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Monday, May 2, 2016

Karazsia took Linton football to new level

Friday, March 31, 2006

It seems like yesterday when a rookie sports writer went to Roy Williams Field to interview a coach for a preview story for an upcoming football game.

Sounds pretty simple. Arrive a little early, watch 15 or 20 minutes of practice, then interview the coach. But nothing, I would learn soon enough, was simple when it came to former Linton-Stockton High School football coach Charlie Karazsia.

The man was a stickler for details, and demanded the same from his players and assistant coaches. And when he spotted someone sitting on the hood of their car with a clipboard, he didn't hesitate to act.

He sent assistant coach Jake Yung over to inquire as to who this unfamiliar face was with a clipboard. Could it be a scout from an opposing team?

No, just a 22-year-old kid wanting to do an interview.

Once that was cleared up, everything was fine.

That was the start of a relationship with Karazsia and Linton's football program that offered many highs for a sports writer.

Karazsia had many more highs than lows as Linton's coach, compiling an 84-36 record from 1980-91. He also won two sectional titles and a regional title, and came within a play or two of advancing to the state championship game in 1986.

Karazsia's efforts as coach, and his contributions to Indiana high school football, haven't gone overlooked. He will be inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame on May 13 in a ceremony at the Linton Elks Lodge starting at noon.

It's a deserving honor.

Linton football had a rich tradition before Karazsia, but he took it to the next level. His teams were defensive masterpieces, and offensively -- with a lot of help from his brother Nick Karazsia -- rolled up the points.

There were many times games were out of reach before the end of the first quarter. It's fair to say that many teams Linton played with Karazsia at the helm were overmatched.

Karazsia loved the competition. He loved working with his players and assistants, and he thoroughly loved matching wits with opposing coaches.

One in particular comes to mind: Rene Foli of Sullivan. When it was Sullivan Week, as Karazsia loved to call it, there was a little extra bounce in his step. He couldn't wait to play Foli and the Golden Arrows.

If you didn't know better, though, you would think Karazsia and Foli hated each other. Actually, they respected each other.

That mutual respect continues today. That was evident when Linton played basketball at South Vermillion this past season. Foli is the athletic director at SV, and Karazsia the same for Linton.

The two spent a lot of time together that night in Clinton, and you can bet they reminisced about the old days.

Here are some memories from those old days that come to mind:

* I'll never forget the 1986 Class A Regional game at Tri High near New Castle. It must have been 20 degrees that night, with a wind chill below 0. But Karazsia and most of his staff had their shorts on ... at least for the first half.

Karazsia, though, toughed it out the entire game. When interviewing him 15 minutes or so after the game, he was so cold he couldn't keep from shivering and had a hard time talking for a while.

* Karazsia had a way of inching his way from the sideline when talking to officials. Coaches can come onto the field, but not 10 yards or more.

The fiery coach was told by more than one official to get back. His reaction? You can probably guess.

* A few games into our relationship as coach and sports writer, Karazsia felt comfortable enough to vent to me after each game. If he didn't like a call, he told me about it. If he didn't like what a player did, he told me about it.

Actually, I didn't mind. But it got to a point that I felt like enough was enough. But I always listened. It always made for a better interview.

After five or 10 minutes of listening, I'd always say, "Do you feel better now?" He'd respond, "Yes." And we'd go from there.

* Before the 1986 season I spent a week practicing with the team. I actually put pads on and went through drills and practice.

I lost 11 pounds that week.

I got an up-close-and-personal look at his coaching style. He was intense. But he treated everyone fairly.

* Karazsia always gave credit to his assistant coaches. He always wanted their names mentioned in the paper, their picture taken during the preseason.

He knew their importance, and made sure they were a major part of the program.

* No matter what the temperature was during a particular practice or game, Karazsia always had the same answer: "65 degrees." If he asked a player, they'd say the same. It may have been 95 on Aug. 25, or 23 on Nov. 3, but it didn't matter. It was always 65 degrees to Karazsia.

The true test of a coach is how he's treated by his players during and after his coaching days. Wins and losses are important, and they were to Karazsia, but his relationship with his players and former players is most important.

That's still true today.

Former players still call him coach, and treat him with respect. And he treats them with respect.

Congratulations Charlie on a job well done.

Chris is general manager and editor of The Daily World. He can be reached at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at cpruett@dailycitizen.com or cpruett79@hotmail.com.