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PAT CAPUTO: Departure of living legend Boyd leaves huge void at Our Lady of the Lakes

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Open the Michigan High School Athletic Association record book and it says Mike Boyd. won 361 football games at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, third most among high school football coaches in this state’s history.

It says he won more than 700 games as girls softball coach at Lakes, too. He was also the boys basketball coach 27 years and had several solid teams.

What mere numbers can’t tell you:

- Boyd played high school football at Saginaw St. Peter & Paul for his cousin, Leo “Smoky” Boyd, who also garnered more than 300 career victories. He then walked on at Michigan State.

“It lasted four weeks,” Boyd said. “I was having trouble with my school work and I was in the ROTC program, which took a lot of time.”

- Boyd married young and fathered a daughter. When he was 21, his wife died of Leukemia. A single father, he went to Waterford to visit relatives, at the suggestion of other relatives, to cope with his grief. While there, he was informed the football coach had just resigned at Lakes. Boyd applied for the job on a whim. He was hired.

“It was originally to be a teacher, too, but because of the Vietnam War, and because I was in the ROTC program at Michigan State, there were questions whether I would get called into service. So they were hesitant to hire me as a teacher. They did need a custodian.. I accepted it, and that was my job, as well as coaching football.”

- There is a hole in Boyd’s coaching record. The year 1969 is missing. It’s not a misprint. He was called into military service, missing a season, although he was not shipped oversees.

- Throughout the 1960s and much of the 1970s, Boyd was not only his team’s coach, but he also its bus driver. “We had an old school bus, and nobody to drive it, so I’d get behind the wheel and drive us to our games,” Boyd said.

- Boyd remarried and had more children. His sons, Mike Jr.and Andy, were star players for him.

- Boyd eventually became the school’s business manager, athletic director and the girl’s softball coach, the latter by chance. “I couldn’t find anybody to coach the team,” Boyd said. “My oldest daughter, Lynn, was on the team, but I didn’t know where to turn. It was like another situation I had to jump in and do it or it wasn’t going to get done.”

Boyd had never coached females before. He was not a screamer out of the Vince Lombardi mode, but as, Boyd put it, “I’d growl at my players sometimes. It is part of coaching football.”

So he explained to his girl’s softball team the first day: “I told them, I may growl at them sometimes, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love you, because I do, and it’s to try to make you better players.”

It seemed to be working fine until his team was leading 12-0 in a game and he pulled a couple starters to put in the reserves.

“I looked at the end of the bench and one of the girls was crying,” Boyd said. “I asked, ‘What’s wrong?’ She said I didn’t like her anymore because I pulled her out of the game. Then one of the freshmen I put in messed up a play and I growled at her at bit. Then she started crying. And we were winning 12-0. It was different. But eventually, those things took care of themselves. The older girls would tell the younger girls, ‘Don’t pay any attention to him - his bark is a lot worse than his bite.’ We won a lot of games.”

Not to mention several state championships.

“The summer softball programs in Waterford were really good at the time. We really benefitted from that,” Boyd said. “I had really good coaches to help me, too.”

- Nobody ever accused Mike Boyd of recruiting. He took what he had and molded it the best he could. You’d call him up at the start of the year while working on previews of area teams, he’d always say the same thing, “Well, we’re small and we’re slow.” Then Lakes would have a terrific season.

“I wasn’t lying,” Boyd said. “We weren’t big and we weren’t fast. But my players were the greatest kids because they really bought into what we were doing and worked extremely hard. One thing we’d have over other teams was conditioning and we played smart. That’s a credit to them and the great coaches I had, not me.”

- Boyd didn’t make a lot of money and had a big family. He was very successful on the field. His first two teams at Lakes, in 1965 and 1966, both were 7-0. From 1972-75, Lakes was 32-4. Boyd’s 1979 team was 9-0 and allowed just four points per game. The bigger schools did notice and call. Boyd did agree to accept the head football coaching position at Brighton High School in the 1970s. He was going from Class D to Class A.

“It was a great job,” Boyd said. “It was a growing town, a good school district, a great place to build a program and I felt I could win there. I accepted the job and then called my team together to tell them I was leaving. I walked into the room and I didn’t say a word. I walked right out and called the athletic director at Brighton and told him I just couldn’t do it.. There was no way I could leave those kids.”

- None of the schools on Lakes’ schedule the first two years Boyd was head coach remain open. The Catholic League is far smaller now than back then. Lakes, especially given its size (usually its enrollment is between 200 and 250), has been a rare example. There is little doubt Boyd has been a major reason why. “There have been 44 Catholic League schools I coached against in either football, basketball or softball that have closed,” Boyd said.

- Boyd did win a state championship in football, in 2002. Year after year, his team’s were a force in the state playoffs. Small. Slow. Good. A couple times, great.

At 71, Boyd has decided to leave Lakes and live full-time in Florida where he’s been spending more time in recent years. He will be an offensive assistant coach at a large, but relatively new public high school near Bradenton.

“I’m not retired from coaching,” Boyd said. “It’s a big school, a new program. They have spring practice here. I’m just getting to know everybody’s name.”

He leaves Lakes with no regrets after 48 years.

“When I look back at it, and talk about it, it does seem like good old stories,” Boyd said. “At the time, I’m not so sure I always looked at it that way. I spent anywhere from 12 to 18 hours at the school every day. My first wife dying was the moment that changed the course of my life in a way I couldn’t have imagined. But from that point forward, there is nothing about my life I would change. The tough times at Lakes, turned out to be the good times. I loved every minute of my time there. I mean every minute.”

Mike Boyd won a lot of games. He changed many lives. He survived. He thrived.

As a result, do did Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes. That’s more than just leaving a legacy.

That’s becoming a legend.

Pat Caputo is a senior sports reporter and a columnist for The Oakland Press. Contact him at pat.caputo@oakpress.com and read his blog at theoaklandpress.com. You can follow him on Twitter @patcaputo98

Last Updated: 4/21/2013 5:23:30 PM EST

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