Howard continues to showcase his coaching chops in 11th trip to the semis

Bob Howard is a disciple of Ron Schipper, the Hall of Fame football coach at Central College in Pella who led the Dutch to a 287-67-3 record in his 36 seasons at the helm.

Hard work. Toughness. Discipline. And a never-ending belief that success is always ahead, never in the rearview mirror. That’s what Howard learned from Schipper and it’s what he continues to instill in his own players to this very day.

Is Howard a perfectionist? Perhaps. Does he always enjoy the physical and mental grind that come with the expectations, both his own and those of the community? That question can be answered with another question … Would you?

Howard has been in the business of molding high school football players for 40 years. His resume includes 321 career victories, a .777 winning percentage, 11 trips to the state football semifinals and three state championship rings. And if you’re a little bit tired of having the same sterling facts regurgitated over and over again, well, get over it. His accomplishments should be celebrated, never brushed aside.

But, it’s true, that football isn’t always fun for him. Following games, he oftentimes gives off the appearance of a man that has just survived a fight. He slumps in the Webster City team shed, his head often in his hands, most likely to ward off a headache or other physical pains that come with the territory.

So why does he continue to do it? Whether you believe it or not, it’s because this is his life. Teaching. Developing. Transforming children into men. It’s what he learned from Schipper. And I’d say he learned well.

“He’s a really big role model,” WCHS junior all-state offensive lineman Cooper Lawson said of Howard. “He tells us to ignore the noise a lot and that really helps us.”

Howard is most uncomfortable when he’s asked to talk about himself. Coach Schipper didn’t believe in it and, quite frankly, neither does he. But give him a chance to gush about what his players have been able to accomplish and he jumps at it.

“I’m very happy and very proud with where we’re at,” Howard said in the days leading up to tonight’s Class 3A state semifinal against Glenwood in Cedar Falls. “It’s all about having fun with the kids and giving the kids memories. This week, these kids will never forget it, especially if we go over (to the UNI-Dome) and play well. Fifteen, 20 or 30 years from now when they get together, they’ll have a lot of good stuff to talk about and it won’t all be about winning and losing.”

In 10 seasons at WCHS, Howard has claimed 70 victories and made nine trips to the playoffs. In the 10 seasons before he arrived, the Lynx won just 24 games and went to the playoffs a grand total of zero times. To say he’s made a difference would be the understatement of the decade.

But this could very well be one of Howard’s finest coaching jobs with a team that wasn’t even supposed to contend for a district title, let alone win one and then just keep on winning.

Clint Howard, Bob Howard’s son and one of the Lynx assistant coaches, has had a front row seat for so many of his dad’s successes. This one ranks right up there with some of the best.

“It’s all about the players and teaching them to buy into something, to take that risk and hopefully get that reward,” Clint Howard said. “Quite honestly, his approach when I played for him 20 years ago (at Sigourney-Keota) was the same. If you buy into something and work as hard as these kids have, good things happen.”

Clint Howard has seen his dad have fun this season. The practices are longer, the team meetings stretched out by just a few minutes. Why? Because nobody wants to see this end.

“He’s seemed relaxed and just having fun, and this team is just a blast to be around,” Clint Howard said. “Typically in the past, I don’t think he’s always enjoyed the season because the games and pressure, it’s a whole different animal. But this year he’s been a lot more relaxed and the kids are the main reason for that. They just keep surprising everybody and keep getting better every week. There’s not much to stress about when you’re playing your best.”

Bob Howard wants to win tonight. He wants to see this program that he has rebuilt into one of the finest in Class 3A push its way to the doorstep of a state championship. He wants to see senior center Chris Seeley reap the rewards of four years of hard work. He wants to watch sophomore starters Caleb Olson and Dylan Steen showcase their transformations from boys to men in front of the large crowd that is expected.

But most of all, he wants to have 48 more minutes with this team. If it ends there, so be it. And if it doesn’t, he’ll get the chance to coach them for seven more days. And for him, that’s the greatest reward of all.