When Vic Marsh looks up on the Elks Sports Day Wall of Fame, it’s hard for him to picture his photograph being up there with them.
That has been a common refrain from the many who have been enshrined after some of the great honorees since the Sports Day program started in 1975 with Jimmy Anderson being selected.
When asked about his mentors in life on Friday, Marsh rattled off the names of Ernie Chattin, Jack Fultz and Herb Conley. No surprise all three men are on the Wall.
Marsh said Chattin took “a special liking to me, kind of put me under his arm.” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that statement — not just from the honorees but from anybody who lived during the era of Ernie Chattin — I could retire. That was Ernie Chattin.
The special men — and one woman, Meg Neyer — that have been selected as Sports Day honorees can tell a sports history lesson all their own. They were great in their sport, be it playing or coaching or even umpiring, had a love for their community and have proven themselves over time to be great ambassadors and role models.
Vic Marsh fits the mold just fine, thank you.
They are also incredibly humbled with the Sports Day honor.
Ditto for Vic Marsh, who said he never got nervous coaching but was a little “out of my comfort zone” with the attention coming his way from Sports Day.
It was Jack Fultz who taught Marsh to “sell the program to the kids and to always remember you’re a teacher first.”
Marsh, an outstanding history teacher, never forgot that lesson.
It was Herb Conley who rescued Marsh from an incredibly difficult coaching situation at West Carter High School, which had started varsity football in 1973 without first having a youth league or even junior high program.
The Xs and Os were replaced with teaching these young men how to put on shoulder pads and hip pads and how to snap on a helmet and form a mouthpiece to fit your mouth.
The Comets predictably went 0-11 but what Conley saw wasn’t a coach from a winless team but a coach who was dedicated to teaching, a hard worker and a man of patience.
That’s why he offered Marsh the chance to join the Tomcat coaching staff and Marsh says that’s where his football education began.
Conley had a good feeling about Marsh and he was right. That paid dividends later when Herb’s son Greg was the quarterback on Marsh’s 1982 team.
Ashland went 9-4 that season against one of the toughest schedules in school history. The Tomcats defeated a Bryan Station team 14-13, in Lexington, that had four future NFL players, including a Hall of Famer.
They lost to Bryan Station 12-6 in Putnam Stadium with a late fumble return for a touchdown being the difference.
The week leading up to that game, Marsh’s father had died and he was not able to be at practice. He came into the lockerroom about five minutes before the start of the game on Friday night.
Conley said he couldn’t have asked for a better coach to guide his son than Vic Marsh.
“That season may have been Vic’s greatest coaching job,” Conley said. “He had a bunch of blue-collar workers that season.”
Marsh’s teams were built in Conley’s image — fundamentally strong, tough and hard-hitting and prepared for anything.
“Of all my coaches, Vic and I were more alike than anybody,” Conley said. “We were both very emotional and neither one of us put up with any nonsense. You’re going to move forward and not move backward.”
Marsh coached the Tomcats for 15 seasons, winning 112 games and a state championship.
His face goes up on the Elks Wall of Fame tonight with so many others who meant so much to him.
Vic Marsh may not feel like he belongs but, rest assured, he does.
Those legends would be proud to have him up there alongside them.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.