Monday, October 01, 2012

VAN WERT - The Van Wert Cougar football team is ready for a dose of Homecoming inspiration. Hoping to help out is the man who was the first Cougar football player to earn recognition as an all-Ohio player.
Frank Hoffman was honored after his senior season at VWHS in 1949 as an all-state player. This year, Hoffman will be honored as the Grand Marshal of this year's Homecoming Parade. He will also beat dinner with the team on Thursday and be introduced to the crowd on Friday night.
Football was much different back in the late 1940s when Hoffman suited up.
"Tremendously different," observed Hoffman. "You've got hard helmets now! And face masks, we didn't have face masks!"
Although he received recognition for his play as an offensive guard and a defensive tackle, when Hoffman entered high school he did not try out for the team.

"I didn't start my freshman year," Hoffman remembered. "The coach was my algebra teacher. About the middle of the season, he talked me into going out. I'd never seen a game before. Well, we had a little idea of what football was all about from grade school and stuff like that. I lived out in the country and never went to the games. But it was a lot of fun. After I did finally go out, I did play the last three games. I think I needed one more quarter to get my letter."
By his sophomore season, Hoffman was entrenched in the lineup, turning more and more heads as he was pushing opposing linemen out of the way. By today's standards he was a mighty small lineman, listed in the programs at anywhere from 180-190 pounds. Still Hoffman typically dealt with larger opponents, often 200-225 pounds. He still remembers those days fondly, noting that it was all a part of the game back then.
After his senior season, he received a Western Union telegram notifying him that he had accomplished what no Van Wert Cougar had done previously -- a slot on the all-Ohio team.
"A couple of guys told me I might get that, a couple of guys who had already graduated. It was a pretty big honor," Hoffman remembered. "We went to Columbus for a recognition dinner. Then that summer we had an all-star game in Toledo between the north and the south. I really didn't get to play too much in that, but I played some."

In all the years since high school, Hoffman has plenty of memories. "Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was a great bunch of guys I played with. You still remember your teammates."
Spurning offers from other colleges, Hoffman went to Ohio State for a quarter, but returned home soon after. Although Hoffman never really left the area for any length of time, his accomplishments will serve as the example for this year's homecoming celebration. As for Hoffman, he says he's happy to help out wherever he can. He still remembers the camaraderie between his teammates and hopes the current team is forming the same kind of memories.

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