By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The legacy of a great coach can exist on a variety of levels.
Maybe the coach is remembered for elevating a program to championship-contending heights and keeping it there every single year.
Maybe the coach took great players and turned them into college standouts.
Maybe the coach took marginal players and turned them into All-League performers.
Maybe the coach developed an all-inclusive culture that promotes family, academics, competition, accountability, trust and more.
Maybe the coach instilled an unwavering belief in this players that they can do anything. That they can be anything.
Maybe the coach taught the game on such an elite level that his players walked onto the field with an advantage already built in. Physically and mentally.
Maybe the coach’s longevity at one school, doing his job so passionately that it was impossible not to recognize, that it established an appreciation for loyalty that is rarely seen across today’s coaching landscape.
Maybe the coach treated his players with so much love that they became an extension of his family.
John Nemec’s Hall of Fame career could have been defined by any one of these things.
What made him deeply loved by his players, peers and community was that his career — and ultimately his legacy — was defined by all of these things.
By doing so, he inspired the next wave of great coaches.
Nemec’s “Coaching Tree” is a marvel in numbers, success and philosophies.
And for their continued love, respect and admiration for “Coach.”
Nemec’s career spanned 38 years as an educator and 29 years as a head coach at Kent Roosevelt High School. His 231 career wins is the most in Portage County history. Nemec, now 77, won eight Metropolitan League titles, one Western Reserve Conference crown and four Portage Trail Conference Metro Division championships. He had five teams qualify for the Division II playoffs.
All of the accolades and accomplishments decorate his career achievements.
However, his brightest-shining trophies continue to be his former players.
Here is a look at Nemec’s “Coaching Tree,” who chose to walk in their Coach’s footsteps.
Football seasons: 2011.
Positions: Offensive guard.
Coach Nemec’s impact: As a player, Coach Nemec impacted me by how personable he was. He knew how to motivate you on a personal level and how to challenge you in a way to get you to raise your level of competition.
Coaching resume: Kent Roosevelt freshman basketball (2015-17); Stanton Middle School lacrosse (2015-16); Stanton Middle School basketball (2017-19); Stow High School defensive line and JV football head coach (2019-21); Stow freshman basketball (2019-21); Kimpton Middle School track and field throws coach (2020); Kent Roosevelt High School varsity boys basketball head coach (2022-present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach Nemec: The feel of our basketball program is influenced by Coach. We heavily preach brotherhood, culture and family, which is very similar to how our football locker room felt in high school.
Favorite memory: Having the opportunity to coach alongside Coach at Stow. That experience taught me a lot about the ins and outs of coaching as a whole.
What made Coach different to you: Coach Nemec was different because he would go out of his way to build a personal relationship with you as a player and as an adult. You never have to question how Coach Nemec feels about you or if he genuinely cares about you.
Football seasons: 1989-92.
Coaching resume: Streetsboro High School offensive/defensive line (2007-16); Kent Roosevelt quarterbacks (2017-18); Stow High School offensive line/offensive coordinator (2019-22).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: The way you build and maintain relationships with kids and how to set a culture for your team. There were no slogans or Twitter hashtags then. He had a direct and simple way of addressing those things. I appreciated that. Those are the things that made an impact on me as a player and have carried over into my coaching.
Favorite memory: We spent about 13 years working together for the Ohio Team in the Big 33 All-Star Game, and I was fortunate to coach with him for three years. We had a blast. Two that stand out are, first, when I was a player I stopped by the Nemec house to drop something off. It was during a coaches meeting and (John’s wife) Mary was on her way out with (their daughter) KC to get some ice cream. They invited me, and I gladly went along. Each of the following Sundays I would stop by at the same time and go for ice cream. It became a longstanding joke that Nemec had to play me or Mary would get mad at him. Second, is when my oldest son Collin was a waterboy for Kent and our youngest, Luke, was a waterboy at Streetsboro, where I was coaching. Collin was born with a kidney disease and needed a transplant. Before his surgery, Coach and Mary came to visit him with several players, including Kardell Jackson, who came over to give him a football signed by the team.
What made Coach different to you: He always made each individual feel special. Like they were all that mattered at that moment. It never made a difference if you were a star player, average player or someone who never saw the field. He was always there for all of us. And continues to be to this day.
Football seasons: 19976-2000.
Positions: Wide receiver and safety.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Even going back to being a middle-school football player, Coach carried a major presence for all players. Everyone couldn’t wait to play for him and going to a Friday night home game at Roosevelt was what all of us looked forward to, with visions of being able to play on the same field as the all-time greats from Roosevelt football history. And to be coached by a legend. I can also tell you, even as a young player, how evident it was that Coach cared about all of his players, no matter their size, skill level or role on the team.
Coaching resume: Kent Roosevelt freshman assistant (2002); Tallmadge High School assistant (2003-05); Manning (South Carolina) assistant (2006); Norton High School defensive coordinator (2007-11); Tallmadge High School defensive coordinator (2012-14); Barberton High School defensive coordinator (2015-19); Stow High School co-defensive coordinator (2020-21); Norton High School head coach (2022-present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: I truly believe the culture and philosophies of Coach permits everything I try to do in my own program. … Coach has said to me that anyone can learn a playbook, but it is a lot harder to teach someone to be a good person. … Among the biggest lessons he has taught me that by creating relationships, you show people you care about them — and when they know you care about them, they will run through a wall for you every Friday night. … Interestingly enough, my current offensive coordinator at Norton, Scott Chouinard, also played at Roosevelt. We were the QB-WR combo together for the 1999 season. We definitely have plays and formations from the old Kent Roosevelt playbook and when we discuss them in the office, the conversation always turns back to things like, “Remember when Curtis Dunaway ran this play out of Thunder” or “no one could cover Tree Thomas on this route.”
Favorite memory: The two years that I coached alongside him at Stow were so professionally and personally rewarding for me to be around him on a daily basis and just pick through his knowledge, experience and especially to listen to his stories after practice in the coaches office.
What made Coach different to you: I tell this to almost everyone I talk to in the coaching world, and I have especially emphasized this to my current assistant coaches, that Coach’s “superpower” is the ability to make the person he is talking to feel like they are the most important person in the room or on the field.
Football seasons: 1995-98.
Positions: Offensive line and linebacker.
Coach Nemec’s impact: He made everyone feel important. It didn’t matter where you were on the depth chart, you mattered.
Coaching resume: Batter Creek (S.C.) defensive line (2007-09); Whale Branch Early College High School (S.C.) offensive coordinator (2009-10); Bluffton High School (S.C.) offensive coordinator (2010-16); Stow High School offensive coordinator (2018-22).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: Coach was phenomenal at matching his philosophies with his talent. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, he ran anything from Stack-I to Run-and-Shoot. He molded everything based on the talent. In those times, every program was dead set in their ways. Coach was flexible. Coach is a people person, and he values everyone’s opinion. He makes his assistants important every week, which is important for the program.
Favorite memory: Winning the inaugural Western Reserve Conference championship as a player for him in 1996 and coaching with him at Stow to win a Suburban League championship in 2021 with a staff almost entirely of Kent guys. The only non-Kent person was the head coach.
What made Coach different to you: His relationships with everyone — not just the players. Coach could be the mayor of Kent. He created relationships that have lasted for generations.
Football seasons: 1998-2001 at Southeast High School.
Positions: Offensive line.
Coach Nemec’s impact: While I did not play football for Coach, I was fortunate to be hired onto his staff shortly after playing and graduating from Baldwin Wallace in 2007. I was hired as his offensive line coach and later offensive coordinator when he returned in 2008 and has been a big part of my development into a head coach.
Coaching resume: Parma High School offensive and defensive line (2006-07); Kent Roosevelt offensive line and offensive coordinator (2008-17); Twinsburg High School offensive coordinator and quarterbacks (2018-20); Rootstown High School head coach (2021-present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: Football-wise, I was indoctrinated into the prolific spread offenses we ran under Coach from 2008 through 2013. Many of those passing concepts we still run today at Rootstown. More important than scheme was his philosophy of molding the offense around the players you have, identifying your playmakers and getting the ball consistently. Philosophy-wise, Coach taught me that relationships are first and foremost.
Favorite memory: One thing I always admired about Coach was that he was not afraid to challenge his coaches the same way he challenges his players. After a successful first year, he sat me down and challenged me to be more than I was. He challenged me to take initiative and truly discover the work it took make me a successful coordinator and eventually head coach. I’ve always been thankful for that talk, but more importantly, I’ve been thankful of his friendship the past 16 years.
What made Coach different to you: The way Coach treated his players and how he related to them. He was able to talk to them on a level most couldn’t, because he knew them. Also, Coach’s drive to be successful. He had a way to make our kids believe we would win and there wasn’t anything that would stop that.
Football seasons: 1989-91.
Positions: Running back (all-time leading rusher at Roosevelt) and safety.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach has — and continues to have — an enormous impact on my personal and professional life. He has been a mentor and father-figure to myself and countless others. As a player, he taught me the importance of preparation and the importance of focusing on the small details of each play. But the most impactful thing I took away from those days at Kent Roosevelt was the feeling of family and community that Coach and his staff created. Dave Brubeck, Kevin Hockett, Vern Pees, Bruce Hunt, Gerrad Lowe, all shared in creating a family feeling.
Coaching resume: Kent Roosevelt High School (1998-2000); Lower Merion High School (Pa.) (2002-2012); Delaware Valley Charter High School (Pa.) (2010-13); Hatboro-Horsham High School (Pa.) (2016-18); Abington High School (Pa.) (2018-2020); Hatboro-Horsham High School (2022).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: The thing I carry with me today is the fact that you have to adjust your scheme to fit your personnel. My first year as a starting running back (1989), we played four wide receivers and one running back. We stretched the field and threw the ball all over. In the following two years, we played a Stack-I with three running backs and two tight ends and threw the ball four or five times a game. Drastically different styles of play, but the same result: Wins.
Favorite memory: Besides all the winning, it would definitely be the pregame and postgame speeches he would give. As someone who has been in a ton of locker rooms and heard a ton of pregame speeches both in college and high school, and both as a player and coach, it is a rare skill and no one did it better than Coach.
What made Coach different to you: Coach cared about his players. Not just about their success on the field, but the men they were off the field. He has been a professional mentor for dozens of players after their playing days, offering career and personal advice. He is always just a phone call away still to this day.
Football seasons: 1983-85 (played 1986 senior season at Doherty High School in Colorado Springs.
Positions: Defensive back and kicker. Backup running back to Willie Jones and Harold Brown.
Coach Nemec’s impact: It always evident to me, even at a very young age, that Coach truly cared about me as a person. He made me — and so many others — feel as if he was truly vested in us as young people. Therefor, you never wanted to disappoint him. As a player, I also took away the importance of accountability. The importance of it to your family and your teammates. The importance of understanding how everything that you do impacts those around you. Good and bad.
Coaching resume: For Collins High School (Col.) 1993; Lake Wales High School (Fla.) 1994; Mount Union College 1995; Kent State University 1996; Iowa State University 1997-2000; University of Washington 2001; Iowa State University 2002-06; University of Louisville 2007-08; University of Notre Dame 2009-14; Ohio State University 2015-present.
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: Nothing playbook-wise, but philosophically, there are many things. Most importantly, the the thing that I still hold true is the immense value of establishing unconditional relationships with your players. Coach is a truth-teller. It is important to tell your players the truth. It is our jobs as coaches to mentor and help build our young people to be the best versions of themselves. We get to do that in the name of football. Coach has always been the consummate teacher. I am now 54 years old and STILL call upon him for counsel.
Favorite memory: I have many. Prior to my senior year, my father took a job as the Personnel Director of District 11 Schools in Colorado Springs. This was going to obviously require us to move. Coach and my dad, along with me of course, decided a plan where I would move in and live with the Nemec family for my senior year. Again, they were like family to the Alford’s. It was all set and then we delivered the plan to my mom, Gloria Alford. That conversation took about 30 seconds and she promptly said, “No, that’s not happening. You’re moving to Colorado with us,” and walked away.
My junior year (fall 1986), we played Nordonia, and I got beat on a double-move by the WR and I fell down as he ran by me and scored a TD. Instead of jumping up and finishing the play, I laid there like I was hurt. Coach promptly walked onto the field and knelt down next to me and said, “You’re not hurt. Your pride is hurt. Now get your butt up and get off the field.”
What made Coach different to you: I met Coach and his family in 1976 when I was 8 years old. My father, Bob Alford, was his defensive coordinator at Kent Roosevelt. The Nemec family became part of our family, which happens in the coaching profession. Coach’s genuine care that had for me and my family. His wife, Mary, was like a second mother to me and always has been. They truly care about “their boys” and its unwavering.
Football seasons: 1989-91.
Positions: Tight end and defensive tackle.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach was a man who loved his players and his door either at the school or in his home, along with Mrs. Nemec, was always open to me. I spent a lot of time having talks at that kitchen table. I could be very hard-headed at times, but he never gave up on me. He always held me accountable, but taught me life lessons with tough love. I wouldn’t be where I am now in my career if it was not for Coach and his staff.
Coaching resume: Firestone High School defensive line; Tallmadge High School; Wooster High School; Malone University; Hiram College; Columbus Brookhaven High School; Ohio State University defensive quality control; Beechcraft High School; Reynoldsburg High School; Mifflin High School; Otterbein University; Bowling Green State University academic coordinator; Indiana University Director of Player Development/Academic Enhancement/NFL Liaison (2014-present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: Be open minded and adapt to the changes that come to you everyday. No player’s journey will be the same.
Favorite memory: When I was a sophomore, me and my best friend Curtis Dunaway are in a seat behind Coach on the bus to Nordonia. The bus was to be silent on the way to the game. The stadium in one end zone faced the freeway, and I remember saying something to Curt about if Jake McVey threw the ball too long, were were gonna get hit by a car. Coach lost his mind, and I think I was more scared then than I had ever been in my life. Luckily, we won that game that night, and we learned to ask the older guys if we could sit in the back with them.
Coach also would have students with disabilities from Mrs. Repinski and Coach Wilson’s class out be managers for our football team. It allowed these students to be part of the team, which taught everyone to treat others with respect and to be grateful for the things you can do everyday. This is still a part of my life, when we help our players get involved in community-service projects.
What made Coach different to you: Coach coached when being the head football coach was probably his easiest job because our team was mixed with so many backgrounds. One of the best things I think Coach had the ability to do was take so many different people and build them into one team that loved each other and were brothers who worked together for one goal to be the best.
Football seasons: 1996-99.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach was the second-most influential man in my life in my formative years other than my father. He took an interest in me starting in the seventh grade and has been a sounding board through adulthood. He always coached you hard, but loved you harder. He cared first about his players as individuals, then as players.
Coaching resume: Northwestern Middle School (2002-03); Northwestern High School offensive coordinator (2004-06); Kent Roosevelt quarterbacks (2007); Kent Roosevelt offensive coordinator (2008-2012); Kent Roosevelt defensive coordinator (2013); Copley High School head coach (2014-18); Wooster High School offensive coordinator (2020); Norton High School offensive coordinator (2022-present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: Coach has influenced every aspect of my coaching career. He has his fingerprints on each part of how I approach players, build a culture and how I think offensively. The most important thing he has ever shown me is how important the relationships between player and coach are. You must first have the player know that you care more about them as an individual than you do as a player. Build trust and show that you love them first, then you can have success coaching them on the field.
Favorite memory: I have a lot of fond memories, but my favorite stem from being an assistant and meeting on his patio on Sunday nights game planning, but more importantly we talked about life and family and the players and how to best meet their needs. I had the opportunity to really seee what made him such a special coach and person.
What made Coach different to you: The fact that he loved his players first and built the relationships with each individual to the point that each of them felt they were very special in his eyes. He was never too busy or too important to take the time to get to know each player and build that relationship with them. He also knew how to get the most out of his players, because he understood them, what motivated them and no player wanted to let him down.
Football seasons: 2009-12.
Positions: Wide receiver.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach showed love to everybody on the team, knew everybody’s name no matter if you played a lot or didn’t. He knew what to say to his players in order to get the best out of them. He taught us to be the best we could on and off the field, and I admired that.
Coaching resume: Kent Roosevelt assistant (2017); Stow High School wide receivers; Kent Roosevelt wide receivers and running backs (present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: Coach taught us to play in space and find the open field.
What made Coach different to you: He knew how to bring out the best in me, and he always pushed me to be the best version of myself.
Football seasons: 2010-13.
Positions: Defensive back, wide receiver, running back.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach Nemec had a tremendous impact on me when I was a player. He went above and beyond to show his players that he cares about them beyond their football talents. At the time, it seemed like he went above and beyond for that, but as I got older, I realized that is just who he is as a person and man. The way he cares about his players and believes in them, made me want to play hard for him and for the team. He gives players confidence in their abilities and it really shows as young players progress throughout the season and their high school careers. Coach Nemec did a great job showing and telling us how to be a team and what the tradition of Kent Roosevelt was. We were always a close team and looked out for teammates. We were motivated by Coach Nemec and upholding the Kent Roosevelt football traditions/standards. Coach Nemec encouraged me to get into coaching once I was done playing. We both thought it would be a short term thing while I was in college, but it turned out to be something I loved doing and have continued to make a career out of.
Coaching resume: Kent Roosevelt High School assistant; Stow High School assistant; Kent Roosevelt High School head coach (present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: From an influence standpoint, I have adopted and learned from Coach to make sure you care and your players know you care about them beyond the football field. It has to be genuine and consistent. From a playbook standpoint, I learned over the years and thinking back to how Coach Nemec was adaptive, but you have to adapt your scheme to your players. In other words, figure out what they do best and build from there.
Favorite memory: Although there are many, one of my favorite memories of Coach was being part of his 200th win.
What made Coach different to you: The way he supported and cared about his players. Many coaches care, but Coach made sure to prove it day in and day out. He is the same way today with his former players as he was when we all were playing for him in high school.
Editor’s Note: KC Nemec is Coach Nemec’s daughter and never played football, but the fact that she went into coaching and grew up around Nemec’s coaching, offered her an opportunity to add perspective to this story.
Sports played: Field hockey.
Describe the impact watching your dad coach had on you: My father’s coaching career impacted myself and my sisters because it was fun, exciting and brought a diverse group of people into our lives. Our fondest childhood memories are of Rough Riders football.
Coaching resume: Miami University assistant field hockey (2001-02); Hudson High School field hockey assistant (2002-06); Hudson High School field hockey head coach (2006-09); Kent Roosevelt High School field hockey head coach (2011-16).
What coaching philosophies were inflced by your dad: The philosophy I use today and can be used in any field, is the importance of developing relationships. I saw him connect, care and take action with his players. It was obvious watching him that Xs and Os weren’t as important as the players as people.
From a strategy perspective, he taught me to build your formation around your players skills. Let the talents of your athletes dictate your strategy before implementing a strategy the players are unable to execute. He would remind me of that often and give his opinion if he thought I was doing otherwise.
Do you have a favorite coaching memory of your dad: Later in his career, as a family we would greet our father at the fence before he entered the field to pay tribute to our country during the National Anthem. He would always take the time to greet us before he took the field.
You have played for and been around many coaches in athletics, what was it about your dad that made him different to you: He stayed loose in times of pressure and always displayed an impeccable level of poise at even the most intense moments.
Talk about the feelings, emotion, pride that you feel when you hear people, peers, coaches, former players start talking about your dad and his impact as a coach: First off, it happens often and it is a sure sign that he has had an impact on many people. When former players speak of my father’s impact, it reminds me of the blessing I have been graced with by having him in my presence. My heart fills with a great sense of gratitude for not only my Dad’s presence, but for all of the other people that have been in his and our lives.
Football seasons: 2009-12.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Confidence and courage. Coach pushed all of us to have the courage to try and be the best versions of ourselves in the weight room, at practice and on the field. Each season all of our coaches would remind us that you are only promised ten games a season and that those 4 seasons go by incredibly fast. They told us to have the courage to make the most of every second we had working hard with our teammates. This mentality is something I carry into my everyday life. You can never relive a season of your life over — so work hard and make the most of it.
Coaching resume: Kent Roosevelt High School field hockey (2013-17 and 2021-present); Stanton Middle School boys track and field (2014-17).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: The belief that every person on the team has a role to play and every role is important. Yes, we need every person playing to come out and give it their all during the games. But that can’t happen if those players don’t have good competition and pressure at practice and in the weight room. We get so much more out of watching film if everyone is invested and learning from the conversations happening. And having your sideline as invested as the the 11 on the field can drastically inpact the energy of a game.
Favorite memory: My husband (Andrew Grant, Class of 2012) and I met playing football for Coach in 2010. Our mutual close friend (Taylor Butkovic, Class of 2012) also played football with us. Coach was out of town for our wedding, but instead of giving a traditional Best Man speech, Taylor surprised us by projecting a recording of Coach giving a speech about Andrew and I. Anyone in attendance at our wedding, who also spent time in the RHS locker room listening to his pregame and halftime speeches will attest that the speech he gave for our wedding was very reminiscent of those many important speeches from our formative years.
What made Coach different to you: Coach was genuinely committed to our team as a whole. Decisions about who played what position had to be about winning the game but it didn’t mean he didn’t care about making us all better athletes and better people regardless of your role on the team.
Football seasons: 2011-14.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach’s impact goes far beyond the lines of the playing field. He made my teammates and I better people as a whole. He challenged us in the classroom, in the community, and at home with our families. Coach really brought out the best in us on and off the field, and I feel extremely fortunate to have him in my life.
Coaching resume: McLean High School quarterbacks; Ravenwood High School quarterbacks; Middle Tennessee offensive analyst; Ohio State University offensive assistant (present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: Coach is a major reason why I got into coaching. He demonstrated the impact a coach can have on a players’ life outside of football. My teammates and I were all better people when we left the Kent Roosevelt Football program, and I aspire to have an impact like he did.
Favorite memory: Coach actually hired my mom and dad into Kent City Schools when my mom was pregnant with me. My dad was a Social Studies teacher and the basketball coach, while my mom was a Math teacher and the softball coach. Mary and Coach were there at the hospital the day I was born. The Nemec’s have been like family for as long as I can remember.
What made Coach different to you: The relationship he had with his players and the community is what separates Coach from others. Everyone knew Coach would be there for them in adverse times and also there to celebrate success.
Football seasons: 2013-16.
Positions: Offensive and defensive line.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach was an inspiration to me from the moment I started playing football in 6th grade. I remember him coming to the middle school and talking to me about coming out for the team. He is the kind of Coach that you want to play for, regardless if you got a starting role, a practice role, or just can be involved on the team in any way. Not every coach carry’s the same effect and passion that Coach has for the game. The Culture he created at Kent just stuck with me throughout my career and still does to this day. I had a short time to play for him at Kent Roosevelt my freshman year, but the things he did for the program carried weight into the lives of so many of us especially in life after football.
Coaching resume: Kent Roosevelt swimming instructor (2018-present); Kent State University offensive line student assistant (2021); Kent Roosevelt High School offensive line (present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: One thing about Coach I use in my coaching philosophy would be building relationships with the athletes and their families. Football is a game that us coaches all have a passion for obviously, but Nemec did a great job at building the Culture surrounding a core value of Family. Kent Roosevelt Football was a close group from the youth leagues to the highschool team under Coach. It truly felt like a family and all of the athletes I coach today I try to mentor like Nemec did for me. The kind of philosophy he brought to the table will make an impact on generations to come.
Favorite memory: I have many memories of Coach. One of my favorite memories of Coach would be one Thursday night practice under the lights he told me I would be dressing for Varsity that following day. He told me to keep working hard and that I needed to earn a role. I proved that I could be a guy for them on Fridays. That pushed me to become a better player and earn that role, it also showed me that if I put my heart into something I am capable of accomplishing many things. For that season I got to play alongside my brother sometimes on special teams and it shaped my mindset on who I wanted to become as a player, but ultimately also as a person. I saw that nothing is going to be handed to me and that if I wanted to make something of myself I would have to do the hard work.
What made Coach different to you: Coach has an ability to build relationships. It didn’t matter what role you had on the Team, Coach made sure you were appreciated and cared for everyday. He showed us all how to be strong individuals which would help us get through challenging times in football and in life.
Football seasons: 1973-76 (Wapakoneta High School, Pa.)
Positions: Defensive tackle, offensive tackle, tight end.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach was like a big brother we did not want to disappoint as we were only nine years apart in ages. There was not much I would not have done for John. Most of my teammates felt that way. He took athletes with average abilities and showed us how to become champions. His brother, Jim, was instrumental as well in molding our team. Coach was able to create deep relationships built upon respect and an unwavering belief that we were only limited by our own motivation and mindset. As a player under John, we believed in ourselves as individuals but most importantly that collectively, we could become champions. However, John’s greatest attribute was, first and foremost, caring for me as a person.
Coaching resume: University of Pennsylvania defensive backs (1981-83); Kent State University wide receivers (1983-84); Mansfield Madison High School defensive coordinator (1984-85); Worthington High School defensive backs (1986-89).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: People come first.
Favorite memory: John’s love and devotion to Mary, his children and grandchildren; asking me to become as his youngest daughter’s god father (KC); Knowing his brother, mother and father; He was the Best Man in our wedding, undefeated senior season, Big 33 game 1976 (victory over Pennsylvania); John attended both my parents’ funerals; countless hours of laughing and enjoying time with his family.
What made Coach different to you: John was authentic and genuine and an innovator. He coached from his player’s strengths. His players came first.
Football seasons: 2006-2009.
Positions: Middle linebacker.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach had a huge impact on me at a young age. Coach would be there at our youth pee wee football practices and games. We would be on the South End playing basketball at the rec center and he would randomly show up and talk to us. Talk football ask us if we needed anything. As a player he always pushed us to be better than what we thought we could be. He had high expectations and a championship mindset. That lead to us making the twice playoffs and winning two league championships.
Coaching resume: Kent Youth Football Director (2021-present); Kent Roosevelt High School defensive lineman (present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: My philosophies that align with Coach is a championship mindset. Never give up on yourself or a play. Be determined to continue to learn and be your best. Run your own race. Come to work everyday and get better.
Favorite memory: I think my favorite memory of coach was actually when he asked me if I wanted to wear No. 7. A lot of my family members played and had amazing careers at Roosevelt under Coach. My uncle Dana Wright was one of those players and he wore No. 7. So coach suggested that number to me to keep that legacy going. I told him I wanted to create my own name for myself and I wore my favorite number (24). It was a proud moment for myself and I believe him as well.
What made Coach different to you: Coach was the first coach I got in my mind at a young age that I wanted to play for him. He was always around and made sure we knew he loved and cared about us all.
Football seasons: 1995-98.
Positions: Free safety and wide receiver.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach had a huge impact on me as an athlete. He knew how to push me and get the most out of me athletically. He challenged me in high school and I had to earn my opportunity to play and he made me better because of it, but he also helped me to understand the importance of earning it.
Coaching resume: Northland High School (10 years); Westerville Central High School (10th year).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: What I remember the most from Coach is that he was always willing to adjust and change. He wasn’t married to one idea or way of doing things. He would make changes schematically based on his personnel and put his players in the best position to succeed.
Favorite memory: One of my best memories of Coach is actually during my senior year. I didn’t have class first period, but I would come in every morning and sit in his office. Oftentimes I just listened and observed. I learned a lot from those mornings and just being able to take in his knowledge or advice on various things was great and much appreciated even as a teenager.
What made Coach different to you: What made Coach different was how he built relationships with his team and athletes. That is something I try to utilize to this day. Making every kid feel important and holding them accountable at the same time. He valued us for what we could do on the field, but most importantly he valued us as people as well.
Football seasons: 1988-89.
Positions: Offensive guard.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach’s impact on our community inspired kids from all over our town to want to be on that sideline. It didn’t matter what socioeconomic background you were from, he got kids from all parts of Kent to want to excel for him and this program. He was visible at all times. We knew in PeeWee and Middle School who Coach was and we all wanted to don that Red helmet in High School.
Coaching resume: Barberton High School baseball (1998); Kent State University baseball assistant (1999); Stow High School baseball assistant (2000); Kent Roosevelt High School baseball head coach (2001-present); Kent Roosevelt High School football assistant (2014-15); Kent Roosevelt High School golf assistant (2021); Kent Roosevelt High School ice hockey assistant (2020-present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: Coach is a huge Xs and Os guy when it comes to the game of football. One of the things that stuck with me was how he related his philosophy to his personnel. During my time at Roosevelt our talent was vastly different than when he returned to the sideline later in his career. We went from an offense that had multiple 1,000-yard backs to a spread that featured talented quarterbacks throwing to multiple 1,000-yard wideouts. But first and foremost he stressed the importance of success. Friday Night success transcends your entire building and community.
Favorite memory: We went to an opposing rival in the fall of 1989 for a league game during the storms that preceded Hurricane Hugo. The rain was really nasty, but certainly not unplayable. When their AD arrived in our locker room before kickoff to inform us that the game should be postponed, Coach made it very clear, in no uncertain terms, that his men were ready to play. If the other football team didn’t want to play then they could put their band on the field, because we drove there to beat someone! We played in a slopfest of sideways rain for three hours and won 10-7.
What made Coach different to you: I can honestly say that the most important things that I learned from Coach came during my years as his co-worker. Our conversations over the years were priceless. He made it very clear that the content of athletics can be just as important for some kids as the content they learn in the classroom. Oftentimes athletic success can inspire one to be better academically, and contrary to popular opinion this is OK.
But what I learned the most was more from his actions. His investment in this city laid the groundwork for his success. He put 30-plus years in as an educator here, he raised his family here, and he surrounded himself with good people that he could trust. When I look back at the last 23 years of my career here in Kent, I see very similar characteristics. My staff has been intact and with me for most of those years. My oldest son just graduated as a Rough Rider and so will my two younger boys. We are extremely proud to call Kent home.
Football seasons: 1993-96.
Positions: Tailback, wide receiver, cornerback, safety, kick returner, punt returner.
Coach Nemec’s impact: He held me to the Boykin standard. My freshmen year, for two-a-days we were working on the slant route, and I dropped the ball on the route but it was a high ball and Coach tore into me pretty hard. He says to go again and the ball is high again and I make the catch, my teammates start clapping it up the Rough Rider way — we were a close group and Coach tells everyone to stop! He said, “Boykin, I expect you to do that, son.” And we started the next part of practice. So needless to say the expectation had been set and of course Coach knew I had a competitive family. Nine had the name Boykin for 12 years, beginning with Trent (4 years), Ian (2), Toney (2), myself (4).
Coaching resume: Lee High School (Ala.) defensive coordinator (2021-present); Bob Jones High School (Ala.) safeties (2020-21); Tennessee Valley Prep Sports Academy (Ala.) head coach (2019); Huntsville High School (Ala.) head coach (2017-18); Huntsville High School (Ala.) defensive coordinator (2016-17); Mae Jemison High School (Ala.) cornerbacks and safeties (2016); J.O. Johnson High School (Ala.) cornerbacks and safeties (2015-16); Point University (Ga.) secondary (2014-15); Columbia High School (Ala.) defensive coordinator (2013-14); Huntsville High School defensive coordinator (2011-14); Bob Jones High School (Ala.) defensive backfield (2008-09); Columbia High School (Ala.) defensive backfield (2006-08); Lee High School (Ala.) defensive backs (2005-06);
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: The best philosophy that I learned from Coach was how he handled us all differently, but still the same. I saw how Coach would call certain players out in front of the team and it would make them elevate their game and then some he would say the same things but he would have to go get into their ear or they might shut down because of the moment. He showed me how to develop relationships and how to maneuver in the football world. Relationships were coaches’ most important asset and one I value today. It doesn’t matter if you know somebody, it matters if they know you. Coach has never had to name drop. When Coach calls anybody, they answer and I have tried to make it my mission to build great relationships for my life and career.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory of Coach was coming in down to Cuyahoga Falls 14-0 at the half. Coach came in at halftime and asked us what they were doing when we were in this and that formation. We were in a three-way tie, but someone had lost which meant if we won we would be the outright champion. Coach went to dialing up the playbook. He didn’t hold anything back and Cardiac Kent came alive again and we won the championship. That championship was the result of how coach brought us together. He made us rotate the music in the locker room. He had us to be big brothers to our special needs brothers. He taught us that no one is bigger than the team and would always find a way to keep us humble. He brought us together and when time came we were firing on all cylinders.
What made Coach different to you: Relationships. Anybody can do Xs and Os, but developing and fostering relationships. I know few like him. I’ve known coaches my whole life and still to this day when I call him, he is still the same. He hasn’t changed since I was a waterboy on the sideline. He’s the best at making everyone feel welcomed.
Football seasons: 1975-78.
Positions: Running back.
Coach Nemec’s impact: Coach taught me how to respect the game, how important it was to be a team player, and he taught me how to be a leader.
Coaching resume: Palmer High School (Col.) running backs (1986-89); Mitchell High School JV defensive coordinator (1989-93); Doherty High School defensive coordinator and secondary (1993-99); Mitchell High School tight ends (1999-2001); Wasson High School head coach (2002-11); Palmer High School defensive coordinator and linebackers (2011-13); Widefield High School offensive coordinator and offensive line (2013-15); Fountain Fort-Carson High School linebackers and offensive line (2015-2020); Vista Ridge High School offensive and defensive line (2021-present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: Cultural, every player has a role to contribute to the success of the team, whether you are a starter or not. Philosophy, game adjustments either during the game or after playing a team once then making adjustments for the next time you play them. Also, surrounding yourself with quality coaches. Then, adjusting your offensive or defensive plan, according to the personnel you have in the program.
Favorite memory: My favorite memory is when I was always the last one out of the locker room, which he told me gave him confidence that we would win. Also, it was really funny one time when he tried to demonstrate how to run the option!
What made Coach different to you: Coach really cared about me as a person outside of football, not just for what I could do as a player.
Football seasons: 2008-11.
Positions: Wide receiver, cornerback, free safety, punt returner, kick returner.
Coach Nemec’s impact: I think the biggest impact that Coach had on me personally was showing me that the most important thing about football was building relationships, not Xs and Os. He showed me this firsthand but more often it was what I saw him doing with my teammates. He always made it known that he was going to treat everyone fairly but not the same! He knew some kids needed extra attention or an extra push. He knew that certain kids might need more time or different kinds of coaching techniques and he always was willing to adjust as needed.
Coaching resume: Stanton Middle School defensive coordinator (2015); Kent Roosevelt freshman head coach and varsity wide receivers (2016-18); Kent Roosevelt High School basketball JV head coach (2022-23); Kent Roosevelt wide receivers (present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: The spread offense and many of the principles along with it that I learned under Coach are implemented in my coaching style. Some of the phrases that I reiterate to my players and coaches that stuck with me from Coach: Playmakers make plays; players win championships; offense scores points, but defense wins championships; get your playmakers the ball early; get the ball to your athlete sin space and let them make plays.
Beyond the phrases and philosophies, though, the biggest thing I use, that I learned from Coach is to go out and make genuine relationships with the kids and their families. Show them that I do really care for them personally and football comes second. The relationship with the families and the community will last longer than anything else.
Favorite memory: One of my first serious memories of Coach was my 8th-grade year at Stanton. I did a front flip in the endzone while scoring a touchdown and the very next day he was at our practice waiting for me. He chewed me out a little bit, but let me know the expectations of playing for him and Kent, and that if I wanted to be a guy contributing for him next year, I couldn’t do things like that. That set the tone for me and was the first step in him building a genuine relationship with me.
My favorite memories with Coach, however, came from my senior year (2011). Beating Field that year was big for us. It allowed us to get over the hump of losing to them the previous year. I had a great game personally that year, but his speech afterwards to us as a team set the tone for the rest of our season. He told us, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it” — and it was just that kind of reassurance that he gave us that we needed to hear! We went on a 10-game win streak that season, won the PTC title by beating Ravenna in a thriller that came down to six-tenths of a second, and then won Coach and Roosevelt its first-ever playoff game in school history. The memories he gave me my senior year will last a lifetime with me!
Football seasons: 2000-02.
Positions: Defensive tackle and offensive tackle.
Coach Nemec’s impact: After my sophomore year in highschool, I was not sure I if I wanted to play football my junior and senior years, so I took the summer to sleep on it. My junior year, I had Coach as a coach, and also as my vocational teacher in the work-release program. When Coach asked me if I was playing football, I said I wasn’t sure. So we sat down on my lunch break and talked about life, goal and how I was feeling about playing or not. Coach ultimately told me that he would support me either way, no matter what decision I made and whatever choice made me happy. After the talk, I decided to play my junior year. After the first two weeks of practice, my heart to play football was not there, so I decided to leave the team.
Seven years later, in 2010, I was asked about coaching youth football by a friend from high school. I saw Coach, told him I was going to coach, and he said that I would be a great coach for the kids and he was proud to see me follow my dad in coaching, and getting back into football again. In the end Coach impacted me as a person way more than he did in sports due to me leaving my Junior season. He still continued to help me and guide me as a young man, my junior and senior year as I would still be around the football team when my dad was on the coaching staff under Coach.
Coaching resume: Kent Youth Football (2010-15); Ravenna Youth Football (2016); Kent Youth Football (2018-present).
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: It starts with culture and that is something I definitely learned a lot about from watching Coach.
Favorite memory: When Coach told me that I was allowed to keep my high school jersey instead of returning it when I decided to not play my junior year, because he still viewed me as part of the program.
What made Coach different to you: He wants to help you succeed in life. He loves to coach, and is a Hall of Famer, but that’s a passion and joy that comes extra for him while he is helping people become respectful adults.
Football seasons: 1986-89.
Positions: Wide receiver, running back, defensive back, punt returner, kick returner.
Coach Nemec’s impact: He knew how to get the best out of each player. Discipline, taught you the game and how to study it.
Coaching resume: Otterbein College, University of Akron, Boston College, Tiffin University, Youngstown State, Ball State, Kentucky State, Lane College, Lambuth University, Wayne State University, Hampton University, Hoban High School.
What philosophies, culture or playbook calls were influenced by Coach: Get the ball to your best players and you win with good people.
Favorite memory: When we played Barberton High School and before the game, he told us that he did not even like to drive through Barberton to get anywhere!
What made Coach different to you: He wanted him and his family to be a part of the community.
Missed a big one:
Wisconsin Football hall of fame
Head Coach Saint Norbert Collège, DePere WI
!30-39-1 11 NCAA Div III appearances in 15 years
Currently Offensive Coordinator, Walsh University Football
What a tribute to a great educator, coach, & human being! He has been a wonderful influence on the Kent School System & the Kent
community as a whole. Through the many students he has taught & coached, his passion & loyalty will thrive for many years to come.
Excellent article by Tom Nader!
Another one- Chip Knapp class of ‘83. Played at Cornell. Coached at Kansas and then Wesley college in Dover Delaware for 30+years.