Remembering the life of Coach Bill Gutbrod
A line from the movie The Sandlot is resonating through the hallways at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School: “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” Certainly that sentiment rings true at East 185th Street and Lakeshore Boulevard where Viking legend Bill Gutbrod will always be part of the very fabric of the school.
Gutbrod, who coached the Vikings of St. Joseph from its founding in 1950 to 1990, died on Thursday, Nov. 29. He was 87.
“I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to be associated with a wonderful mentor and learn from an outstanding coach,” said John Storey ’59, who assisted Gutbrod for many seasons and today is the VASJ football coach. “Through both his words and actions, he inspired us as the embodiment of the Viking spirit. Hail red and blue!”
Desmond Howard, who played for Gutbrod at St. Joe’s and went on to become a Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl MVP, remembered his high school coach as one of the most important influences in his life.
“At the age of 15, I was blessed to play for a coach who helped to create a foundation built on hard work, discipline, sacrifice, integrity, selflessness and the true meaning of teamwork,” Howard said. “Those core values significantly contributed to my successes – on and off the field. For that, I will forever be grateful to Coach Gutbrod. He is greatly appreciated and deeply missed.”
In 41 seasons at St. Joe’s, Gutbrod’s teams compiled a remarkable record of 268 wins, 107 losses and 17 ties. His Vikings won seven Crown Conference titles and enjoyed five undefeated seasons. He coached successive teams to a 25-game unbeaten string from 1962 to 1964. He coached Viking gridders to the Ohio Division II state championship in 1989.
A charter inductee into the St. Joseph High School Hall of Fame in 1987, Gutbrod was a product of Cleveland’s Holy Name High School. He served in the military during World War II. In the postwar era he received an education degree from the University of Dayton. Following the tradition of UD’s Marianist educators, he accepted a position at the Marianists’ new school, St. Joseph, in the fall of 1950.
From the opening of St. Joe’s to the point of its merger with Villa Angela 40 years later, Gutbrod formed young Christian men and forged the Viking tradition of excellence both on the field and in the classroom. His players received countless college scholarships and many played – and excelled – professionally. Besides Howard, among “Gut’s grads” who went on to play professionally were Tom Schoen, Bob and Mike Golic, Elvis Grbac and London Fletcher.
Gutbrod was as much a legend in the classroom as he was on the field. As a teacher, he filled many shoes. He taught Health, Physical Education, Biology, Psychology and Social Studies. He also serrved as Attendance Officer and Alumni and Development Director.
Yet it was his example as a Christian family man that truly set him apart. He had a loving relationship with his wife, Jean, who passed away in 1983. They shared their lives in devotion to each other and in dedication to St. Joseph High School.
Jean was a fixture at Viking football games and was instrumental in introducing girl cheerleaders to the Viking family in 1967. Of their seven children, the boys are all St. Joseph grads and the girls were cheerleaders for the Vikings. Coach Gutbrod’s devotion to God was demonstrated by frequent attendance at Mass in the school chapel.
Gutbrod was given many awards in his long career of coaching. Besides numerous Coach of the Year awards, he was selected to the Ohio High School Football Hall of Fame.
“He was a hero and he will be remembered as such by everyone whose lives he touched,” said VASJ President Richard Osborne ’69, who was a homeroom and biology student of Gutbrod.
“You didn’t have to play football for him to know that you were in the presence of someone great,” Osborne added. “And that’s why he is more than a hero here. He is a legend whose influence will remain part of who we are forever.”
Visitation will be from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. on Monday, December 3, at Brickman Bros. Funeral Home, 37433 Euclid Ave., Willoughby. Funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, December 4, at St. Jerome Church, 15000 Lakeshore Blvd., Cleveland. Burial will be at All Souls Cemetery.
Following graveside services, a reception will be held at the Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School gymnasium, 18491 Lakeshore Blvd., Cleveland.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests contributions to the Gutbrod Scholarship Fund, c/o VASJ, 18491 Lakeshore Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44119.
Posted on Fri, November 30, 2012
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