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Schmulbach keeps coming back to coaching
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Tom Schmulbach revived a 40-plus-year coaching career as an assistant at Rock Island High School last fall. The Taylor Ridge resident was the head coach at Augustana College in between stints as an assistant with the Vikings. Schmulbach also was a head coach at Rockridge, and an assistant at both Geneseo and United Township.
TAYLOR RIDGE -- Cancer forced Tom Schmulbach from the sidelines for the 2000 football season.

Reaching retirement age had the 66-year-old hang up his coaching whistle again after the 2011 campaign.

However, neither of those life-changing moments kept the Taylor Ridge man from pursuing his passion.

That's why Rock Island High School football fans were treated last fall to the sight of the local legend doing post-game push-ups.

As a celebration for posting a shutout at United Township, Mr. Schmulbach and the rest of the Rocks' much-younger coaching staff rattled off a set of the exercise as players counted along.

"That about killed me,'' Mr. Schmulbach said jokingly. "I haven't done those in awhile.''
He's done his share of celebrating, though, since graduating from Western Illinois in 1969.

The St. Louis native was an assistant to College Football Hall of Famer Bob Reade for three straight high school state titles at Geneseo in the late 1970s, and then four straight college national crowns in the mid-'80s at Augustana.

Mr. Schmulbach also was head coach at Rockridge from 1979-81, and succeeded Mr. Reade as Augie's head man for five successful seasons before the cancer fight.

He also was a volunteer assistant at United Township in his first comeback in 2001, before returning to Augie's staff before retirement.

Now, Mr. Schmulbach has come full circle, returning to where his coaching career started as a student-teacher in 1969.

"Last season was so enjoyable,'' said Mr. Schmulbach, who posted a 34-13 mark and two CCIW titles as Augie's boss. "What makes coaching so hard to leave is it's so rewarding to see so many different types of people slowly become a team, with goals they all believe in and work toward.

"It's even nicer to see them accomplish things together, and that's hard, because everybody works hard at it, and not everybody wins.''

Mr. Schmulbach had some reservations about returning to the job despite getting the chance to work with son Jeff on the staff of state title-winner Bryan Stortz, whom he'd recruited to Augie.

In the first few months of retirement, Mr. Schmulbach brushed off any suitors, explaining he needed a year to think about any return. He also wanted to experience the fruits of his labors with old friends like former Rocky head coach Vic Boblett and retired Rocky athletic director Bob Swanson.

"When we're playing golf during the work week, we're always reminding each other, `Hey, this is a pretty good life. Why didn't we know about this before?'' Mr. Schmulbach said.

Armed with that knowledge, saying yes was even tougher when Mr. Stortz called back last February, almost to the day of his initial inquiry.

"I couldn't offer a firm commitment because I just didn't know if I wanted back,'' Mr. Schmulbach said. "But I said maybe I could help in the summer, and as I slowly started doing some things with them, one thing led to another.

"What happens with anything is you just can't go halfway. You're either in or you're out. If you're asking a player to commit to what you're asking him to do as a coach, then you have to commit to him full-time, not part-time."

Besides returning to his first coaching stop, Mr. Schmulbach began coaching the running backs for the repeat Western Big 6 Conference champions.

"When (then-Augie head coach) Jim Barnes switched to a one-back system, he also lost our line coach at the same time, so he asked me to do it,'' Mr. Schmulbach said. "So, for the last five to six years of my career, I worked with the offensive line. So it was fun getting back to my roots.''

An even bigger blast was working with his son Jeff, who coaches the offensive line at Rocky.

"I didn't think that was ever going to happen,'' Mr. Schmulbach said. "I'd never seen him coach up close like that. Wherever he coached (in high school), I was always at Augie, so I might see games on a Friday night, but that's not near as interesting to see him work day-by-day.''

Mr. Schmulbach is intent on making the most of his time left as a coach with the Rocks.

"Everything's determined on my health, but right now, my health is good,'' Mr. Schmulbach said. "And, although I can understand after the last month why some people would spend the winter in Florida, the Quad Cities has been my home since college, so I'm not going anywhere.

"The only thing that will stop me from coaching now is if I couldn't do a good job at it. I'm going to do it until somebody tells me it's time to walk away.''

Local events heading

  Today is Tuesday, Sept, 30, the 273rd day of 2014. There are 92 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: The ARGUS Boys are very anxious to attend the great Democratic mass meeting tomorrow and we shall therefore, print no paper on the day.
1889 — 125 years ago: H.J. Lowery resigned from his position as manager at the Harper House.
1914 — 100 years ago: Curtis & Simonson was the name of a new legal partnership formed by two younger members of the Rock Island County Bar. Hugh Cyrtis and Devore Simonson..
1939 — 75 years ago: Harry Grell, deputy county clerk was named county recorder to fill the vacancy caused by a resignation.
1964 — 50 years ago: A new world wide reader insurance service program offering around the clock accident protection for Argus subscribers and their families is announced today.
1989 — 25 years ago: Tomato plant and other sensitive greenery may have had a hard time surviving overnight as temperatures neared the freezing point.

(More History)