Thursday marked the end of an era for Steubenville Catholic Central when head football coach Gregg Bahen resigned his post. During his time, Bahen guided Crusader teams to three regional titles, two state championship game appearances and a Division V state championship in 1993.
That does not begin to tell the story of the man and what he has meant to the young people he has molded over the years.
I was blessed to play for Bahen from his first year as head coach at Central in 1991 through the state title year of 1993.
I've been hugged by him out of elation and I've been run by him until I puked when I did something I shouldn't have done.
What those two things had in common was simple. He did both because he cared and wanted me to be the best person I could possibly be.
Not because I was the best athlete in the world. Because I wasn't. Not even close. Not because I was the smartest guy. Because that obviously wasn't true.
It was because no one cares more for the kids who walk the halls at Catholic Central.
One particular event I recall involving Bahen occurred my junior year. During the Coshocton game we were involved in a bench- clearing incident. Even though we won the game he made sure we knew there was nothing to celebrate because of our actions.
The next day we went to watch films and he had us go down to the practice field which was out of our normal routine. He let us know he watched the film and he understood that we cleared the bench to defend a teammate who had been cheapshotted on the far sideline.
He also told us he still had to deal with what we did and we ran. Not a leisurely jog mind you. We ran until it hurt.
He didn't teach us a football lesson that day. He wasn't just being a mean guy.
He taught us a life lesson. We are responsible for our actions and their repercussions, whether or not we feel they are justified.
That's what he does. He is a teacher of young people. Not just a football coach. Whether you are one of his players or a kid who had him for geography your sophomore year, he wants you to succeed and will do what he can to help you do that.
It would be easy to talk about my experiences with him from solely a football point of view.
I could talk about how he led us to a win over Big Red my junior year that ended a 12-game losing streak to them. That was a great feeling.
I could tell the story of how during his Bellaire pregame speech my senior year he told us that if we won we wouldn't lose again that season.
We did and we didn't.
A vast majority of his former players have these types of memories. Just ask any of them and they'll provide an example of their former coach.
What most will also talk about is what a great person he is. How he taught them things about life that went far beyond just football Xs and Os.
This column has been the hardest thing I've had to write since joining the sports staff here.
Not for a lack of positive things to write about coach Bahen. My biggest issue comes from trying to do justice to a man whom I look at as one of my heroes in a small space in a newspaper. So coach, should you actually be reading this, if I blew it I'll head down to the field and make myself run beasts until I can't run anymore.
Which nowadays probably won't take too long.
Bahen will be dearly missed as the face of the Crusader football program. It's hard to imagine anyone else leading the blue and gold onto the field, scowling on the sideline, or crying after a big win.
Fortunately, for all of us he is still a part of our community and I, for one, could still afford to learn a life lesson or two more from then man I'll always call my coach.