"Who is that guy?” I’ve been getting that question on Friday nights for 20 years.
A lot of Friday nights while we are warming up, Coach Steele Harmon will come out on the field to visit with me. It is one of the best things that can help me get ready for a game.
It reminds me of which things are most important and how much fun the game of football is, and brings back wonderful memories from over the past 40 years.
Steele Harmon played high school football at Bellevue in the '50s and then at Centre College, including the 1955 football team that was undefeated.
Steele also played baseball, tennis and basketball and participated in track for the Colonels.
After college, Steele coached football several places, including at Highlands (where he assisted Homer Rice), Newport, Mount Healthy and Danville at the high school level, and at Centre College, where he also coached baseball, basketball and track and was the Chairman of Physical Education and Athletics.
When our family moved to Danville in 1969, Steele was the head coach at Centre where his teams won three conference championships. Many Saturday afternoons my dad would take me to watch Steele’s teams play. We went to church with the Harmons at Centenary Methodist. One of the best things to happen to my family was our friendship with the Harmons.
In 1970, both of our families loaded into one station wagon to begin the trip to Estes Park, Colo., for a summer Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Coaches Conference. Kelly Harmon was 7, I was 5, Tracie Harmon was 4, and my little sister Becky was 1. To make things more interesting, the station wagon broke down and we had to finish the trip in a regular car. It was a great trip and it was crazy.
Steele later became the state director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He still works for FCA in the eastern part of the state. Steele and Lynn have devoted their life to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the state of Kentucky and through the FCA Summer Camps and Conferences, most often at Black Mountain, N.C.
One of the best lessons I have learned from Steele is how much we need other people. I know that no matter what happens, whatever the score is, how many games we win or lose, etc., if everyone else writes me off, Steele will be on my side. He will still believe in me.
If I need help, if my family needs help, he will be there for us. Knowing that about him makes a big difference.
Coaches, especially football coaches, like to be thought of as strong, tough and independent. A lot of people are like that, coaches or not. But I will be the first to admit that for me one of the best parts of football is that we do it together -- players and coaches.
I like that in football that I am part of a coaching staff. I would not enjoy coaching if I were doing it by myself. I will admit – I am a lot tougher and stronger as part of our coaching staff than I am by myself.
My dad did a lot of things to help me and one of the most important was to bring Steele Harmon into my life as a role model and example. My dad gave me another adult male of strong character, values and deep faith to guide and direct me. In addition to having a great dad, I got to grow up with Steele Harmon and Larry French, my high school coach, looking out for me, and kicking me in the tail when I needed it.
That experience has led me to make a conscious effort to bring the best people I can into the lives of my children at home and my players. When we hire a staff, I look for great people that I want around my own children. The more I can get our players around good men, the better men they will become. Any time Steele Harmon, a local pastor, or one of these old coaches can be around our team, I want them there. Sometimes they will talk to our team.
Over the past few years, Steele, Randy Reese, Donald Wayne Smith, Dr. Steve Parker, Homer Goins and Coach French are some of the men I have invited to speak to our kids.
There are many reasons I want to be the head football coach at Mason County. But the most important personal reason, right now, is that my son gets to play for and be coached by Larry Harris, Chris Ullery, Mike Stanley, Seth Faulkner, Jonathan Thomas, Harry Lewis and Dean Ravencraft.
Maybe one day when he is an adult, John Combs will run into one of his old coaches, and someone close by will say, “Who is that guy?” I am glad that my son will have men in his life that will be “Steele” to him.