It has been 11 years since longtime Camdenton football assistant Jim “Pappy” Pirch officially retired from his duties as an assistant coach for the Lakers, but his impact on the players, the school and community itself has never been forgotten.

It has been 11 years since longtime Camdenton football assistant Jim “Pappy” Pirch officially retired from his duties as an assistant coach for the Lakers, but his impact on the players, the school and community itself has never been forgotten.

His efforts and contributions over the course of 33 years at Camdenton were recognized once again on December 1 as Pirch was among the first recipients in the inaugural presentation of the Right Hand Man Assistant Coach Award during the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame banquet at Tan-Tar-A Resort.

Pirch was honored along with Charles “Chuck” Ramsey (Monett, Parkview and Kickapoo for 46 years) and Bob Sink (St. Genevieve, Jackson and Cape Central for 49 years).

“You dedicate your whole life, as teachers or in any profession, to make a better world and that is what I started out doing,” Pirch stated. “My dad died when I was nine and my brother happened to be one of my coaches and became a father figure. I loved all sports, but I just wanted to help kids and improve people’s lives like others helped me. It just happened to last 33 years and a reward at the end is icing on the cake. When you are recognized by your peers, it is really something special.”

Current Camdenton assistant coach Par Pitts, who played for Pirch from 1984 through 1986, serves on the board of the MFCA and has served as its president for the past two years. According to Pitts, the board had wanted to recognize assistant coaches for quite some time, but this is the first year it was possible.

The idea of the award is to recognize assistants of 25 years or more who had a major impact on the program, school and community and there was an application process that also included letters of recommendation that were submitted to the MFCA Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is comprised of 12 coaches from all over the state, which vote on the applicants. Pitts was proud to see his former mentor recognized.

“He is the reason I got into coaching. His impact on me and the guys I played with, I saw him provide something special for almost everyone who played for him,” Pitts said. “I wanted to try to be able to do that. He has been an inspiration for me to help kids learn about football and some lessons they can apply later on.”

After graduating from Richmond High School in 1963, Pirch earned a football scholarship at the University of Missouri where he played center and linebacker for the Tigers. He learned valuable lessons from his early days on the gridiron, especially when it came to mentality. Mentality went on to play a major role in the way Pirch coached up his players.

“When you think of technique, it’s not only the physical attributes, but it’s also the mental,” Pirch told the Lake Sun in an interview upon his retirement in 2006. “You can read a book and get your techniques. But the mental aspect of getting somebody motivated, telling them what to do and wanting to do it, I consider more of an asset than showing them how and the technique to do it.”

After graduating from Missouri in 1967, Pirch went back home to Richmond to coach and teach for a year before serving in the Navy from 1968 to 1972. Then, he spent a year finishing his master’s degree at Missouri before a job came open in 1973 at Camdenton with the opportunity to work for Coach Bob Powell, who Pirch had played with at Missouri.

Powell moved on in 1975 and that is when Head Coach Bob Shore and Assistant Mike Silverwood came to town. The trio would go on to build one of the most successful high school football programs in the state of Missouri over the next three decades.

It was then that one of the most recognizable phrases in the history of Laker football was born as “Pappy’s Hogs” became a staple of Camdenton’s football tradition that is still alive and well today.

It began on the first day of practice in 1975 when Shore asked the roughly 33 players on the field that day to split up into groups of skill players and linemen. Players began splitting up and 31 of them started heading towards the skill position group because nobody was particularly enthused about the prospect of being a lineman.

“I had two stay with me. One was hard of hearing and the other was not paying attention,” said Pirch who coached Camdenton’s offensive and defensive lines from 1973 to 2005. “I had to get people enthused about being a lineman.”

That is when Pirch’s lessons of mentality started to really take effect. It boiled down to having a positive attitude.

“It’s Christmas. You’ve got a present, you open it up and it was full of horse manure,” Pirch told the Lake Sun back in 2006. “Now, what is your attitude going to be? Eww, I got horse manure? No, it’s going to be, ‘I smell a pony around here some place.’ It’s got to kind of be that kind of attitude. I always tell them think the positive and get your head up.”

The coach knew he had to change the mindset of what it meant to be a lineman and turn the unit into a source of pride. He decided to nickname his group and there were a couple of different things that led to the popular phrase.

“Pappy” came from a television show in the 70s called ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ that was based on the life of American fighter pilot Gregory “Pappy” Boyington and his “Black Sheep” squadron in World War 2. The opening credits revealed the squadron to be a “collection of misfits and screwballs who became the terrors of the South Pacific.

They were known as the Black Sheep.” Shore, knowing his assistant was a Navy veteran, began calling him “Pappy” and the name stuck as Pirch sought to also mold his linemen into a respected group just like Boyington.

As for the “Hogs,” when Pirch was growing up on his farm in Richmond, he claimed to have once witnessed hogs “mercilessly” kill a snake. He also became a fan of the tradition at the University of Arkansas where Razorback fans called out the “Hogs” before the game.

It was not long before Camdenton’s skill players and fans started calling out their own “Hogs” before football games as a way to recognize the unit that could often be overlooked when skill players generally got most of the attention and credit.

“That was the fastest we ever got the linemen to run,” Pirch laughingly recalled of the tradition. “It got to be a pride thing and that is what I was trying to develop.”

One player who certainly felt that pride was 1993 Camdenton graduate Jason Whittle who went on to enjoy a football career at Missouri State and 10 years as an offensive lineman in the NFL. Whittle played for the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills, but he never forgot what it meant to be one of “Pappy’s Hogs.”

“Coach Pirch was good at making you feel special about playing offensive line and sometimes that was hard to do. You get the glory as a running back, receiver and quarterback, but having Pappy, it was always an honor to be one of ‘Pappy’s Hogs,’” Whittle told the Lake Sun upon Pirch’s retirement in 2006. “He brought something to the table that made people excited about playing offensive and defensive line. As you play for him, you learn great respect for him. He is a great coach and a great person.”

Another thing that has never changed in this tradition is the definition of what it means to be a “Hog.” Pirch described them as, “lean, mean human beings that hit and hammer making life easier for the ‘Candy Backs.’” (skill players).

“That’s really what a ‘Hog’ has got to do,” Pirch said back in 2006. “He’s got to get down in the trenches and got to get muddy, get dirty and bloody. They’ve got to waller in it and rout them up. You don’t want to be in a pen with a mad ‘Hog,’ whether it be a hog or a human.”

And if the play on the field is any indication, Pirch’s linemen and the rest of the Lakers took that mentality to heart. With Pirch patrolling the sidelines along with Silverwood and Shore, Camdenton went on to win five state titles in 1986, 1987, 1995, 1999 and 2005 and along the way the Lakers picked up 23 district titles, finished second in the state twice, made the state semifinals three more times, and reached the state quarterfinals another six times.

Camdenton was 288-60-2 during that span and Pirch had the privilege of going out on top as the Lakers completed a perfect undefeated season in 2005 with state title in hand during his final year. In his 49 years as a player or coach, Pirch was never part of a losing team.

There have been plenty of notable “Hogs” under Pirch, but upon his retirement in 2006, the coach said he did not ever think that he had a bad lineman, big or small. It was all about effort.

“I’ve had some that weren’t as good as others, but I’ve never had a bad lineman,” Pirch told the Lake Sun. “And that was my goal. I realize the physical attributes on people, but as long as a kid gives all he’s got, that is fine… If he is giving me his best, that’s what I want.”

However, as much pride as he instilled in those who played for him, he also emphasized humility. Pirch may have built an institution at Camdenton for offensive and defensive linemen, but the most important thing to him was to pay it forward. Through all the years, he never forgot the impact his brother had on him and how important it was to make a difference for the kids he had the privilege of coaching or teaching.

“I enjoyed coaching all because we all had a common goal to make life better and then pay it forward to help others,” he said. “Sports builds character.”

Some of his players have gone on to carry that torch, including some in the Lake area. Osage football assistant coaches Charlie Gordon and Brock Ezard try to emulate the things they learned under “Pappy” and Camdenton assistant football coaches Shawn Maschino, Steve Bayless, Cole Walker and Pitts are doing the same for the Lakers.

“I did it and now you have to pay it forward down the line until eternity,” Pirch stated.

According to a press release, Pirch received the award in honor of longtime Bolivar coach Doug Potts who was inducted into the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1994, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and had recently passed away in April at the age of 79. Pitts presented the award to his mentor and it was a moment Pirch will not soon forget as he estimated there were about 50 of his former players and fellow coaches in attendance.

“He (Pitts) is the one that endorsed me in front of the committee and I appreciate his efforts. Bob Shore was there so I thanked him for giving me the opportunity and having faith in me to do the job,” Pirch recalled. “I just happened to be singled out among Laker nation and I was awed and at the same time thrilled. To have all the players and coaches I worked with there, when you get an honor from fellow peers and they show up, it means more than getting an award and saying, ‘Here’s your retirement watch.’

“It is more personal and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be a coach and for him to help me along to do it. It could not be done without fellow players and coaches,” he added.

Of course, Pirch could not help himself in the conclusion of his speech at the banquet as he called his “Hogs” one more time.

“I closed it out with, ‘Camdenton Lakers forever. Go Hogs!’” the coach stated.