By DOUG DONNELLY
TECUMSEH – Bob Ondrovick has never been a head varsity football coach. That did not keep him from making it to the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Ondrovick found out last week that he will be part of the 2021 Hall of Fame class. He’s been a football coach for more than 30 years.
“I had a lot of people who showed me a lot of compliments and gratitude after I found out,” Ondrovick said. “That was nice. I was pleasantly surprised by the honor.”
The Blissfield graduate started coaching football soon after graduating from Western Michigan University. He was hired to be an assistant under Tecumseh head coach Tom Fagan. That first season, the fall of 1972, Tecumseh went undefeated and was named the mythical state champions.
“That was the days before playoffs,” Ondrovick said. “As a rookie coach, we went 9-0 and I thought, ‘hey, this is great.’ You learn quickly that things level themselves out. You can’t always go 9-0.”
Ondrovick credits a couple of Blissfield coaches with making him want a career in coaching and teaching. Jack Hepinstall and Al Schaffer, both hall of fame coaches. Hepinstall was inducted into the MHSFCA Hall of Fame in 1977 and Schaffer in the Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1987.
“They were the starting point of my coaching,” Ondrovick said. “Jack was football coach in the fall and Al was his assistant. In the winter, Al was the head basketball coach and Jack was the assistant. I spent a lot of time with those men. They were the catalysts for me starting a career in sports.”
Ondrovick went to Western Michigan on a football scholarship and played two seasons there before retiring from playing.
After getting a job in the Tecumseh school system as an industrial arts teacher, coaching became his passion. He not only was an assistant football coach, but he also took over the varsity baseball program and remained the Indian head coach for 25 years.
“Football and baseball were a nice blend,” he said. “I could coach in the fall, have the winter off to get ready for baseball in the spring. I enjoyed that a lot.”
He left football coaching for a short time but returned to coach at Tecumseh when one of his former players, Jason Mensing, was hired as the Tecumseh varsity head coach. Mensing said Ondrovick was one of the first people he called and asked if he would join his staff.
“He was my high school coach, and we spent a lot of time together over the years,” Mensing said. “When I was in eighth-grade I was his scorekeeper for Tecumseh baseball games. He has a great passion for kids and passion for football. I wanted him to be part of our staff.”
Ondrovick took over the middle school program at Tecumseh that had two teams and about 50 kids. Two years later, the Indian middle school football program had four teams and 150 kids.
“That was a testament to Bob and his organization,” Mensing said.
In 2008, the MHSFCA named Ondrovick one of the assistant football coaches of the year.
When Mensing took the Whiteford head football coaching job in 2012, Ondrovick, who lives in Tecumseh, joined the staff. He remains a key part of a Bobcat football program that went to the state finals in 2016 and won the Division 8 state championship in 2017.
Ondrovick, 71, and his wife Debbie have been married for almost 30 years. Ondrovick said Whiteford is most likely his final coaching stop.
“Jason will be the last head coach that I work for,” Ondrovick said. “I can’t say enough about Jason and all of the guys that I’ve coached under. I have never had a bad experience with a head coach. I am still as excited as I have ever been about coaching. I can’t wait for this season to start.”