STEVE HANLON: Revealing the region's worst-kept secret

2011-07-15T22:00:00Z 2012-08-31T00:25:35Z STEVE HANLON: Revealing the region's worst-kept secretBy Steve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
July 15, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | There will be a coming press conference. There will be gifts and high oratory and probably a parade. Maybe two.

The fact is inevitable. This autumn will be the last one that Mark Hoffman walks along the sidelines of Valparaiso's Viking Field.

It's the region's worst-kept secret.

He all but said that on Friday night at Indianapolis North Central High School after the North-South All-Star game.

"If I live to be 100, this is the stuff I'll miss," said Hoffman after a nail-biting 13-7 loss to the South. "I'll miss it every day."

Hoffman had talked about possibly stepping down often the last three years. But it was set in stone when he was named Valpo's new athletic director in May.

The things he'll miss are the interaction with the players. Hoffman said he was waking players up at 5:30 a.m. this week and he admitted, "I'm not a morning person." He recalled Merrillville's Matt Neal meeting him in the hallway with a grin on his face.

Hoffman and Morton's D'Jari Griffin had a great rapport, too. DJ made jokes about the way Hoffman said the word, "Today." It caught on.

"It took the guys awhile to get used to Coach because he's so crazy," Valpo defensive lineman Adam Peterka said. "Especially the way he says 'today.'"

Sue Hoffman, Mark's wife, was standing nearby and exclaimed, "Today? He doesn't say that funny. Well, maybe he does every once in awhile."

The praise of Hoffman, though, had little to do with his quirks. It had everything to do with who he is.

"Coach has done so much for me over the last four years," Peterka said. "He is the reason I am the person I am today. It's because of him. It was great to see him on the practice field this week one more time."

Hoffman's resume is extreme. He completed his 39th year as a high school football coach, 36 of those as a head coach. In 35 years at Valpo Hoffman is 233-147. His Vikings have had two state runner-up finishes, nine sectional titles and six regionals.

Nine times Hoffman has received the Indiana Football Coaches Association's District 1 Coach of the Year. He's been the Indianapolis Colts Coach of the Week four times. He was the National Coach of the Year in 2010.

Morton coach Roy Richards was an assistant for the North team. He said he knew Hoffman, but he didn't really know him, until this week. A few more miles and a different conference put a little distance between the two.

But, the fact the two were coaching in semistate games last year said it all.

"Mark knows exactly how to treat people," Richards said. "When he steps down we'll miss someone who knows how to give guidance to younger coaches. He will be missed a lot. He is a great coach and an even greater person. He will be missed.

"I know after this week he'll be on my speed dial."

Get the green rocking chairs ready opponents. Get the flowers and other "thank yous" ready. The football season starts in three weeks. And this will be Hoffy's last one.

"This is Indiana, this used to be a basketball state," he said, "but thanks to the Colts over the last three or four years we've become a football state. I've been in this game and around these young men for 40 years and I wouldn't relive my life any other way.

"I love this game."

And it loves you, good sir.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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