By Ryan Kaczmarski
On Jan. 27, Coach Roy F. Walker Jr. passed away peacefully at the age of 72. He was a sports legend at North Olmsted High School, both as a player and later as a coach.
He was a greatly loved and respected man in both the sports community and the community of North Olmsted as a whole.
Walker – inducted into the NOHS athletic Hall of Fame in 2000 – was an outstanding three-sport athlete, participating in football, basketball and track. Playing fullback on the football team, he was named All-Southwestern Conference in 1956 and 1957. His dedication and hard work also earned him the MVP of both of those teams. His hard work and effort in the classroom also earned him one of the Outstanding Student-Athlete awards in 1958.
A highly recruited football player, Walker decided to attend Purdue University and received a degree in education. While attending Purdue, he had a stellar career as a fullback. He led the Boilermakers in rushing in both 1961 and 1962. For his efforts, he was named the MVP of the 1962 Purdue football team as well as the Outstanding Purdue Athlete of 1962, and went on that season to play in the prestigious East-West All Star game in San Francisco.
After graduating from Purdue, Walker was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 1962 NFL draft, in the ninth round (116th pick overall), where he had a short NFL career.
Some of his most memorable moments at North Olmsted were realized during his teaching and coaching years from 1965 through 1970, including the undefeated football team of 1969. He was proud to be able to return to his alma mater as a teacher, and he especially enjoyed his coaching tenure under Coach Ron Slater, for whom he played in high school. Not only did he coach high school football, but he also shaped the minds of young men as the coach of the seventh- and eighth-grade basketball teams.
“At that age, he made us all feel important,” said Bob Binggeli, the assistant superintendent of wastewater treatment for North Olmsted and former middle school basketball player under Walker. “He was the kind of person that would lead by example. I remember Coach saying to me, ‘Bing … shoot the ball, don’t you want to get your name in the paper?’
“I have a lot of respect for the man, and I know he will be greatly missed.”
“He was a very loved individual,” said Paul Komold, also a former middle school basketball player under Walker. “My main memory of Coach Walker was that I was a bench-warmer, but he always treated me with respect and dignity. He treated me the same as the ‘good’ guys. He was just always positive.”
During his NOHS athletic Hall of Fame speech, Walker stated that Slater, Charley Sewell, Bim Thompson, Alan Cheyney, Joe Kerka, Ray Williamson and Milton Wilson were his biggest influences at North Olmsted.
“Roy was a wonderful man,” said Julie Zergott, the NOHS athletic secretary. “We will really miss him.”
“He was a great man, who shaped the lives of many men,” said current Eagles head football coach Michael Ptacek.
After his coaching career ended, he had a successful professional career, along with Ron Slater, working for George Steinbrenner at both the American Ship Building Co. in Lorain and the New York Yankees.
“So many times, Roy was mistaken for Mickey Mantle,” Jan Slater, daughter of Coach Slater, recalled. “He would be with Mr. Steinbrenner, and all the people would be screaming, ‘Mickey, Mickey, Mickey …’”
Walker, besides looks, could not have been more different than the hard-living Mantle.
“He (Walker) was one of those very clean-living athletes – he didn’t smoke or drink – with high morals and everything,” Slater said. “He could take on any college athlete today.”
Walker is survived by his wife, Judy; son Michael; daughter Sheri; sisters June Schultz and Rita Gadus; and grandchildren Rachael, Mike and Lauren.
(Thanks to the North Olmsted High School athletic office for the Hall of Fame information)
NFL draft in formation was taken from Wikipedia.