Kilgore College has announced their 2019 Athletic Hall of Fame inductees, and Lake Highlands’ own Dr. Bob Iden is among the select few to be honored at their football game Sept. 28. Iden was inducted in 2006 as part of Kilgore’s 1971 Ranger football team, but this accolade will be his own.
Previous Kilgore inductees include Iden’s lifelong friends and coaching companions, Leonard Carey and Garry Monty, who both coached the Wildcats with Iden on the 1981 state championship-winning team and will attend the ceremony with their wives.
Dr. Bob, as he’s affectionately known to former students at Lake Highlands High and current students at Bishop Lynch, played football for LHHS before graduating in 1970. He returned to teach from 1978-85, then he served as principal from 1997-2008.
I asked Dr. Bob about his memories of LHHS – and Kilgore.
You played at Kilgore in 1970-71, and your teams went 15-4-2 and won the TJCFF Conference Championship in 1970. What was the best part about being a member of that team?
I would have to say that forging new relationships with players on the team who came from all over Texas as well as various parts of the U.S. was most memorable. Because Kilgore is a two-year community college, the relationships that you normally built over four years or more in middle school/high school, or that you would otherwise build in a four-year university football program, were compressed into a two-year time frame, and only one year with the sophomores who moved on after only one season of playing together. So, I think that it heightened the need to play your best for the guy next to you on the line or in the backfield.
There wasn’t much excitement in Kilgore in 1970. What did you and the guys do for fun?
Not only was Kilgore not a bustling metropolis, but there were literally no “screen time” opportunities like we have today with ubiquitous computers, Smartphones, and TV (we had one black and white TV in the dorm where all the football guys lived, which I believe was a converted military barracks of some sort). We played lots of 33 rpm LPs (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison of The Doors were all still alive then), we played pool, dominoes, card games, drove to the Baskin Robbins in Longview for ice cream, drove out to local swimming holes in the country, made an occasional trip to Shreveport where we could be relatively assured that we could go to clubs and consume adult beverages without risk of being caught by the coaches, and of course, would attend a Woodsie or two. Oh, and Kilgore also had a drive-in movie, and a couple of decent restaurants called the Streamliner (great chicken-fried steaks) and one at the Community Inn, which was the only nice hotel in town. And of course, for those of us who were from the Metroplex, we could make the two hour drive to Dallas for some “big city” fun seeking.
Have you maintained friendships with your Kilgore teammates?
Garry Monty, Leonard Carey and I have been closest of friends and coaching companions to this day. We’ve been in each other’s weddings, raised our kids together while we were coaching together at Lake Highlands, and still get together as often as we can. Garry and I were both freshman at Kilgore when Leonard was a sophomore there – Garry was quarterback, and I was fullback, and I also backed up Leonard at linebacker. When he graduated and moved on to play at SMU where he was named All-Southwest Conference at linebacker, I moved into the starting linebacker position. I never achieved the “Mad Dog” moniker that Leonard did for his fierce linebacker play at SMU, but I did my best to try and emulate his ferocity during my sophomore year at Kilgore. I am hoping that our head coach, Charlie Simmons, and his wife Pat will be able to attend the ceremony, and although we are scattered all over the country, it would be wonderful to see some of my other teammates there.
Where did you go after Kilgore?
I finished my undergraduate degree at the University of North Texas, and I started my Richardson ISD teaching and coaching in 1976 at Northwood JH, which fed Richardson High School’s football program led by the late, great Winston Duke. He was immensely helpful to me as a new, young football coach. A great multitude of people owe a lot of who we are and what we have accomplished in life to Coach Duke. I had the good fortune to return to LHHS as a teacher/coach in 1978, thanks largely to the efforts of Bill Georges, who as the first head football coach at LHHS, was the RISD Director of Food Services, and was a tremendously influential mentor and advocate for me – all of us who had the honor and privilege to play for Coach Georges love that man like he was our father, which in many respects, he was.
I know you get together with current and former LHHS coaches occasionally. What was more fun – playing football or coaching it?
We do have coaching reunions as often as we can, and they are always – how can I best say it? They are rollicking, rowdy gatherings, but always fun and entertaining, especially when Coach Carey starts waxing eloquently with some of his renowned quotes. Your question is tough to answer – we could do a coin toss on that one. Having a 15-4-2 record as a player at Kilgore and winning a conference championship was certainly fun as player, but having a 15-0 record as a coach at LHHS and winning the 1981 5A state championship in the largest UIL classification at the time was also a once-in-a-lifetime season that all Texas high school coaches dream about having in their career. So, I guess that I will just have to call heads . . . and tails!