For the next few days, Tony Dudik’s flip phone will be ringing constantly.
Whether it be fellow colleagues, former players or even parents who might have yelled from the stands, there is nothing but gratitude heading his way after 42 years.
After all, nothing is ever enough when sending off a coach who’s given nearly his entire career to coaching St. Joseph’s youth.
“My phone has been blowing up a little bit. It brings some really heartfelt memories,” said Dudik, the 23-year head coach at Central and nine-year coach at Bishop LeBlond. “Most importantly, I appreciate their gratitude. It’s never just one person. I love this game, was blessed with some enthusiasm and work ethic — I was taught by my mother and uncle.
“Everything I’ve ever done, I’ve gone in there 100 percent.”
His next calling is grandpa and caretaker, as he will push football to the side and retire from coaching at Bishop LeBlond at the end of the school year.
Dudik will focus his energy into taking care of his mother and mother-in-law while enjoying his time with his seven grandchildren. He plans to reevaluate his future after next season.
“I’m going through a lot of emotions right now. I can’t say enough great things. … I love this community,” Dudik said.
“This is a day of celebration, even though I don’t feel like celebrating right now because it’s hard.”
Dudik spent 10 years at Central High School as an assistant before patrolling the sidelines as the head coach for the next 23. He coached six NFL players in his time and dozens of collegiate athletes.
“Today’s a bittersweet moment for us. We’re sad, we’re upset because of what he means to Bishop LeBlond and the St. Joseph community,” Michael Evans, Bishop LeBlond athletics director, said. “We’re happy for him because he’s put in the time, energy and effort to be able to go out on his terms.”
The announcement comes just weeks after the school announced it will move from 11-man to 8-man in 2019 due to low enrollment numbers. During his nine years, LeBlond won five playoff games in a five-year span.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to summarize today in my career. It has been a blessing to be able to coach all those kids over all those years,” Dudik said while fighting back tears. “I have had tremendous assistant coaches that have dedicated and followed in line. I will guarantee most of them will probably say, ‘That guy is crazy.’ When we chose to do something, we got after it, we gave it our very best.”
His awards include being part of the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame Class of 2011, with many other honors likely to be bestowed in life after football.
Now, Dudik is focused on being the world’s best grandpa and seeing what the future holds as his second grandkid enters Bishop LeBlond High School next year.
“I really just wanna see what it’s like to step back and be papa and encourager. I can promise I won’t yell at officials or any coaches, I just wanna watch,” Dudik said. “When you’re committed to coaching, you sacrifice. I just wanna regroup, watch those kids and be a part of it.”
Evans said the search for a new football coach will begin immediately.