Minutes before the media session that would anoint him as new Lawrence High football coach on Tuesday, Dirk Wedd walked over and hugged Jean Woolard.
"I wish he could have been here," Wedd told her softly. "I wish he could have been here."
Woolard's husband Al, the man who became a legend while coaching the Lions, died last October at the age of 87.
Wedd played only one season for Woolard back in the late 60s and the experience was traumatic.
"It was my junior year and in the middle of the season coach Woolard moved me from center to guard," Wedd said, smiling. "He didn't tell me why. He just did it. I went home and cried."
The next year, under Woolard's successor, Wedd was moved back to the pivot and became an all-state selection at the position.
Nevertheless, Wedd and Woolard remained friends over the years. In fact, after Wedd's father died in 1984, Woolard evolved into a surrogate. The man who once made Dirk Wedd cry became the man who actually prevented Wedd tears.
"Coach Woolard encouraged me when I didn't get the Free State job and when I didn't get the Manhattan job," Wedd said. "A day didn't go by when he didn't say something bigger and better was waiting for me out there."
What could be bigger and better than being the first man in more than 60 years to play at Lawrence High and become head coach at Lawrence High?
Wedd also mentioned his late father, Ralph, as a man who had a profound influence on bending his twig. "I think he's pretty proud right now," Dirk said.
I don't doubt that, but at the same time I'm also pretty sure his dad would never admit it.
Ralph Wedd was one of those old-school coaches, a taciturn man whose range of emotions ran the gamut from near K to around P. Dirk Wedd, however, is a man who emotes on an A-plus to Z-minus scale.
"He never raised his voice and I'm just the opposite," Wedd said with a grin. "He was very, very disciplined. I had him for PE in junior high and you dreaded the first 15 minutes. It was the most strenuous calisthenics you can imagine, and it went downhill after that."
Ralph Wedd coached in Spring Hill, Louisburg, Gardner and Baldwin before taking over as head track coach and assistant football coach at West Junior High in the early 60s.
When South Junior High opened in the late 60s, Ralph Wedd became the Cougars' first football coach, remaining until he retired in 1984. Today, the football field and track at SJHS bear Wedd's name.
If you're wondering if Ralph Wedd ever aspired to be the Lions' head football coach, Dirk says no.
"He wanted to be the track coach," Dirk said. "He applied for it, but he didn't get it."
And so it was left for Ralph Wedd's son to move to the next level. And what of Ralph Wedd's grandson? As you may know, Dirk's son, Shane, is a junior catcher on Kansas University's baseball team.
Dirk Wedd said he was relaxing at home the other day when he heard his wife Gwen (you think Dirk is emotional, you should be around Gwen for awhile) shriek in another room.
"What happened?" asked Wedd as he arrived on the scene and saw his wife and son talking.
"You tell him," Gwen said to Shane.
And what did Shane say?
"I just told her I was going into teaching and coaching," he replied.
Chip off the two old blocks.
-- Chuck Woodling's phone message number is 832-7147. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.