BY BUDDY TABLER
Special to the Tribune
LARNED — It’s not unusual for an athlete to follow in his coach’s footsteps and also become a coach, even joining his coach’s staff as an assistant.
What is unusual is when the coach, the elder, the teacher, follows his student, leaving his life’s work and finding a new home — a new way of life.
That possibility is in the midst of happening in Larned. A coach from Chicago just might end up following his student, the athlete he coached, to rural western Kansas.
Coaching in the inner city schools of Chicago would be considered light years different than coaching in west central Kansas. As different as, perhaps — as different as the old-fashioned Single Wing offense might be from today’s pro-style run-and-gun offenses.
Larned football coach A.B. Stokes is tickled that his former high school coach, Rick Alboyd, has told him that following this final year of coaching in Chicago, he wants something different.
Coach Stokes jumped on that opportunity and asked, “Why don’t you move to Kansas? Kansas, and rural America is a terrific place to live and to raise a family. You would love it.”
Following high school, Coach Stokes started football at Trinity International in Deerfield, Ill., before playing college football in 2005 and 2006 for Sterling College coach Andy Lambert.
Stokes’ performance developed into a highlight reel tape his senior year. He earned first team all-league honors with dazzling moves out of the backfield, especially on pass receptions.
A Sterling College highlight tape is available on youtube — https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=fukwbNQRqKk
Stokes and his wife Tasha fell in love with the Sterling community and the way the Kansas people took them in, loving them and their family.
After finishing his playing career, Stokes moved only a few short miles and started coaching wrestling and helping coach football at Lyons. He later moved to the middle school in Larned and eventually became the head football coach of the Larned Indians where he is now starting his fourth year.
Stokes has been credited with rejuvenating years of losing teams for Larned’s football program. The Indians earned their first football playoff berth since 1985 in 2013.
“I definitely learned a lot from Sterling coach Andy Lambert,” Stokes said. “He is my mentor as a coach, and I still have a close relationship with him today. He still helps me today with some of my decision-making, and things that I can do to make the program better.”
Meanwhile Coach Alboyd, who played his college football at Kentucky State, is now in his 11th year as head coach at Uplift Chicago High School.
He previously was the head coach at Chicago’s Austin High School where he coached A.B. Stokes.
Coach Alboyd has only suffered one losing season in all of his years of coaching.
“Coach Alboyd taught me a lot about handling adversity,” Stokes said. “You’re a product of your environment.
Coach Rick and my mom helped mold me into the man I am today. They kept me off the streets. My faith helped me. God’s plans were for me to prosper.”
Stokes said that Coach Alboyd loves working with young people and would continue teaching and some coaching when he moves to the Sunflower State. He is married and has a son who is currently in the seventh grade.
The obvious differences between Chicago’s inner city schools and those of Kansas are countless, but Alboyd and Stokes agree, “Young people are young people. They need coaching and direction.”
Both of these men have dedicated their lives to that purpose.
All concerned hope it works out, providing the Alboyd family with a new “Home on the Range” and providing coach Stokes, his family and athletes in this part of the world with another strong support, another strong voice.
Winners are winners whether they are in Chicago or Kansas. Young people are the beneficiaries.