By Ryan Hines
VERSAILLES -- There are no set standards as to what signifies legendary status when it comes to football coaches, but no matter what those standards might be, Versailles head coach Al Hetrick qualifies as a true coaching legend.
Hetrick, who just completed his 38th season as head coach of the Versailles Tigers football program, announced his retirement and spoke to reporters on Monday at a press conference at Hole Field in a move that came as somewhat of a surprise for the Orange and Black long-time mentor.
The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the success that Hetrick achieved while the head coach at Versailles.
After accumulating a record of 334-95-4 which included 18 conference championships, 16 playoff appearances, 13 regional titles, three state runners-up finishes and six state titles, Hetrick decided to call it quits.
"I've always said that I'm going to take it one year at a time and that's what I did. I thought about it (retiring) for the past three years and I'll be 67 next October and you never know how much time God is going to give you on this Earth. I would just not (like) to have it on my mind for once and just relax," said Hetrick. "I put pressure on myself all the time because the bar has been raised for success and I just need to relax." A rumor emerged over the weekend that Versailles has already picked a replacement for Hetrick, but according to athletic director Randy Swisher, Hetrick's successor hasn't been selected and possible candidates haven't even been discussed.
Swisher, who has been overseeing Versailles athletics for the last 20 years, was quick to sing the praises of Hetrick.
"When Al made his announcement, I hate to use the word funeral, but it was almost like a funeral because people are already reminiscing as if he's gone," said Swisher. "Everybody seems to have a story that they can recall. A lot of people think the world of him. His players play hard for him and believe in what he teaches them on the field and the results speak for themselves."
The praise that Swisher gives Hetrick for his coaching is only matched by the good things that he had to say about him as a person.
"He was an educator here for over 40 years and a lot of kids grew up with him and he was a father figure to a lot of those kids," said Swisher. "Not only as a guidance counselor here at school, but he also did a lot of counseling on his front porch at his house when some kids had some crisis. He was always there (Continued from page 1B)
for the kids and people that know him realize that he's tough, but he also has a nurturing side that made a lot of strong citizens by making a good example."
Hetrick's teams have always been known for hard hitting and discipline, two traits that he feels has built Versailles into the state power that it's recognized as today.
"I can't say that any philosophies have changed over the years," said Hetrick. "On the back of our team t-shirts, it says, 'Block. Tackle. Win.' If you out block them and out tackle them, you are usually going to win. I've always believed in that and tried to teach that to my players."
Since Versailles is widely recognized as a state power, the quiet and unassuming Hetrick has been swarmed with media since his announcement over the weekend.
"We knew that it was a big deal when Al announced that he was going to retire, but we didn't realize that it was this big of news," admitted Swisher. "ONN is carrying it as a lead story on Friday night statewide. People have become familiar with the success that we've had here at Versailles with state championships and it has kind of put Versailles on the map as far as athletics. Al has kind of been the face of Versailles football and people realize that and realize his name.
With coaching now behind him, it's time for Hetrick to find something else to do on fall Friday nights, but he admits that he may not be too far from a football field in the future.
"I have a son that coaches in Brookville and maybe I can go watch a few of his games, but I'll still find myself around here because I'll be a Tigers fan for all my life," said Hetrick.
Hetrick may miss roaming the sidelines on game night, but it's the relationships with players that he'll miss most about stepping away from coaching.
"The coach-player relationship has always been so important to me and it will be something that I will miss because that's what it's all about," said Hetrick. "The list of special relationships that I've built over the years goes on and on."
Just like the memories from players that have played for him and from the fans that have cheered them on.