The Buzz Kirkhart
Calvert fans don't see
By RICK RIMELSPACH
More than a coach
Roger Kirkhart discusses the topic of muscles with his health class. The man famous for his championship Calvert football teams also is a teacher, dedicated family man and a "people person" according to friends.
Calvert football coach Roger "Buzz" Kirkhart has become a sort of local legend as his teams have enjoyed remarkable success. But Kirkhart is more than a coach. He is also a teacher, a husband and a fascinating man.
He picks up the bouncing basketball, takes a shot and watches it roll around the rim and fall off. He smiles slyly as some of the students watch.
Mr . Kirkhart, as students in his physical education and health classes call him, runs a tight ship.
He uses that deep, gruff voice that can be intimidating to those who don't know him.
"Fall in," he bellows to the gym students. He'll smile, and they understand he 's not really an ogre.
"Muscles. " Kirkhart doesn't believe in long introductions about his health topic for the day.
Demonstrating with a skeleton model named Seymore Bonaparte, he spells tough words twice and repeats important information for emphasis in a solid, calm and confident voice.
Occasionally, football jargon slips into his presentation. (He'll say “time out” when he wants to correct a mistake.)
But he knows his material, gestures frequently and keeps his class involved and interested.
"Do you understand what I'm saying?" "OK?"
Mrs. Virginia Kirkhart remembers when her husband was looking for a job. He had three interviews set up, but after his first one (in Tiffin), he canceled the other two.
"He told me I'd love it, it would be a good place for the kids," she says, noting his first concern was for his family.
His priorities are set, with his wife and children Kelly and Shawn first.
"Clothes are not important to him, people are more important.
"I tell him, 'Anybody could have married you, you're so easy to get along with,' " she says.
She calls him an unselfish "people person" who is not the least bit moody.
"He argues easily with some people, but he doesn't hold a grudge." While the long hours at work aren't easy to handle even though they aren't so bad in the off-season, Mrs. Kirkhart says she's glad her husband likes his job.
"Everyone has the impression he's mean, a bear, like Butkus in that commercial. He's completely the opposite.
I take a loss harder. (After a game) he'll say, 'It's over, you can 't change it,' " she says. She's the first non-football related person he greets after the game - with a kiss.
"He's the gentlest person I know in the whole world."
He came to Calvert to coach football in 1974. In 1973 Ca1vert had a 1-9 record . Since then, the Seneca slate stands at 61-22-4, including five straight SBC titles or co-titles, three trips to the state playoffs, one state championship and a chance for another today.
Jack "Sparky" Anderson, who became athletic director the same year Kirkhart
arrived as bead coach, says he remembers Buzz telling the football players
after first meeting that they would be champs in a few years.
Kirkhart admits it "gets kinda hectic,” especially during the week of a state championship game. But as for whether he'd rather go back to the days before he and his football team were put in the spot1ight... "I don't know. If you 're going to do something, I like to be the best at it.”
Kirkhart says he'd rather not be, the center of attention. He points to his coaching staff and the "good kids" he's worked with at Calvert as responsible for the winning tradition.
He arrives at school around 8:15 a.m., and during the football season,
leaves around 6:30 p.m.
He’ll often be back at work from 8 to 10 or 11. After going home, he may sit down and watch some game films.
He's a strict disciplinarian at practice, making sure his players listen. They do.
“See if you can't do it together. Find the football, c’mon, let’s go. CONCENTRATE!”
He's at horne talking football with his team.
"I'm gonna ten you this, you ought to be able to handle the dive." he'll say, as the players nod their heads.
His coaching philosophy is simple.
"Treat people as people, and they’ll respond the same way, " he says. "I don 't use the kids, we work together on making their rules.
"I ten my kids the most important thing in life is doing things with
people and for people.
If it's not, it's not worth anything .”
Anderson said the keys to Kirkhart's success are his personality, hard work and staff.
When Kirkhart was a junior in high school, he made up his mind he wanted to coach. If it wasn't for that, he said, he never would have gone to college. He never thought about doing anything else.
He would like to move up the coaching ladder.
"What I'd really like to do is coach full time, recruit, the x's and o's," Kirkhart says.
"Everyone dreams. I'd like to have a chance to coach college ball." What kind of college?
He got his nickname when he was born. His sister, two years old, called her new little brother her new little “buzzer." It was shortened to Buzz, and it's stuck with him ever since.
He wears Hush puppies and a comfortable manner in an often uncomfortable job.
He apologizes to a jacket salesman trying to sell Calvert some merchandise for taking HIS time, listens patiently to a problem over school buttons and answers the phone that never seems to stop ringing.
"After this is all over, what I'd really like to do is go horne and sleep for about four weeks," he says.
He also misses his family.
“'Some weeks, I don 't see my kids other than in school."
After the season, life may slow down some for Kirkhart, but he still looks forward to going to work every day.
“He really looks after the kids after the season is over. If they get in trouble or are having problems with classes , he keeps after them," Anderson says, noting that they listen to Mr. Kirkhart.
He has little free time, but his hobbies are hunting, fishing, golfing and reading - especially westerns.
Born in Arizona, he went to grade school in upstate New York and graduated from Ithica College. He's also lived in New Mexico and California, where he didn't like the southern part of the state.
"We had a house, and one day, looking out the backyard after a rain, we saw this mountain. We'd never seen it before because of smog."
As much as he likes it in Tiffin, be admits he probably won’t stay here forever.
"After our youngest (a freshman at Calvert ) graduates, that'll probably
be it for Tiffin.”
Those of us who played under Buzz will never forget what he has done
for Calvert as an institution. But we will especially remember what he
has done for us individuals as our coach and friend.