STEVE HANLON: Valpo's Renn a perfect fit for Indiana Football HOF

2011-04-29T22:00:00Z 2012-09-25T23:49:18Z STEVE HANLON: Valpo's Renn a perfect fit for Indiana Football HOFBy Steve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
April 29, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

On Sunday night at Avalon Manor Rich Renn will be inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame. It is for men like Renn that this honor was created.

Tough guys. Spirited coaches. Great motivators of young men. Unbelievable high school football coaches.

That's what Renn was -- a region classic through and through.

"Rich was a fierce competitor, an old-school football coach," Valparaiso coach Mark Hoffman said of his assistant of 17 years. "He motivated kids. He'd get in your face. He didn't care if it was his son or Jeff Samardzija. He would get in your face and motivate you."

But he wasn't a heartless cave man. Hardly.

While helping a friend's son in September of 2008, during the horrific flood that hurt many, Renn had a massive heart attack and died at the age of 58.

Renn starred at Wirt before graduating in 1968. He played football at Indiana State. Then, for the next 33 years, he was a football coach in the region -- nine years at Lake Station, seven at Highland and the rest as Hoffman's defensive coordinator at Valpo.

In 1987 his defense led Highland to the Class 5A state title game. He did the same at Valpo in 2001. Indianapolis Ben Davis stole his ring both times.

His son, Jason, was the Vikings' QB in 2001. Now, he is Hoffman's coach for the signal callers. Jason, and his mother, Pam, will be among the large Renn clan assembled for the HOF celebration.

"My dad brought the best out in everybody," Jason said. "He could take an average linebacker and make him all-area."

Rich wasn't the coach at home. That line was never crossed. But he could still motivate, even with a Pepsi in his hand.

"We'd get home from practice and we left football on the field," Jason said. "But he'd make me clean up around the house or change the oil."

Valpo's run to the semistate last November was special. Jason felt like his father was looking down. And leading the way.

That's what great coaches do. That's what Hall of Famers do.

Renn used to give yours truly the business on the sidelines if I picked his Vikings to lose. It was in good fun. But he also scared me from time to time.

"Is he really that mad?" I'd think while walking away with my pen in hand.

But after Valpo won, and he proved my pick wrong, he would say a word or two afterward with a smile on his face. And a quick, little jab. Those memories are classics to this day.

His trophy room is packed. In 1972 Renn was on Lake Station's staff in the Eagles' first undefeated season. They were inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 1991.

Whether coaching football, swimming or wrestling, Renn's ability to win always emerged. The fact that he's getting another accolade only makes sense.

It is richly deserved. 

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

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