January 30, 2013 - In almost three decades of coaching high school football Tom Alward still claims, "There's nothing like Friday nights."
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But one particular Saturday may soon move to the forefront of the legendary Goodrich High School coach.
On Saturday, March 23, Alward will be inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame at the Sheraton Ann Arbor Hotel in Ann Arbor. He will be one of 14 coaches recognized statewide.
The Hall of Fame was created to honor and recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the game of football in the state. In 2010 the association opened the Wall of Fame at the University of Michigan Stadium where more than 600 high school football coaches are recognized.
"The first game I coached at Goodrich was in the fall of 1993 against Bentley High School," said Alward. "We lost 20-0, we did not do very well. It bothered me, it was my first go around and the loss hurt. We then had a 2-7 season followed by a 2-7 record in my second year. But the third year we went 9-2 and qualified for the playoffs."
After 20 seasons and a 121-80 overall record, Alward won his 100th game with Goodrich at the start of the 2010 season.
Alward, 60, was an assistant JV football coach at Flint Central High School from 1977-84 and went on to be assistant varsity football coach at Bendel High School from 1985-89. His first season in Goodrich was 1993.
"The reason I lasted so many years has been the outstanding young men that make up Martian football," he said. "It's an outstanding community."
Alward has kept coaching in the family, incorporating his son Trevor as defensive coordinator and son-in-law Jason as offensive cordinator. He added that his style was gleaned from two coaches forming his rather easygoing demeanor on the sidelines.
"I'm not always calm," he laughed. "My father was a high school football coach at Montrose and Bendel High for many years. And I played for Coach Tom Osborn at the University of Nebraska as a college student. Those two were strong influences that emphasize truly caring about their players—yet they can still really get after you if needed. Granted, I'm not the blood and guts type coach. It's an emotional game and you're going to get upset at times and some of these kids are going to need some consoling, too. That's coaching."
With Alward at the helm, the Martians won league titles in 2004, 2008 and 2010. Alward has led the Martians to an 86-48 (.642) league record – 39-21 (.650) in the GAC Red. Alward is also just one win away from the school record of 122 set by Jerry Hughes who coached from 1955-81.
Alward considered coaching at the college level.
"When I graduated from the University of Nebraska I considered staying there in the program, but my family is very important to me so we came back to Michigan," he said.
After playing for the University of Nebraska, Alward played professional football in Birmingham, Ala. and for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I played one season as offensive guard for Tampa Bay—the season they went 0-14," he said. "The next season they released me and I had a chance to play for the Atlanta Falcons. But I went back home and in 1976 started coaching Central High School in Flint."
"High school football is the purest form of the game," he said.
"Some players go on to college and a very few go on and play professional," he said. "But for many the only football played is in high school. From that a lot of love for the game and roots are put down. That's the sounding board for all levels of life and they will be football fans forever. It's not the wins and losses."
"It's been an awesome ride," said Alward. "Nothing's better than Friday nights in the fall."