Tabor football sweeps Hall of Fame inductions
When Tim McCarty and Mike Gardner are admitted to Tabor College’s Athletic Hall of Fame on May 11, they will also be honored by the recognition of friendships formed through Tabor football.
Their bond was notable because McCarty and Gardner were the ones who built Tabor football into a notable program, said Gardner, the Bluejays’ current coach.
“The relationship Tim McCarty and I created was unbelievably special because we were able to do that in a time and at a place that had limited prior success,” he said. “His vision on how to get the program going and my energy allowed us to do something that was incredible.”
While they were the ones at the forefront as coaches, Gardner and McCarty said there were many people to thank, from assistants to players.
“It’s another special part of this,” McCarty said. “You’re accepting it, but the award is a lot bigger than you. There were so many people who were involved in the success of those teams.”
The former coworkers still speak on the phone monthly.
“When you have a friend, you guard those friendships,” McCarty said. “They’re really special and lifelong.”
He served as head coach 1999-2003, and his final season’s achievements included Tabor’s first-ever NAIA playoff berth, reaching No. 15 in the NAIA rankings and a Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach-of-the-Year award.
The team achieved new heights during McCarty’s tenure, but there wasn’t time to take it for granted, he said.
“It was such a grind to get going because it was such a tough program,” he said. “It required a lot of heavy lifting and we had to have so many breaks. This just had to fall into place, and we we’re fortunate it fell into place in our spot.”
After serving on his staff three years, Gardner picked up where McCarty left off. In his first season, Gardner led Tabor to its first conference title. He now has four KCAC Coach-of-the-Year awards, and three NAIA playoff wins.
“We were able to accomplish something,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t know about Tabor’s football program, outside a small circle.”
“It’s just nice to know the committee felt strongly enough to put me in now,” he said.
Former linebacker and alumnus Jake Schenk was tabbed as the third inductee. He arrived at Tabor in 2002, and spent time playing under each coach. Schenk was named Tabor’s defensive MVP three times, made the NAIA All-America First Team his senior, and was Tabor’s 2006 Male Athlete of the Year.
McCarty still keeps in touch with Schenk and other former players on Facebook, he said.
“What a special player he was,” McCarty said. “He was a small package of TNT.”
Schenk’s limited stature was an asset for Tabor because he flew under the recruitment radar of bigger programs, McCarty said.
“Had he been a little taller, we wouldn’t have been able to get him,” he said. “We saw through the size, and what it meant to him to be a player. He brought that enthusiasm and the fundamentals with him.”