Brock Netter, Staff Writer
BAINBRIDGE — Every Friday night from August to November for the last 36 years, there has been at least one constant for Paint Valley’s football program … Pete Hollon roaming the sidelines.
The legendary coaching figure announced his retirement Thursday afternoon after spending the last 24 years as the Bearcats’ head football coach, a period where he led his troops to a 154-95-1 record.
Hollon still plans on being at Paint Valley, but it’ll be in a different capacity.
“I’ll miss coaching for sure. But it got to the point where I just couldn’t recharge the batteries like I used to and I got tired of being selfish,” Hollon said. “My family has been supportive of me all of these years, but I’ve missed out on so many things with my kids when they were growing up that I can’t get back. Those thoughts weigh heavy on you and now that I have a grandson, I want to be around more as he continues to grow.”
Hollon, who once said that he had “found his own slice of heaven” in Bainbridge, said there were two determining factors that helped him make his final decision.
“There were two things that sort of let me know it was time to step away. I missed my grandson’s first outing going to a pumpkin patch. It may sound small, but it was a big deal for me and the fact that I missed it really bothered me. The other thing was [former Unioto coach] Jerry Hundell passing away. He and I had kept in contact while he was in Florida, and that hit me hard. It made me step back and think about what I was doing. So that’s when I knew it was time.”
During his legendary tenure in the copper mountains and cornfields of Bainbridge, Hollon led his team to seven Scioto Valley Conference championship, including three Gold Balls.
His reputation as a football coach is second to none in Southeast Ohio. He’s labeled by many as a living legend and as the Bearcats’ greatest coach in program history.
But while he’s exceptionally proud of what he and his teams accomplished over the years, and humbled by those labels, his impact and legacy both stretch away from the football field.
Hollon serves as Paint Valley’s Athletic Director and teaches. He’s been impacting kids’ lives daily for most of his life.
To find what Hollon is truly proud of, that’s the conversation you have to have. That’s where his heart strings are attached and that’s where Bainbridge has embraced him with open arms.
As he reflected on the students he’s impacted over the years and the lives he’s changed on a daily basis, Hollon couldn’t help but let his emotions take over.
“I’ve had kids that have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, teachers and many other things, and that brings me the greatest joy,” Hollon said, with tears streaming down his face. “When I told the kids of my decision, I had [Paint Valley Middle School Principal] Joe Holbert and [Paint Valley elementary teacher] Ben Burke come over to hear. Those two guys were seniors when I took over as head coach back in 1996 and I wanted them to be a part of the meeting as I depart.
“I explained to the kids that this is the reason I coach. It isn’t just for the wins. Some of my most favorite teams finished 2-8 or 3-7. But it’s the relationships with the kids that I value. It’s what has kept me going all these years and working 18-to-20-hour days. Seeing all of those kids grow up to be great men and great leaders of the community is something that you can’t put a price on.”
While many former players have went on to achieve great things, a few others continued their athletic careers beyond Paint Valley after Hollon’s mentorship.
Anthony McFadden served as the Bearcats’ quarterback from 2012-15, before playing collegiately at Ohio Northern University.
“I could say many great things about coach, but he wasn’t just a coach. He was a role model to me and to many,” McFadden said. ”He had an amazing coaching career and has achieved many well-deserved honors and was a crucial part of everything PV has accomplished over the last 24 years. Coming in as a freshman, he showed faith in me and helped form me into the player I am today. He was so supportive in all aspects of my life. Showing up to watch a couple of my college games meant a lot. One thing that I will remember the most is his constant support and his willingness to go above and beyond for his players.”
The same could be said with former lineman Jacob Ott, who played from 2014-17 and is currently at Walsh University on a track scholarship.
“He impacted me from day one playing for him. He is such a selfless person and has always put his athletes before himself,” Ott said. “Him and I grew really close when I came into high school and he’s been like a second dad to me ever since. We would always joke around with each other and if I ever needed anything, I knew I could text him. He came to a couple of my college track meets and I can never pay him back for everything he’s done for me. I remember my last practice when we did the senior tunnel when he talks to all the seniors. He couldn’t even get words out and then he texted me a couple days later telling me why he couldn’t and just how special of a relationship we have. He was always at track meets and made the trip up to Ohio State when I won my state titles in shot put and discus. He’s just an amazing person who would take the shirt off his back for anybody in this world. He’s a special man and I wouldn’t have wanted any other person as my football coach throughout high school. I love that man.”
It’s that type of legacy that Hollon hopes he’s remembered for; not as a winning coach or a fierce competitor on the gridiron, but as a human being whose impact goes beyond the world of sports.
And that’s the story he hopes his grandson will be one day proud to hear.
“Hopefully when he’s 15 years old and if someone wants to talk about his grandpa, that’s what I hope they talk about,” Hollon said. “The banners and championships are great, but the impact I had on that person’s live is what I hope the story is about. That’s bigger than football.”