Former Mount Union (Ohio) head coach Larry Kehres was named as part of the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame Class in January, and he will be officially inducted during the 60th NFF Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 5 at the New York Hilton Midtown.
By Matt Fortuna, college football reporter for The All-American.
Kehres: Up Close
- Record: 332-24-3 (92.9% – the highest winning percentage of any coach in college football history).
- Most national titles (11), conference titles (23) and unbeaten regular seasons (21) of any coach in college football history.
- Set NCAA record with 55 straight wins from 2000-03.
- One of only 10 coaches in college football history to win 300 games.
- Named national Coach of the Year eight times while leading teams to 16 national championship game appearances.
- Still serves as Mount Union’s Athletics Director.
Larry Kehres remembers walking to his car as a graduate assistant one Thursday at Bowling Green and overhearing coach Don Nehlen asking another coach what he was doing after practice. Nehlen, as Kehres would soon learn, was looking for a specific answer from his assistants, and it didn’t involve staying up all night watching film. Not on Thursdays, which were designated family days.
“He was a great coach to have a year under in terms of such a positive outlook on the opportunity his team had to be successful,” Kehres said, “but also on the responsibility that each of his assistant coaches had to their family.”
It’s a mantra Kehres has continued throughout his astounding 27-year head-coaching career, which produced the best winning percentage in college football history at any level. The current Mount Union athletics director enters the College Football Hall of Fame after 44 years at the school, which started with a role as a Purple Raiders quarterback, 12 years as an assistant coach and then a 92.9 winning percentage and 11 Division III titles as the program’s head coach. And it all took place in Alliance, Ohio, of all places — not even 30 minutes from Kehres’ hometown of Diamond.
“My wife and I were comfortable, our children seemed comfortable, they seemed to like their schools and their friends and their environment,” Kehres said of turning down supposedly greener pastures. “And they grew to essentially really love Mount Union, and being around the football team that they were around when I became head coach. So there wasn’t any reason to try and change the comfort and the stability we had in our lives. Football wasn’t that important.”
And so launched one of college football’s most unlikely powers, one that has produced FBS head coaches like Matt Campbell (Iowa State) and Jason Candle (Toledo), and NFL receivers like Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts.
It has also, naturally, produced a successor who understands the place: Vince Kehres, Larry’s son, who took over in 2012 as the head coach and added to the Mount Union trophy case in 2015 with a national title.
Vince Kehres, also a former Purple Raider player, knew no shortcuts existed despite his famous last name. As a prep coach, he won his dad — and future boss — over by writing an outline of how he could contribute, leading to an assistant job with the team.
“Growing up being around your dad, I think all kids look up to their dad and want to do what their dad did in some capacity and be like their dad. That certainly was the case for me,” Vince Kehres said. “I loved going to football games and I loved going to basketball games with him if he was going to recruit a player.”
Larry Kehres takes the most pride, however, in the energy his players brought to the field every day, and how they later carried those passions with them into their professional lives. Recently, he has granted himself permission to reflect on a career he never quite imagined, which will conclude with him joining his mentor, Don Nehlen, in the College Football Hall of Fame.
“This Hall of Fame (honor) has caused me to really deal with coming to an end and having more joy,” he said. “You always worry when you’re coaching and you don’t have much time to feel happy and joyous. But I think back, and I had some coaches that worked with me and some men on the team that sure brought a lot of happiness — now that I’ve got time to think about it.”