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'I wouldn't trade a second': Legendary Saint Ignatius football coach Chuck Kyle reflects on his career with 3News' Jim Donovan

Kyle will coach his final regular-season game Friday night at Wasmer Field.

CLEVELAND — Saint Ignatius football coach Chuck Kyle has been on the sidelines for 40 years, but Friday will be his last regular-season game.

I spent a lot of time with Chuck Kyle over the years. One of my favorite assignments every week was to get a camera guy and go over to West 28th Street, where we would visit Wasmer Field on the high school campus. We would speak with members of the Ignatius Wildcats, but most of all their great head coach.

"I never looked at this as a career," Kyle told me when we sat down one-on-one this past week. "I looked at this as a vocation, and to me, a vocation is in here (pointing to his heart)."

This was an interview I really never wanted to have to do, the interview with Chuck Kyle when he was wrapping up his magnificent coaching career. He himself was a player and student at Saint Ignatius way back when, and also spent decades as a teacher while on the sidelines.

"I wanted to do this at Saint Ignatius," he said. "This is where I felt so comfortable."

Watch the full interview below:

As a coach, Kyle's record speaks for itself: 374 wins, 11 state championships, three national titles. At one time, there was a point where it seemed like kids would go to Ignatius and never experience a loss through their four years.

That made the Wildcats' success all the more remarkable, because they always had a target on their back.

"They spent 365 previous days getting ready for you," Kyle said of his opponents, before saying of his own team, "I just wanted to make sure that they felt like they were the best football players in the state of Ohio."

That mindset was on full display in December of 1988, when Kyle and Ignatius prepared to take on Princeton for their first-ever OHSAA Division I state championship. As the Wildcats sat in the locker room at the famed Ohio Stadium, Kyle implored them to believe this was, indeed, their time.

"They are in your way," Kyle said of that powerful Vikings team, "In your way, but you've made a bigger commitment than they have. They don't know, they don't know what kind of commitment you made! They don't know the work you put in!

"Be state champions," he concluded. "Be state champions. Be state champions." Saint Ignatius would beat Princeton 10-7 that day.

With all his accolades, Kyle certainly had opportunities for bigger jobs elsewhere. He remembers one particular occasion quite well.

"I get down from my English clash, and this athletic secretary hands me [a note and says], 'Would you call this man back? Mr., uh, Lou ... Holtz.'"

Kyle thought the then-Notre Dame head coach wanted to talk about a potential recruit from Ignatius, when in reality he wanted Kyle himself to interview for a position on his staff in South Bend. The temptation was there, but for Kyle, there were also definite drawbacks.

"Understand that you're probably going to move your family 10 to 12 times," he said of a life of a coach trying to move up the college ranks. "If you make this move, that means you're a position coach, but just staying up crazy hours and running all over the country to become a coordinator. And then the next thing you've got to work is trying to be a head coach, and you're running all over the country and moving your family all over the country.

"Right then, I knew: 'I'm not doing it. No way I'm doing that. No.' ... Jim, I wouldn't trade a second of my life right now."

What an effect Chuck Kyle has had on high school football and on the young men who played for him. You can ask his players, "What was the greatest thrill at Saint Ignatius?" and it was to play for Chuck Kyle. "What would be your wish for your son?" That he played for Chuck Kyle.

What a legacy, but what will the immortal coach miss most about the game he loves?

"The thrill of it, the passion, and the kids just playing it because they love it," he answered. "That's all it is, that's all it was. To think you could reach goals and to somehow reach them again, it's just amazing.

"Like I said, I wouldn't trade a second of what my life is. Honestly. If the dear Lord wants me to do it again, I'm here. I'll be here in a heartbeat."

Kyle and the Wildcats will host Clarkson Football North out of Ontario, Canada, Friday night at Wasmer Field, rather than the traditional Byers Field in Parma. They will then await their first opponent for what will be the coach's last playoff run.

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