Now that Michael Emmons is retiring as the North Callaway High School Athletic Director after more than three decades with the school district, varsity football coach and math teacher Kevin O'Neal is getting ready to assume the previous job duties of his longtime mentor.
This created an opening atop the gridiron program that neither of these individuals were looking to see filled by someone who didn't fully understand what it meant to be a Thunderbird. That's why the man who got the job, Don Boulware, is exactly what everyone involved was hoping to find.
"(I graduated from North Callaway in) the Spring of 1973. My Freshman year I played for Coach Nelson Richter and my last three years I player for Coach Jim Blacklock. Both guys were fantastic Coaches and role models and even better men. Both are great friends to this day," said Boulware. "Coach Jim Blacklock was the reason that I choose top go onto Coaching. Much of what I do and my philosophy of Coaching I owe to him. He taught me attitude is everything, both in sports and life."
Beyond simply understanding the Thunderbird way Boulware has a career coaching record of 110-62. This includes a nine-year run at Southern Cal HS in Iowa, which was preceded by a six-year stay in Ste. Genevieve, MO., and a three-year tour in his very first job at Santa Fe in Alma, Mo. He's also worked as an assistant coach in Centralia, MO., Valle Catholic in Ste,. Genevieve, MO., Ottawa University in Ottawa, KS. and last year at Troy, MO.
"I was very fortunate to work with some great Administrators, Coaches and athletes at all of those stops. Despite what some might think a Head Coach is only as good as the people he works with," Boulware said. "We get too much credit when we win and too much criticism when we don't. But we all understand that is just the nature of the beast and just part of the job."
There came a time in 2001 when Boulware decided to leave education to become a Sales Representative for a uniform, screen-printing and embroidery business based out of Carroll, IA. called The Graphic Edge. Since then he spent eight years coaching youth football, basketball and baseball. But, it wasn't until he spent a year as an assistant coach at Troy-Buchanan in 2018 that he officially retired from sales to return to coaching.
"I think football, and all high school sports, should be fun first and foremost. That is why young athletes choose to make the sacrifices to play," said Boulware. "Football is fun and we need all hands on deck. That is my motto. I think high school football is a vital part of the school and community and can be a major tone-setter for creating a great overall school environment. "
The way Boulware got the job was first simply by knowing Emmons and O'Neal, who interviewed him for the position in April along with District Superintendent Brian Garner. Later that month, once he had been formally approved, Boulware was offered the job and accepted.
"The nature of football attracts a vast majority of the alpha males in most student body's, and if those young men are competing together to proudly represent not only their school, but the community, it sets a good example for others and creates a great overall school culture," Boulware said. "I'm very competitive and love to win, but if we do our jobs developing young men who are prepared to be great citizens and community members as adults, husbands and fathers then winning will take care of itself."
What it all comes down to for Boulware is always going to be those initial lessons he learned as a Thunderbird. Jim Blacklock is the one who imparted that wisdom, and while one of his favorite sayings was, "Life is 100 percent what happens to you...and 90 percent how you choose to react to it", his influence runs much deeper than any single phrase and, for this coach, has absolutely stood the test of time.
"His grand daughter used this quote from her Granddad in her graduation valedictorian speech just this past Spring at Montgomery County HS, and it sure made me smile when I heard about it," said Boulware. "I went back for the ceremony at Montgomery County when they named the field after him there about 10 years ago. He hasn't Coached Football for several years now, but he is still coaching in so many ways. He's simply a great man and I was so lucky to be mentored by him."