Stonewall Jackson High School and the community lost a local football legend on Tuesday night when longtime football and track and field coach Dick Krol passed away.
Stonewall Jackson Principal Mike Dorman said that Krol’s son posted the news on Facebook on Wednesday morning.
“Dick was a pillar of this community and school for a long time,” Dorman said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “From way back in the 80s up through now, he was pretty revered.”
Krol, who was 75, came to Stonewall Jackson in 1987 and was the head coach of the Generals for 28 years. Dorman, who played football for Krol and is a 1989 Stonewall Jackson graduate, said he can still remember the first time he met Krol during the summer of 1987.
“Evidently, he had just gotten the job,” Dorman recalled. “I had got an early slot for the (sports) physicals – they would give them here at school. I was one of the first kids he met here, if not the first, I think he told me. You know, any time you meet somebody for the first time you just kind of feel them out but he was jovial and upbeat and he was excited about being at Stonewall.”
The Generals had plenty of success on the football field, winning 142 games and sending teams to regional championships and state semifinal berths in 1996, 1997 and 1999. He won over 300 games in his coaching career.
Krol’s teams were known for their grit and fight and hard-nosed play. They typically ran the ball the majority of time on offense and had a stout defense.
He stepped down after the 2014 season but stayed on as the school’s track and field coach. Krol has been the track and field coach, along with Debbie Ritchie, for the past 32 years. He led the boys team to the state championship in 2012.
Krol has been battling throat cancer for the last two years and due to his health was only able to make it to a few of the track and field practices and meets last season.
Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Jeff Burner said that he believes that Krol’s style of coaching had an influence on all of the coaches at the school.
“I think all of us have been influenced by him coaching-wise,” Burner said. “We try to take that kid and make them tough and have them be disciplined. We take kids who sometimes aren’t the greatest athletes and try to milk every ounce of ability and talent out of them and get them to believe in each other. And I think that’s the thing that he probably did better than anyone.”
While Krol had plenty of success as a coach, he will be most remembered for how much he cared about the students and athletes at Stonewall Jackson.
Stonewall Jackson Athletic Director Mike Lenox said that Krol was always supportive and helpful to him since he showed up at the school.
“Ever since I got here almost 10 years ago, he kind of looked after me – he looked after everybody,” Lenox said. “He would always put himself second and make sure that things went as smooth as possible.
“The first time that I sat at this desk (as athletic director) he walked in and said let me know if I can do anything for you. That’s always how Dick was. He put himself second, he wanted to make sure that the people that were around him were taken care of.”
Dorman said that Krol had a big impact on his life and will not be forgotten.
“He’s been there for me just basically every step of the way for most of all of my life,” Dorman said. “He helped me get a job, to be honest with you, in this county way back when. He’s been a mentor through most of my career. When I needed help or advice about something, Dick was always there.”
Burner has seen first-hand the effect Krol can have even on younger kids. Burner’s daughter, Ocie, 8, started a bond with Krol after she noticed he was wearing the same shoes that her grandfather had a number of years ago.
Burner said Ocie would get a hug from Krol every day after school during basketball and track seasons until Krol retired in 2014. Two years later, Krol was an assistant football coach at Page County and promised Ocie that he would be there when she got off the bus at Stonewall Jackson High School the first Friday he had off.
“The first Friday that he was off he was waiting here with me at the bus stop,” Burner said. “She came flying off that bus. ...She ran and jumped into his arms.”
Burner said that Krol was at a junior varsity football game earlier this season and he called his mother to bring Ocie by so that she could see Krol.
Lenox said one of the things that Krol was known for was doing the laundry for the football team every Sunday night during the season.
“The jerseys and uniforms would already be laid out when the kids would get here on Monday morning,” Lenox said. “You’re like, 'Who did that?', and it was Dick. There was always a saying: 'Was he sleeping here? Did he have a bed in the back somewhere?'”
Dorman said that since he wasn’t still coaching football, it hasn’t had the biggest impact on the students, but members of the track and field team have taken it hard at school.
“It’s been kind of somber, sad,” Dorman said.
Burner said it probably hit the faculty harder than anyone at the school because so many of them had worked with Krol for a number of years.
Dorman said that Krol’s son and only child Scott indicated that there would be no funeral because that’s what his father wanted. Dorman said Scott Krol said they might do a celebration of life at some point in the future. Dorman said if the family wanted it, the school may do something in Dick Krol’s honor down the road.
Burner said Dick Krol will be remembered greatly at Stonewall Jackson.
“Obviously, he was sort of a legend here,” Burner said. “So I certainly hope that his impact, I know his impact is going to be long-lasting because he had so many kids that he had such a profound impact on in their lives and in some cases some of those kids’ kids because he was here that long.”
Last year, the school renamed their football field Dick Krol Field at General Stadium. Dick Krol was in attendance, even wearing his 25-year-old Stonewall Jackson football hat that he wore at almost every game he coached at Stonewall Jackson.
Dorman said that he’s glad that the humble Krol was able to be a part of the ceremony and see the stadium be renamed in his honor.
“That meant everything because we wanted him to see the culmination of his career and the lives he touched because he’s a very humble man,” Dorman said. “I don’t think he realized the impact he had on the kids here at this school over the years.”
During the ceremony to rename the stadium, Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Jeff Burner read the announcement, which he wrote himself, on Krol and what he meant to the school and community.
“Coach Krol’s reach on Stonewall athletics and our community goes far beyond his own teams,” Burner said in the announcement. “His tough, simple formula using the heart and soul of Stonewall athletics to grind out effort and success has been replicated across many programs. More importantly, coach Krol has positively impacted the lives of so many of his students not only in the classroom but also behind the scenes in their private lives. His influence is so profound in our community that it is part of our daily lives and we don’t even realize it. His career has been filled with thousands of loads of laundry, hundreds of nicknames that will stick with people today, and multitudes of endearing relationships with athletes, students and co-workers. Tonight we honor a lifetime of giving his best to all around him, to providing a discipline for living your life, for his tough-love style, and for having a heart 2,000 times bigger than what he likes to show.”