Loeffler's Link - 'Glad to be home'

Andrew Jansen/

Ted LePage and Terry Walker played a big part in a history-making weekend in November, 1984.

It was, perhaps, the most historic sports weekend Jefferson City has ever seen.

The Helias Crusaders won a state football championship on Friday led by LePage, an all-state quarterback.

The Jefferson City Jays won a state championship the following day led by Walker, an all-state linebacker.

Both games were played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City --- the weekend Jefferson City became The City of Champions.

"It was so exciting when all of us could play on the same weekend, win state championships together, then have a parade," LePage said. "The relationships we built ... it was so much fun to be a part of something that made our community so happy.

"You saw the true pride of our community."

Said Walker: "It certainly was extremely unique. That weekend was a great weekend; it's great to look back on it today, and recognize all the hard work the coaches and players on those teams put into it to make it happen."

But has it really been almost 30 years? Really?

"Time waits for no man," Walker said. "In some ways, it seems like yesterday."

The two have joined forces once again, as Walker will coach outside linebackers for the Jays and their head coach, LePage.

This is what you'd call a good hire.

"He really gets a great response out of our kids," LePage said. "He brings an intensity to our practices, that's for sure."

This is nothing new, as Walker has been intense for a long time.

"Terry always showed up to play," said Jays defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Ron Cole, who helped make Walker an all-state player in 1984. "When he walked across the white line, he was very intense, very focused.

"I've told everybody that he's the best linebacker I've coached since I've been here and we've had some good ones, including my son (Chuck), who was pretty darn good."

Cole joined the program in 1975, so he would know.

"The thing is, Terry is the nicest person off the field that I've ever been around and he's still that way," Cole said. "But when he strapped on the helmet, he was a different guy. He was big, strong, fast ... just a great player.

"And now he coaches just like he played, intense."

Walker received a scholarship to play for the Missouri Tigers and was a two-year starter for Woody Widenhoefer --- sadly --- before moving on.

"We weren't very good, but that wasn't the reason I chose to transfer to the Air Force Academy," Walker said. "I just wanted to have the best education possible and I also wanted the opportunity to fly."

Walker spent 22 years in the Air Force, including 17 years as an active pilot, flying mostly F-15s. Walker had a "fair amount" of combat time and climbed to the rank of Lt. Colonel before retiring earlier this year.

"He knows how to command and he commands respect," Cole said. "There's not a big difference from being in the military to coaching football.

"The big difference is that he was flying a $5 billion jet and now he's responsible for teaching high school kids the fundamentals of football."

This is Walker's first high school coaching position, although he spent one year at Air Force as a graduate-assistant coach and did some work at the middle-school level.

"Coaching is teaching, and I've done a lot of teaching over the last 22 years," Walker said. "So as long as you know the material, the ability to teach that material is no different than any other subject.

"The other aspect of it is leadership, and I've spent more than 20 years leading off and on. So those themes are somewhat consistent and I feel very comfortable in the role I'm in right now."

And it shows.

"He's such a quick study and such an intelligent person, it doesn't take him long to learn," LePage said. "He's done a great job of getting our players to not only to understand what he's saying, but having them turn his passion into their passion."

That weekend in November, 1984, was not the first link shared by Walker and LePage.

"Ted and I go a long way back," Walker said. "We covered the same territory growing up, in all the sports."

LePage's first memory was their playing days in Babe Ruth Baseball. Not Walker's, however.

"We wrestled against each other in fifth- or sixth-grade," Walker said. "Of course, Ted (who would later become a high school state champion) whipped me pretty good. I still remember it to this day."

While Walker has been away from Jefferson City for nearly three decades, he didn't lose track of the Jays --- a school that's won 10 state championships (1984 was No. 4), but none since 1997.

"I have followed them every Friday and Saturday for more than 20 years, so I'm fully aware of what they've done," he said. "I look forward to working with the kids and hopefully, we'll have a good year. By that, I mean the playoffs and beyond.

"Each year, your goal should be to win the state championship and if that's not your goal, then you need to reassess what you're doing. And obviously, you want to have a positive influence on the kids --- you want to teach them some life skills, which this sport does a great job of doing.

"I'm just anxious to play a small part in it."

Walker continued. When a Lt. Colonel speaks, after all, we should listen.

"I've heard a lot of people say the game has changed and kids have changed. But you still have to have the ability to block and tackle, you still have to be able to chase the football. Those are just effort things.

"So I don't know if things have actually changed, or we've let them change. The players, consequently, don't embrace the things we used to embrace that make teams successful."

Walker --- who will teach high-level math classes at the high school --- has certainly embraced coming home.

"It feels great, it's something I've thought about, at length, for the last two or three years," he said. "To be close to my family, my wife's family, and a bunch of friends who I still remember from long ago, feels really good. I'm just glad to be home."

And it's great to have him back.