When he travels around the Puget Sound area, Brock Huard gets the typical inquiries: Fans will ask him how the Seahawks look, or about his playing days with the Washington Huskies or in the NFL, or his work in the media these days.
But when he’s in Puyallup, the first questions are never about him or his renowned quarterbacking brothers.
“It’s always, ‘How’s your dad? How’s Coach Huard?’ ” Brock said. “It’s the first thing everybody in town wants to know.”
The persistent interest is a reflection of how many people a man such as Mike Huard can touch in a 38-year career as a coach and an educator, and more remarkably, how many plot their lives to emulate his works.
Thursday, the Tacoma Athletic Commission will honor Mike and the Huard family as part of the annual Banquet of Champions at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.
The Huard patriarch, Mike is already in the Washington Coaches’ Hall of Fame after putting together a 143-38 record – and winning the 1987 Class 4A state championship – in 17 seasons as football coach at Puyallup High.
Given the successes of his sons, Damon, Brock and Luke, Mike Huard might not quite challenge Archie Manning, but is nonetheless in elite company when it comes to the parenting of talented quarterbacks.
His sons, though, claim they’re nowhere near the most important part of Mike Huard’s legacy.
“It’s easy to point to his biggest legacy: It’s the impact he left on so many kids to become coaches and administrators and teachers,” said Damon, who now works in fundraising for the University of Washington. “He influenced so many to follow in the same path he took.”
The football victories are the most visible, but the connections with the students are no less important for a long-time teacher.
“It didn’t matter if you were a football player or one of the students in his drivers’ ed. or P.E. classes, he’s someone all the kids wanted to be around because they loved his passion and enthusiasm,” Damon said. “He made a big difference in so many of those kids’ lives.”
But, as Mike Huard recalled, it started out a little shaky.
He and Peg got married fresh out of Central Washington in 1972. After a nine seasons coaching at White Swan and Foster High, Huard took over the program at Puyallup High, and early returns made it fair to wonder how long he would last. And Peg started to worry if her husband was deathly ill.
“The first couple years were pretty tough,” he said. “We went 4-5 and 4-5.”
Late nights, hard work and the stress of losing caused him to drop 40 pounds.
“My wife wondered if I was dying,” he said.
Both he and the program revived and bulked up after that, and 15 consecutive winning seasons followed.
The 1987 championship team, led by quarterback Billy Joe Hobert, was an on-field highlight, in part because it came as such a surprise, Mike said.
“We were 3-2 at one point, and I remember saying to another coach, ‘This is going to be a really tough year,’ ” Mike said. “But we just kept persevering.”
At that pivotal point, Hobert led the Vikings to a road win over No. 1-ranked Renton. Suddenly, the Vikings recognized their potential.
Success bred success, Mike said, and Puyallup made title-game appearances in 1991 and 1992, although both were losses.
Actually, Mike and Peg Huard bred success, too. First was Damon, a high-school All-American who set passing records at UW before a 12-year NFL career.
Brock, the national prep player of the year, also led UW and then played six seasons in the NFL. He’s now a color commentator for ESPN college football broadcasts and co-host of a daily radio show on 710-AM. Luke registered the same degree of glittery prep credentials and played at North Carolina. He’s now the offensive coordinator at Illinois State.
The Huard sons never felt pushed into the game, but just grew into it as ballboys and then as players. But once they were on the team, they faced some reverse discrimination.
“I was probably way too tough on my own kids,” Mike said. “They probably ran a few laps in practice for no reason at all, other than I wanted to be sure nobody thought I was playing favorites.”
Brock called it “tough love,” which may be the perfect paradoxical description. “He would scream at you and be all red-faced and emotional, and in the next breath, he’d be calling you ‘Honey.’ He really has a soft side.”
And aside from slipping in the occasional “honey” when addressing a son on the field, Mike Huard somehow managed to compartmentalize two of his primary jobs.
“I think the true genius of my dad was the ability to balance being a coach and being a father,” Luke said. “When we went home, we went home. For the most part, there was a real separation between the practice field and when we went home at night. There was always a division between being my dad and being my coach. I think he did an outstanding job of that.”
By unanimous vote, the family MVP is Peg Huard. Her family emigrated from the Netherlands when she was young. At 5-foot-10, she was tall and athletic, and, according to Mike, she liked the way he looked in his football uniform at CWU.
Damon said that the demands of his father’s job left Peg to serve as parent for the “four kids” in that house – Mike included.
“Mom probably never gets enough credit,” Damon said. “She was the rock, of course. With Dad coaching and working late hours, she was always responsible for running us around and providing all the things we needed.”
A list of the honors the younger Huards have collected include academic accolades and citations for community involvement. By all accounts, they’re high-character family men unburdened by inflated egos that might be expected to accompany their level of success.
“I think the root of it is my mom and dad being very genuine and compassionate people,” Brock said. “They are careful never to offend others. Humility is a real virtue to them, something they live. Dad relates to everybody. It didn’t matter if you were Billy Joe Hobert or Timmy the manager, he treated you the same way. He invested in everybody the same way, and that’s an incredible quality in a coach.”
When Luke went across the country to North Carolina, Damon was in the NFL and Brock was at UW. Mike retired from coaching to better keep track of his sons’ careers.
Now 60, he’s in his final weeks as a teacher.
“I think my strong point as a teacher was that the kids knew I cared for them, and that made teaching nice,” Mike said. “In coaching, you’ve always got to win. But you get to have special relationships with the kids; you deal with them more directly and sincerely because you share the competition.”
So, what is he going to do with his time?
He pointed to an office wall with pictures of his sons and six grandkids. Yes, he’s going to spend more time with them.
Also on the wall were pictures of his teams from over the years, with hundreds of players smiling. It’s been so many years, he can’t remember all their names.
But they all remember his.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org
Banquet of Champions
What: The Tacoma Athletic Commission will induct 34 individuals into the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame.
When: 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Thursday at Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall
Tickets: Sold out. Check tvtacoma.com for tape-delayed TV times.
Information: Terry Zeigler at 253-572-9922 (ext. 128, after 5 p.m.) or email@example.com