BRADENTON — Fair. Hard-working. Never accepted anything less than the best from his students and athletes.
That’s how Buford “Boots” Hodges, 60, wants to be remembered after 34 years at Manatee High School.
His last day is today, the same day the Hurricanes play for the Class 5A state football championship.
“I got to be a part of four state championships and I enjoyed that tremendously,” said Hodges, a Vietnam veteran who coached freshman and JV football for nearly 30 years and, when those seasons finished early, assisted the varsity staff.
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Hodges also coached basketball, golf and swimming for a shorter time.
Yet when it came to working with teens, Hodges, who also taught life management skills, was emphatic about applying lessons learned on the playing field off of it.
“I always challenged them, if you’re going to do something, do it right. You get out of life what you put into it,” he said. “I always tried to make sure kids were having fun, too, and they learned some self-discipline. I always tell them — discipline yourselves, so I don’t have to.”
Judging by a few of many comments left on the MHS Alumni Association Facebook page, they heeded his message.
Rhonda Guthrie Ellis: “A great teacher, coach and mentor to so many.”
Erik Marshall: “Coach, you were more of an inspiration than you think to many people.”
Roger Smith: “Changed my life.”
Hodges, who inherited “Boots” from his father, sounded surprised by the reaction to his retirement.
“I didn’t know what impact I’d had until this last year and people figured out I was leaving,” he said.
“I could’ve had a job that paid a whole lot more money, but you can’t take that when you leave. I’m grateful and blessed I had the job I had.”