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Rowley to lead Hazel Park football

Kyle Rowley, a 2004 Oxford High School graduate, won't be on the sidelines this fall helping coach the Wildcats to victory. That's because he'll be busy coaching his own team, the Hazel Park Vikings. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
January 22, 2014 - In Oxford, the Rowley name has been synonymous with football for 40 years.

Soon, it could be that way in Hazel Park, too.

Kyle Rowley, son of long-time Oxford football coach Bud Rowley, is now the head varsity coach for the Hazel Park Vikings.

"This is what I want to do," said the 2004 Oxford High School graduate. "I always said if I couldn't play it, I'm going to coach it."

Monday was his first day on the job.

"We hired Kyle because he was the best interview by far," said Don Vogt, principal and athletic director for Hazel Park High School. "He was enthusiastic. We felt he would be a great fit for our program because (it) needs to be built almost from the ground up again."

Kyle certainly has his work cut out for him at Hazel Park.

Last season, the Vikings went 0-9. The last time the team had a winning season was 2010 when it went 8-2. Overall, the school's record since 1950 is 281-287-9.

"I think there's a lot to accomplish," Kyle said. "You're looking at a program that's storied, but in the past couple years, has seen some tough times – losing seasons, winless seasons.

"If you're competitive like I am, you say, 'You know what? We can turn this thing around.' I know there's talent there."

Kyle's attitude and "willingness to get right to work" really impressed Hazel Park. "That's why he was our choice," Vogt said.

Bud is "very proud," but not at all surprised that his son has become a head football coach at the age of 28.

"I think he has a pedigree," he said. "He's played a lot of football. He's been around different programs. I think he will be very, very successful."

Anyone who knows Bud knows that he eats, sleeps and breathes football 24-7-365 and has ever since he came to Oxford in the fall of 1973. It's no surprise that same intense passion for the game was passed on to Kyle.

"Football has always been our one major connection," Kyle said. "He loves it. He's coached it for years. I just followed suit."

Kyle was a three-year starter at quarterback and safety for Oxford's varsity team. He made the Michigan State University football team as a walk-on, suffered a knee injury and went on to play for the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals as a defensive back

For the last four years, Kyle's worked on Bud's staff, coaching quarterbacks and defensive backs.

"He's very enthusiastic, but he's also very cerebral," Bud said. "He knows the game of football and he's excited about it."

Bud said he's "very, very fortunate" to have been able to watch his son grow up, coach him on the field, then coach alongside with him on the sidelines.

"Everybody says they're living the dream. Hell, I'm living the dream," he said.

Leaving his dad is going to be "the hardest part" of going to Hazel Park, Kyle admitted. "My dad and I have always had a good relationship. We've always been really tight," he said. "I enjoy being around my dad. From a very young age, it was just me and him a lot of the time."

But Kyle feels he's now ready to lead his own program and make a name for himself.

"When Hazel Park came calling, it just seemed like the perfect time," he said.

Kyle plans to use everything his father taught him to help build his program – "the dedication, the hard work, the commitment," all of which is encompassed by the Wildcat philosophy of "coming early and staying late."

"Working for a guy who's one the best in the business, you can't learn from anybody better," he said. "Hopefully, I can be somewhat as successful as he is. He's lived and died blue and gold. I don't think anybody does it better. There's not a lot of people who can say they did it for 40 years and did it as well as he has."

Building relationships with both kids and adults will be Kyle's first priority in Hazel Park. He said it's especially important to do this with teenagers because they often have "trust issues."

"You've got to mean what you say," he said. "You've got to show them that you're dedicated. You've got to show them that you're there for them. You've got to show them that you're willing to put the time in.

"If you're just talking about it, but don't follow through, kids can see that, especially kids nowadays."

Because Hazel Park is in the Oakland Activities Association's Blue Division and Oxford is in the White Division, Kyle said the two schools will "never" play each other unless a non-league game is arranged.

Considering how much competitive spirit both Rowleys possess, that's a distinct possibility.

"There might be a time Pops and I might want to face off, but I told him he had to give me a couple years," Kyle said.

"I'd like to whoop his butt," said Bud with a chuckle.

Kyle won't just be coaching football in Hazel Park. He'll also be in the classroom, teaching English and in the gym, teaching physical education.

Vogt said "he's the kind of faculty member" that Hazel Park wants as it strives to better itself.

"We feel that we're getting better and we feel that (Kyle) can be a big part of not only the academic improvement, but also the athletic improvement," he said. "We're so happy that we have him now as a part of the Hazel Park family."

Kyle cut his teeth in education in Oxford for the last four years as both a teacher's assistant and a teacher. His most recent assignment was teaching language arts, newspaper and yearbook at Oxford Bridges High School.

Kyle enjoys teaching for the same reason he loves coaching. Both give him the opportunity to educate young people based on his experiences, both good and bad, and do so in the way that he always wanted to learn as a student and an athlete.

"All people who want to become teachers and coaches believe they have something special to offer," he said.

Although he's looking forward to tackling new challenges in Hazel Park and trying to build his own storied football program, Kyle said he's going to miss Oxford and he truly appreciates everything the community's done for him over the years.

"I think it's a great place to grow up, but it's time to move on and spread my wings a little bit," he said.

Should Bud ever decide to retire, Kyle indicated he would love the opportunity to come back and lead the Wildcats.

"It's in the back of my mind and it's definitely something I think about," he said. "I would love to continue something that my dad started and (has been) just phenomenal at. Would it be awesome? Absolutely. Would I jump at the chance? Absolutely."

"The question is, though, do they want another Rowley here for another 40 years?" Kyle added with a laugh.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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