For the last five years in my football travels, whether attending some 7on7 near Akron, or watching the playoffs, or going to the North-South game, or even going to BGSU games, I would always see this one guy, always into the game. He always made a point to say,"hi," and talk about the players on his team, or talk recruiting in general. The guy always had a big smile and always had the look that he cared about kids. I knew that he coached at Copley, but until two years ago, I never could remember his name. But the conversations were always like we had been best buds for years. Last fall I saw him on the sidelines at a BGSU football game. True to form, he had two high school players with him. As we talked, BGSU coaches would come by, always speaking to him, and one asked him to "suit-up."
Yesterday, as I read about his heart attack and subsquent death, did I realize Stuart Tolle played for BGSU and almost made the Browns three different times. Our conversations were always about "kids" and NEVER once did he talk about his accomplishments. Not once. Kids always came first. Eventually, I could see him leading the charge as a head football. But that will not happen, but memories will live on.
My wife was 48 and lost a battle with cancer almost 6 years ago. Stuart Tolle, with that big, old, wide butt smile was 47 years old when his heart stopped working. Something strange- a teacher with such a big heart for kids has it stop working at such a young age. There must be some merit in that old song, "Only the Good Die Young."