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Former players pay tribute to coach Presnell

ASHLAND, Ky. - Roy Kidd coached Eastern Kentucky University for 39 years, placed sixth among the top coaches in history with 315 wins, won two national championships, had 25 straight winning seasons, and just this year was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

But instead of standing above the crowd that gathered Monday at the Ashland Plaza Hotel to celebrate Glenn Presnell's 98th birthday, Kidd appeared to be more of an awe struck youth in the presence of his favorite player.

In a way, he was.

"I've never had a man in my life treat me any nicer than coach Presnell," Kidd said. "He's the reason I came to Eastern."

Glenn Presnell's influence was never more evident than at his birthday party. Nearly 30 former players - many from the Tangerine Bowl team - attended the festivities and talked about what Presnell meant to them.

Kidd would never have become EKU's most famous graduate if not for Presnell.

He said it was Presnell who helped him become an All-America quarterback in 1953. It was Presnell who allowed him to get a fifth year scholarship in order to complete his degree. It was Presnell who helped get him started in coaching and gave him his philosophies and foundation for more than 40 years in the business.

"I was always a right halfback. I had never played quarterback. Coach taught me to play quarterback. He was good to me. He was very patient with me," Kidd said.

"Coach gave me my fifth year of full scholarship as a coach, and he actually let me coach. I learned that when I took over at Eastern, any player who didn't graduate,I was going to give him a fifth year. When I started coaching at Madison High School, I went to see coach every day. I knew nothing about defense. He always had time for me."

Stories like those of Roy Kidd were the norm for the evening. Carl White, who played and later coached at Ironton, had the opportunity to play for Presnell. In fact, being from Ironton connected White a little closer to Presnell than other players.

"About the third or fourth day I was at Eastern, I wanted to go home," White said. "The problem was, my ride between Richmond (Ky.) and Ironton was coach Presnell.

"I packed my clothes and a radio to go home, and coach asked me, 'Why are you taking your radio home?' I had to confess I was planning to go home. But he wouldn't let me. I owe a lot to coach Presnell."

And then Presnell directed his gratitude toward the players and the party organizer, Harold Kittrell.

"I've been around 98 years, and this is one of the nicest things that could happen to a person," Presnell said. "I enjoyed my coaching days at Eastern."

Kidd had one final word of gratitude for Presnell.

"I owe a lot to Coach. He made me a better person, he made me a better coach. I want you to know Coach (that) I love ya," Kidd said.

And Roy Kidd is definitely not alone.