When Dunkirk coach Rob Genco was a high school football player for the Eden Raiders, Tim Wade was an assistant coach.
Fast forward nearly 18 years later and the two found themselves on opposing sides of the football field Friday night as Wade is now the head coach for East Aurora.
It was the first time Wade had coached against a former player in his 30-year career. Wade has scouted the Marauders throughout the season and sees Genco just as he did back when the Marauders' coach was a player.
OBSERVER?Photos by Justin?Goetz
Dunkirk coach Rob?Genco.? When?Genco played high school football at Eden, Wade was an assistant coach.?Wade was instrumental in?getting Genco to go to college and is a key reason why Genco is a coach today.
"Robbie was one of the most intense athletes I ever had," Wade said with a smile. "Robbie is not much bigger now than he was back then. He had a heart as big as anybody I have ever seen and was willing to do whatever you asked him to do. He was always a leader and his teammates just followed him. He was just a great kid to be around and I had a wonderful opportunity to be around him as he grew."
The bond the two formed was far more than just what happened on the football field. Wade mentored Genco through life decisions.
"When I was going into the Marine Corps, no one in my family had gone to college or ever got a college education," Genco reflected. "He told me, 'Hey, you have a ton of ability. Use athletics to get to college and get a degree. You're not going to the Marine Corps. I believe in what you can do.' He stuck with me and helped me get into Hudson Valley Community College. He walked me down to guidance and got my application and helped me fill everything out. He steered me in that direction and I'm so aprreciative today that he did that for me."
Wade also went to Hudson Valley Community College and then transferred to Brockport - the same path Genco took.
"He showed me the importance of going to school. My family generation was we just didn't go to college. It took one person to tell me I could be whatever I wanted to be, and I bought into it. He is one of a couple people that are the reason why I am coaching. Had I been a mechanic or followed my father's footsteps, my job might not have allowed it. It's something he played a huge role in."
And when Genco was seen jumping up and down along the sidelines Friday night, Wade looked across the field and could only chuckle.
"I see a lot of myself in him now and how he coaches and treats the kids," Wade said. "It's funny because as I have gotten older, I have mellowed in my age. He is like I was 30 years ago. He is passionate, jumping around. I have to chuckle. As you get older, you mellow a bit. I'm not that way as much as I was. I see a lot of myself in him."
Genco took that as a compliment because he knows as a coach, it's more about wins and losses. It's about molding athletes into productive citizens.
"He has a great understanding that there is a lot of bigger things than just the game," Wade said of Genco. "A lot of kids learn and develop into good, young men. I know how he is. I think he has carried that on and is very passionate about what he does. We know what it's truly all about. It's getting kids to perform to the best of their ability and making them good, quality human beings. I am so happy he got this coaching job. I don't want to be playing him, but I am glad he got this position."
Genco proved Wade's point about coaching for more than just wins and losses when he was asked if there was anything else he wanted to add. Genco replied, "I do this for the kids and I am so happy when we win and it makes the community proud," Genco continued. "What's been motivating me to be a better person and try to help is my father who had a stroke last year. When we get a win, he smiles ear to ear. That's a reason why I do what I do. I do this for the kids and the people around me who are proud of me. It feels good when you're recognized and feels good when your dad can smile.
"Now I can tell (Wade) I am proud of him and tell him he is a good coach," Genco said. "It's things as a kid you can't do. Hopefully we can do this again for the next couple years."