KANSAS CITY, Mo. — High school football season begins in a few weeks, and 2019 will be the final season for one metro legend.
Tony Severino, Rockhurst High School’s coach for 36 seasons, announced his intent to retire from coaching after this season.
The 70-year-old took the Hawklets head coaching job in 1983. Since then, he’s guided Rockhurst to 11 appearances in Missouri state championship games, winning seven state titles at “the Rock.”
The telephone started ringing around 10 a.m. Tuesday. That’s when word of Severino’s plans began to circulate on social media.
“Coach Sev,” as he’s known to his friends and players, has won 381 career football games, some of which came at two other local schools in the 1970s. Severino has lead Rockhurst High, a private Jesuit Catholic School for boys, to 338 career victories.
Severino is the third-winningest coach in Missouri high school football history.
He’s sent numerous young men to college scholarships, and a handful of them to the National Football League.
“I just feel it’s time. I’m comfortable with it,” Severino said Tuesday.
Severino, who will soon turn 71 years old, told FOX4 he made the decision during the spring. He informed his current players after Tuesday morning’s practice, which began at 5:30 a.m.
He said the school’s new president, David Laughlin, convinced him to return for one final season, one during which Severino’s rivals and loved ones can equally pay tribute to his success.
“One of (current players) said, ‘Coach, we’re going to win for you this year.’ I said, ‘No, win for you,'” Severino said.
“I have 10 beautiful grandkids. I enjoy doing thing with them. I don’t want to look back five or six years down the road, and something happens. My goal is to die at 85, at least, in a plate of spaghetti. Healthy,” Severino said. “I tell people that all the time.”
Rockhurst High’s current players said they’re ready to send “Coach Sev” out as a winner.
Tommy Eckels, a Rockhurst linebacker entering his senior season, said Severino’s legacy will revolve more around his emphasis on developing strong character traits in young athletes — and less about football.
“Just being a good young man is what he helps us become.” Eckels said. “He’s such a great mentor. He’s taught me so many life lessons that will go with me past the game of football. I’ll take them into my job and college.”
“When (former players) come back to you and they say thanks, and the letters I have that I’ve saved over the years about what you’ve meant to their lives? It’s never been about football,” Severino said.
The coming year will be Severino’s 50th as a high school coach and teacher. He’ll remain at Rockhurst for an additional two years on assignment to the school’s president.
He said he wants this final season to be like all the others: more about the players and less about him.
Rockhurst’s 2019 season begins on Aug. 30, when the Hawklets travel to face Rock Bridge. Severino’s team will play its home opener against Raymore-Peculiar on Sept. 13.