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Walker left his mark on Medford football

Every fall for 29 years, Larry Walker's routine was the same -- go to work -- go to football practice -- go home.

That routine will change this year, when Walker bypasses football practice and instead heads home, leaving behind a Panther football program he brought to life back in 1986.

Walker, the only football coach in South's 12-year history, decided to bring his illustrious career to an end by turning in his resignation as coach in late December.

His resignation came as shock to many.

Particularly stunned by the news and concerned about replacing Walker as the Panthers' coach is South Medford Principal Floyd Pawlowski.

To tell you the truth, I don't think you can replace Larry, says Pawlowski. We can try, but I doubt we can replace him with somebody who will mean as much to the school as he does.

Walker, 58, will remain at South Medford as a science and mathematics teacher.

I'd like go (teach) seven more years, at least, says Walker. I love to teach as much as I do to coach. I'd probably be lost if I wasn't teaching.

Walker endured only his third losing season as a head coach in 1997, when his team won one of nine games. That was enough to settle in his mind that it was time to resign.

Walker says he decided to resign following South's loss to Mountain View to end the season.

To be honest, if I was 8-and-1 instead of 1-and-8 last season, I'd probably still be the coach, says Walker. On the other hand, I've thought about getting out for a few years. I think it's time.

In 29 years as a coach, Walker was known for molding the attitudes and lives of his players in a positive way, in addition to teaching them good fundamentals and the will to win.

I think my No. — priority has always been to be the best role model I can for my players, says Walker. That's especially true among kids that I didn't think had role models at home to help them.

I'm proud of what I've done in that area. I can say many of my best friends in Medford are my former players at St. Mary's and South Medford.

To his critics, Walker's offense was boring, outdated and lacked firepower.

To his supporters, Walker's 247 wins, 69 losses and — ties, combined with seven state championships and 23 conference championships, says it all about the man.

Combine those impressive numbers with his sincere and genuine qualities as a role model and teacher, and you have the ultimate in a high school educator, Pawlowski says.

Walker says the highlight of those 29 years came in 1982 when his son, Brad, kicked a 32-yard field goal to give St. Mary's a 3-0 win over Enterprise in the 1982 Class A (now 2A) state championship game.

Of all of the great memories, that one stands apart because my son kicked that ball, says Walker. But I have a lot of other memories that are just as important, mainly because of the great kids I coached.

Former Medford High head coach Norm Musser, who coached the Black Tornado to a state championship in 1985, says Walker belongs at the top of the class among former Medford head football coaches.

He's right there with (Fred) Spiegelberg at the top of the list, said Musser, who had Walker on his Black Tornado coaching staff in 1985. I know that's saying a lot, but that's where Larry belongs. No question.

He's respected by everyone, from the faculty and administrators at South, to people in the community, and especially his students and players, because he's a great person and a great coach.

As a parent of a former Walker quarterback (Curt Musser), Musser knows what Walker means to kids.

He relates to kids and coaches them better than anybody I've seen, says Musser. I wouldn't have wanted my son to play for anybody else. He's so much like Spieg (Spiegelberg), it's amazing.

Former South Medford fullback Matt Cromwell says Walker had a special way of motivating his players.

He's a great guy. A nice guy. You didn't feel a lot of pressure playing for him, says Cromwell. But you wanted to do your job the best you could for him.

If players don't like their coach, they won't want to play hard for him. But I don't know anybody who didn't like Larry Walker.''

Short of football players in recent years, Walker says he began to doubt himself when the losses mounted.

When I lose, I question myself harder than anyone else does, says Walker. I want my kids to have a chance to win.

If somebody can come in and do better as head coach, I'll gladly step aside.

Walker says he told his assistant coaches early last fall that he was probably going to retire at the end of the 1997 season. Rick McReynolds and Musser both resigned as assistant coaches prior to Walker's resignation.

Pawlowski said the position of head football coach at South Medford was posted this week. He hopes to match a teaching opening with the right coach. Two assistant positions are also open.

I'd like to get another Walker, but that won't happen, says Pawlowski. We can only hope we can get somebody like him, who will be motivated to work the kids, get them excited to play and teach them lessons they can apply to their lives.

Walker says he plans to attend at least some of South Medford's football games next season.

There are a lot of kids there now, and I want to see them have success, even when I'm gone says Walker. I'll be there unless I can't take it.

I know I will miss being the coach a lot. It may hurt more than I think not to be on the sideline.

It's time for me to leave. My wife (Lynn) has questioned me recently about whether I might change my mind and coach again. I've told her no.

Walker left his mark on Medford football