterbacks, it should give Norris time to focus on overall coaching. But Ingles expects to give a hand wherever it will be taken.

“I’m sure I’ll be watching all of it,” he said. “I’ve coached both sides of the ball. I really love the game or I still wouldn’t be doing it… I think I have a little bit to offer to all of the players, and hopefully they will be receptive.”

Ingles said he is excited about working with ninth graders, who weren’t allowed on varsity during his time as coach.

“I’m hoping this will invigorate me a little bit and I’ll have a little fun,” he said.

Ingles, known for his direct and straightforward approach, said he hasn’t worked as an assistant since the mid-1970s, but hopes to make positive contributions to the team.

“I was at conditioning the other day; it’s been a lot of fun so far,” he said. “But I haven’t stood out in a cold October night in the rain yet.”

Ingles called the quarterback position one of the most difficult positions to play in any US team sport. For him, it’s about building confidence in a young signal caller.

“You try to get as much as you possibly can with the ability that they have,” he said. “I haven’t seen any of the Kentwood guys play, so it’s pretty hard for me to say this is what I’m going to do with these guys until I look at them.”

As for compensation, Ingles says he isn’t sure if he is volunteering or will be paid.

“It doesn’t really matter,” he said. “Coaching is coaching.”

 

 


 

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