Gentle giant passes

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 16, 2008

He was at the same time larger than life and down to earth.

Roy Bond passed away Saturday afternoon after a brief illness leaving family, friends, players and fans mourning a legend in North Carolina prep football.

A two-time state champion, Bond retired in 2003 after 12 years as Head Football Coach at Bertie High School. In the process, he became the school’s all-time winningest coach and earned five Coach of the Year awards.

“You couldn’t find a better person,” Bertie High School Athletic Director Marvin Rankins said. “He was like a mentor. When you say the word ‘coach,’ he was the definition of what one should be.

“I’ll always remember how he genuinely cared for the kids who played for him,” Rankins continued. “If there is one area I try to pattern myself after Coach Bond, it is the way he treated and cared for kids at Bertie High School.”

Bond used two different offensive schemes in winning state football titles for the Falcons in 1995 and 2000. Today many are remembering him as one of the great offensive minds of high school football.

“He was a motivator, icon and genius,” said Willie Roberson, who coached with Bond on the two state championship teams and eventually succeeded him as the skipper of Bertie’s football program. “He was a guru; just an offensive phenomenon.”

Current Bertie baseball coach Randy Whitaker echoed the same thoughts.

“He was one of the greatest offensive minds I’ve ever met,” Whitaker said. “He had an easy way of just getting players motivated to play.”

James Bell, who played for Bond during the 1995 state championship, called him a great man.

“He was a great man with great vision,” Bell said. “I was just glad to be a part of one of the greatest things he accomplished and that was bringing the first state championship to Bertie in football.

“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today,” Bell added.

Those who faced him from the other sideline were unanimous in calling Bond a man who prepared his teams well and always got the most out of the young men who donned the blue and white.

“His teams always played hard,” retired Hertford County High School Football Coach Daryl Allen said. “When Bertie and Hertford County played, you could throw the records out the door and his teams always played hard and had good sportsmanship. We had some good games. We won some and they won some.

“He was a good coach and did a good job with his kids,” Allen continued. “I always admired the way his teams played. You could count on them to play hard and play fair and that was a tribute to him.”

Northampton County High School n East Head Football Coach Greg Watford remembered starting his first head coaching job (at Southeast Halifax) the same year Bond took over at Bertie.

“We both started new head coaching jobs together in 1992,” Watford said. “We’ve competed and worked together ever since.

“Roy is a Hall of Fame guy,” Watford continued. “We’ve lost a great one.”

Watford said he had learned respect for Bond’s knowledge of the game over the years.

“You can find people with a Ph.D. without as much sense as Roy had, particularly when it comes to the game of football,” he said. “Roy had a gift of taking what can be a complicated game and making it simple for his kids.”

Former Northampton County High School n West and current Lawrence Academy coach Mike Dail has similar thoughts.

“He is probably one of the most intelligent football coaches I’ve ever known,” Dail said. “I talked with him two weeks ago, just sitting around talking football and it reminded me that he just flat out knew the game.

“He was a good person who was always willing to help,” Dail said. “I asked him a lot of things and he always helped. He bumped some things off me occasionally, but I don’t know that I was able to help him the same way.

“I’ll always remember that last time of talking football together,” Dail said. “He was a nice guy and a hell of a football coach.”

Bond began his coaching career in Martin County and it was then he met Norman Cherry, who would be instrumental in the success the coach had in Bertie County.

“I brought him to the county in the late 1980s when I was principal at C.G. White,” Cherry, now the chairman of the Bertie County Commissioners, said. “He and I coached against each other in Martin County and that is where I got to know what type of coach and man he was.”

Cherry offered Bond a job at C.G. White and he built a successful program at the middle school before being promoted, first to Ninth Grade Coordinator at Bertie, then junior varsity football coach and eventually varsity football coach.

The type of man Bond was became the key to his success, Cherry said.

“He was a man who said what he meant and meant what he said,” Cherry insisted. “He didn’t try to be what God did not make him. He knew what he was and that’s what he was.

“Roy Bond is going to be missed,” he continued. “He touched a lot of lives. If there’s a Hall of Fame for football in Heaven, he’s there.”

At Bertie, it was then Site Administrator G. Fisher Mitchell who made the decision to bring Bond back for a fourth season despite missing the playoffs the first three. It was that decision that allowed Bond to direct the Falcons to the 1995 state title.

“We lost a great coach who would do anything for his players,” Mitchell said. “Beyond being a great coach, he was a good person.

“Coach Bond studied coaching like a science,” he said. “He could see things most people couldn’t on the playing field.”

Mitchell said he had been able to speak to Bond several times since the coach retired.

“He enjoyed hunting, fishing and farming,” Mitchell said. “I’m glad he made the decision to walk away from coaching and had the opportunity to enjoy that.”

Bond is generally remembered as a quiet coach who yet had the complete respect and love of his players.

“I always thought he had such a steady hand on the sideline,” said News-Herald Senior Analyst Gattis Hodges. “He was a calming influence and a guy the players had confidence in.

“He was a quiet leader, but one who his players certainly recognized who was in charge,” he added. “It’s a shame more kids didn’t get to play for him because he coached the game the way it is supposed to be.”

Bond’s ability to coach the game and his success was important to Bertie County, according to Jack Williford, who was both Bertie County Manager and the Voice of the Falcons on the radio during the first state title run.

“He brought a lot of pride to the county,” Williford said. “At that time, I think Coach Bond brought the county together more so than ever before.

“He was also one of the best x and o coaches Bertie High School has ever had,” he continued. “He operated so calm and cool, particularly in close game situations. He was always a good representative of the school and the county.”

HCHS Athletic Director Charles Simmons also remembered Bond as a straight shooter.

“Coach Bond was straight forward, honest and to the point,” Simmons said. “I will never forget in the Big 8 Conference meeting when he stood up in front of everyone and said they were going to win the conference and the state too.

“He went out and backed it up,” Simmons said. “That was typical: whatever he said, he backed it up.”

In 12 seasons at the helm of the Bertie High School football program, Bond won 101 games against just 35 losses. He won six conference titles as a head coach.

In addition, Bond also served as Head Girl’s Basketball coach at Bertie and won one Sectional championship during his tenure. He also won the conference as boy’s tennis coach.