College Football; Coach of Division III power Mount Union visits Salisbury

  • Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2013 12:02 a.m.
Mount Union coach Larry Kehres has the most powerful Division III program in the nation. Photo by Ryan Bisesi, Salisbury Post
Mount Union coach Larry Kehres has the most powerful Division III program in the nation. Photo by Ryan Bisesi, Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — “The winningest coach you’ve never heard of” came to a town he hadn’t heard of Wednesday.

But when you’re a Division III coach, you don’t do things for the notoriety.

Distinguished Mount Union head football coach Larry Kehres got up at 4:30 in the morning from his home in eastern Ohio and made the trip down to Salisbury to fulfill a speaking engagement.

His generosity shined at the Hurley YMCA, where he talked in front of a small crowd in the gymnasium.

Speaking on behalf of the Salisbury Symphony Guild, Kehres came down along with David Wolpert, the director of planned giving for Mount Union. David is the brother of Symphony Guild President and MU grad Tom Wolpert and played with Kehres at MU, a school with an enrollment of about 2,300 in Alliance, Ohio. It showed the selflessness Kehres prides himself on, even more so than the football success.

There was another instance where a former player called him from eight hours away during the season needing help. The player sought advice from Kehres for battling a drinking problem. Kehres got on a plane and was there the next day.

“To respond to a request for a friend — always,” Kehres said. “I know how much Tom loves us.”

There’s a litany of impressive numbers under Kehres’ reign the last 27 years. MU has won 11 Division III national championships and 23 Ohio Athletic Conference titles. Kehres, 63, has a career record of 332-24-3, giving him a career winning percentage of .925. Through the tremendous accomplishments, he stays even-keeled.

“At my high school, a 93 was an A,” Kehres said. “Anything less was a B. So I’m a B. Anytime I get complacent, I think of that.”

He started humbly enough, telling tales of a job at a construction site when he was 15. It was the introduction to strenuous, labor-intensive work, but taught him the value of commitment and loyalty.

“When you get a chance to work, take it,” he said. “You can’t be afraid of hard work.”

That blue-collar virtue is instilled in MU’s teams and throughout the tradition-rich prep football in the state. Kehres has been in Ohio his entire coaching career. His first stop came as a graduate assistant at Bowling Green before coaching for a year at Johnstown-Monroe High. He came to MU as an assistant in 1974 and became head coach in 1986.

“If you say the fundamentals of football are blocking and tackling, that’s the style of football that’s been played in Ohio for a long time,” Kehres said. “We’ve expanded and reached out to other states but the nucleus of our team has been from Ohio.”

The Purple Raiders are all non-scholarship players and Kehres doesn’t cut anybody. He said as many as 200 players dress out for home games. Not all play, but each have a purpose. Attention to detail is critical for giving every player on the team a role and to guide them all to improve. Washington Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon and Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts III are MU alums.

Kehres, who grew up in Diamond, Ohio, said Salisbury is “a beautiful community,” after visiting Catawba’s campus and greeting the football staff. He even enjoyed some pizza from the Salty Caper.

Kehres lives within earshot of Mount Union Stadium, a place that will likely bear his way in some way in future.

“At Mount Union, I’m not the coach no one ever heard of,” he concluded.

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