(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)— Bishop LeBlond head football coach Tony Dudik has been a fixture for St. Joseph football for more than 40 years.
"He's just an icon of St. Joe," Former LHS head coach Paul Woolard said.
This year marks year 42 of Dudik's coaching career with 33 years at Central High School—23 as the head coach—and the last nine years at Bishop LeBlond.
"When I first started, it was because the playing days were over and the next closest place to the field is the sidelinem" Dudik said.
When his coaching career began, Dudik had plans of coaching at the next level.
"I was going to be a high school coach for five years and then I had a goal of getting into college and seeing where that would take me, but during that process, we had three children and there's times where I would get home at night and they'd already be in bed, so I wouldn't even get to see them," Dudik said. "I soon realized that at the college level, you're never going to be home and my first commitment is family."
Dudik's family, his wife and kids, are the main reason he's been able to coach for this long and throughout the years, his family has grown—hundreds of students Dudik coached and gave life lessons along the way.
"You have to be able to get back up and have to battle," Dudik said. "You have to take on those challenges head on and give your best every day. Any time you short change something, the consequences aren't going to be good."
Some of his former players even followed in Dudik's footsteps and went to the sidelines—like former Lafayette head coach Paul Woolard, who started coaching for Dudik since 2001.
"Probably the greatest thing Coach Dudik did for me was move me to linebackers, so I could learn the other side of the ball and really had to start challenging myself and coach a position that I had never played or anything," Woolard said. "It helped me grow as a coach."
Dudik also took another future Lafayette head coach Bart Hardy under his wing and helped Hardy begin his coaching career out of college.
"Letting a person be a coach at that level and letting me make mistakes and stuff like that," Hardy said. "He did a great job of building me and letting me learn on my own."
Dudik has won game and he has lost games over the course of historic career in St. Joseph and coaches that know him said it's always been about more than a game.
"Just been a blessing and if I don't look in the mirror, I don't know I'm 62, so I guess the reason I'm emotional is because I don't know when that moment is going to come, but like I said, I want to make the most of every day and I just hope that everybody that experienced Coach Dudik appreciated that moment," Dudik said.
Dudik's Golden Eagles host St. Pius Friday night for Homecoming.