Honoring longtime Northwood football coach, Tom O’Kelly

“There’s not a building on that campus, not a blade of grass grown on that campus that he didn’t grow. There’s not a building on that campus that he didn’t build or help build. Anything sports there at Northwood is because of Tom O’Kelly.”

When you think of the history behind Northwood football, there’s no one more deserving than Coach Tom O’Kelly.

“He bleeds Northwood. That’s what he’s known for, that’s who he is.”

O’Kelly spent most of his career building the football program when he would take a brief break, and venture out to Tioga. This is where he and current Northwood head coach, Justin Webb, would begin their relationship.

Webb joined the Gators back in 2018 and fast forward to only a few months ago, Webb invited O’Kelly to come back home.

“When I found out about this job, I consulted with him. I talked to him and knew he had been out here forever and he told me it’d be a good place to get my start as a head coach. When the opportunity kind of came up and we had an opening, I said let me see what he’s doing. I think deep down, he kind of missed this place in some aspects.”

Speaking with Coach O’Kelly, he says that sacrifice is a major part of his success. After dedication 28 years to Northwood, it was only right that the school and the community gave him his flowers.

“I was shocked because usually you have to be dead before you get a field dedication. I said God, I didn’t know I was dead already. But other than that I was very pleased.”

Pleased and overwhelmed with love on Thursday, before the St. Mary’s game, where family, friends and others joined to honor him.

When asking Coach about his part in constructing the football field and starting the Northwood culture, staying humble, he credits others involved at the time.

“You always want something good to come out of things. For a while, you say “Oh, this is not good.” We spent a lot of time on this and we had some people that really really helped to get it going. I’d like to say that was me but I happen to be the guy that was maybe pushing a wheel barrel or something.”

And the job isn’t finished.

“We had a plan to get where we are and really past this plan, it’s past that. So, it’s not over. We have plans to go past where we are.”