HOFer Jones' work went beyond the gridiron
Richard Jones didn't want the wins and losses totals of his 30-year career as an Elmwood assistant football coach to be spotlighted after he was named to the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association's 2019 Hall of Fame Class on Thursday, July 5.
However, underwhelming success wasn't the reason for Jones' disregard for his teams' records. For the Hall of Famer, coaching has always been about more than numbers on a scoreboard, which is why he still keeps the poem "Coaches Never Lose" on his desk to this day.
"Basically, what it says is that the coaching profession is about helping boys become young men," Jones said. "At the end of your career, you don't count how many wins or losses you have, but you appreciate the opportunity to be a part of that process."
Jones' firm desire to use his role as a coach as a means to mentor the youngsters of Elmwood was vital to the WFCA's decision to add his name to the list of Wisconsin football greats.
"I've always believed that football coaching is a great opportunity to share in the lives of our greatest asset — the young people of our nation — and help guide them into adulthood," Jones wrote in his Hall of Fame acceptance letter.
Though his football coaching career was recently emphasized with a Hall of Fame honor, Jones' impact on Elmwood students wasn't only evident under the Friday night lights.
Jones was introduced to the small town of Elmwood in 1984 when the district's principal and superintendent called him about an open coaching and teaching position in the district. At the time, Jones was bartending and working construction in Birchwood, and thanks to the rainy weather that kept him from working construction on the day of principal's call, he was able to make his first trip to Elmwood where he was offered the position within half of an hour.
"I told them I had two jobs up in Birchwood and I had to let them know if they could give me a couple of days," Jones said. "I asked to go to the restroom, and when I came back, they shook my hand and said, 'Welcome to Elmwood.'"
Jones was hired as a history and physical education teacher and an assistant Raider football coach on that summer day in 1984, but he'd take on many more roles as his career progressed.
Jones became Elmwood's head baseball coach in 1987 and held the position until 1993 but still made time for assistant coaching duties in nearly every sport the district had to offer. Jones was an assistant boys' basketball (1984-91, 2008-10), track (1984-86, 2011-13), wrestling (1991-92) and baseball (1996-98) coach during his 30 years in the district, and he also dabbled in junior high sports where he coached girls' basketball (1991-2007) and track (2008-11).
"In a small school you wear a lot of hats," Jones said, but his long list of roles wasn't something he considered to be burdensome."When you teach K-12 at a small school, it's like the kids are like family, so you just want to help out as much as you can."
Where there was an opportunity to help a co-worker out or give guidance to a student or player, Jones was there.
"He was invaluable," Jerry Hannack, former Elmwood head football coach and great friend of Jones who's also a member of the WFCA's Hall of Fame, said. "He was my right-hand man. No job was ever too big or too small; he just did everything. His integrity and his honesty and hard work was everything that you'd want a coach to be."
Hannack and Jones worked side-by-side for 17 seasons in which their friendship and Jones' football coaching career budded. Jones initially handled the junior varsity team while Bruce Schmiling was the Raiders' head coach in Jones' early career, but Hannack promoted the Hall of Famer to the varsity defensive coordinator once he took over the program in 1998.
"It was a learning phase to begin with, but I really gained appreciation for it," Jones said of the transition. "(Jerry and I) worked so well together. He let me grow as a coach, and I appreciate all of the opportunities he gave me."
Jones also mentioned his wife of 26 years, Mary, when listing those who've supported him throughout his career.
"I really appreciate all the time she's allowed me to coach, because she really picked up the slack," Jones said. "Being a coach for five different sports ... I was gone a lot."
Jones admitted that coaching multiple teams while still devoting his time to his classroom duties was no easy task, but that the kids he was able to work with turned his hectic career into one where he never lost.
Jones' treasured poem reads, "For a coach has two tasks. The minor one is to teach skills: to teach a child how to run faster, hit harder, block better, kick farther, jump higher. The second task: the major task is to make grown-ups out of children."
"Coaching was a great opportunity to live out that poem," Jones said. "I can't stress that enough."
"That's what he did," Hannack said, addressing the poem. "He lived it every day, and there were so many things he did that went way beyond his teaching or his coaching just to help young men and young ladies grow up into fine human beings."
Jones gave up his long hours in the classroom, gym and football field in 2014 largely due to his medical condition of Ataxia, but still makes time to stay involved in the lives of Elmwood students by volunteering for supervising recess hours and opening and closing the weight room every day. The current Elmwood students he works with may not know him as Coach, but he still carries his coaching values into every interaction with a kickball player or weightlifter that he considers himself lucky enough to be a part of.
"I think everybody should have a Coach Jones in their life," Hannack said.
Jones will be inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 30, 2019, at the Marriott West in Middleton.