COAL CITY - Kevin Grogg really never thought he would coach again.
The former long-time Wyoming County coach figured he had done enough, and seen enough, after he formerly ended his coaching career with his resignation in 2010. His last season on the sidelines was in 2009, when his nephew Thadd was a junior at Wyoming East.
Grogg had reached the mountaintop in 1999, with a powerhouse Class AA team that included several all-state players led by the three-headed 1,000-yard rushing tandem of Tank Tunstalle, Justin Grogg and Michael Hill and a stellar defense led by Ashley McNeely, who had 20 tackles in a state championship victory over Bluefield that, honestly, wasn't much of a game (54-21).
So Grogg was ready to spend his time on the farm, in the hay field, riding his horses, spending time with his grandson Brock Green (son of his daughter Mallory Green, a principal at Mullens Elementary) or playing a round of golf with his son Justin, now a deputy sheriff in Raleigh County.
If you thought wild horses couldn't drag Kevin Grogg back to the sideline, you thought wrong.
All it took?
Veteran Raleigh County coach John Lilly, starting his second year at Independence, after successful stints at Woodrow Wilson and Shady Spring, asked. Grogg accepted.
"It really is as simple as that: John asked me," Grogg said, celebrating the end of the recent three-week practice window with a round of golf with Justin at Glade Springs.
"John and I actually had been talking last year, during football, and we continued talking later, after the season and he asked if I would consider helping out."
Grogg felt he could lend a hand.
"At first I thought maybe I could do something part time, help these guys out on a Friday night," Grogg said. "But after I started going to weight lifting and seeing the kids, I realized it wouldn't be fair if I just gave them half a job, you know?"
Lilly was able to coax Joe Dean, a veteran head coach at Midland Trail, to sign on with the program as well, giving the Patriots one of the most experienced staffs in the state.
The three alone combine for over 100 years of coaching experience, and much of that as time spent as a head coach.
While Grogg is classified as an unpaid volunteer, his input is valued, as well as that of Dean, a playoff veteran coach at Trail.
"Those two guys can't help but make us better," Lilly said. "I feel like we pulled off a major coupe getting those two guys to come over and help us. We're excited about the next year. Having that caliber of coach come in and help us get better and teach fundamentals is huge. Kevin's got a state championship under his belt. I've coached against Kevin for years. To have him come and help build our program to where we want it to be is just amazing."
Of course family, which holds meaning in the Grogg family, has a little bit to do with it as well. It's his payment.
"My grandson is getting to be around football," Grogg said. "We think, Lord willing, that he is going to be a pretty good football player. There is nothing like having the opportunity to be around the football program. I know what it did for my son. That alone is the payment for me. He gets to be around the game."
Grogg has always been around the game, as a player and then into the coaching ranks as an assistant at Pineville when he started in the very early 1980s. He got his first head coaching job at Mullens, then took the Oceana head coaching job. He later returned to Mullens. When Pineville and Mullens consolidated in 1998, he got the Wyoming East job, with the highpoint coming in 1999 when the team ran through the schedule to an undefeated season and the school's first state title.
You might think it would be hard for a guy who spent a bulk of his career as a head coach to not want to be in the top chair. That's not correct.
"John is the boss," Grogg said. "We do what he says. The great thing about it is John knows we have coached and he lets us kind of do our thing. 'Kevin, go coach the linemen and teach them how to block and tackle.' Just being able to coach again is great."
He also said working with Lilly has been an eye opener.
"I've got a lot of respect for what John does," Grogg said. "I knew he was a good coach because we competed. But I never knew how he got them to that point. He knows his craft. He knows how to coach. He does things for the kids that I never would have thought of, and I thought I was very good to our kids. I'm not just saying this. This man is dedicated to the game and it shows in every aspect of his practice and preparation."
Independence opens the season on Aug. 30 against Dean's former team, Midland Trail, in the annual Patriot Bowl.