No motivational signs hang in Rockhurst High coach Tony Severino’s locker room. No “Win One for the Gipper,” no “Sweat is Just Your Fat Crying.”
By JEFF ROSEN
The Kansas City Star
Rather, the longtime leader of one of the most successful football programs in the country told some 700 attendees at this morning’s Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast that he advises a simple, three-pronged approach to life: “Pay attention. Make a difference. Be optimistic in what you do.”
Flanked on the Kansas City Convention Center dais by more than two dozen mayors from around the region as the featured speaker at the 52nd edition of the annual banquet, Severino spoke of growing up a native Clevelander, attending, playing football and meeting his wife at Kansas State, raising children and grandchildren in Kansas City, and molding high school hearts and minds for the past 35 years: 29 at Rockhurst (279-62-1 with seven state titles), seven at Shawnee Mission Northwest (43-21).
Severino recalled how he was courted for a job in 1984 by the University of Kansas, where he’d obtained his Masters degree. The position, coaching the Jayhawks’ tight ends and recruiting the Kansas City and Cleveland areas, sounded like a dream job and even offered more in salary. But he’d only been at Rockhurst for a year and drove back from the interview in Lawrence unsure about the opportunity.
Ultimately, Severino stayed at Rockhurst, deciding it was more important to be near his children as they progressed through school than to chase opportunities at the next level.
Today, Severino said, he’s asked three questions on a regular basis by those around the community: “Are you still coaching, Coach?” (“That one’s my favorite,” he said); “How will you do this year?” (“We’ll be competitive,” is his stock reply); and, “How long are you going to keep coaching?” (“Five more years. I always say, ‘Five more years’ ”).
After more than three decades running onto the field with his team on those autumn Friday nights, Severino still gets goose bumps.
“They need me,” he said of his ever-changing cast of players. “They need me and my experience. And I need them.”
Past honorees at the Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast include the late Olympic champion Jesse Owens, late Star sports editor Joe McGuff, late Negro Leagues baseball pioneer Buck O’Neil and Baltimore Ravens tackle Michael Oher of “The Blind Side” fame.