LeGrand adept at reverse psychology [UPDATED]Published 9:30am Tuesday, September 11, 2012 Updated 11:33am Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Fifty years ago in the fall of 1962, Fergus Falls Otter freshman football coach Oats LeGrand smiled in celebration as his team departed Wahpeton after completing an unbeaten season. On the way back to Fergus Falls on the team bus, LeGrand offered some words of advice.
“You guys have your high school careers ahead of you, and there will be some bumps along the road,” said LeGrand.
The coach was wise enough to know, and predict, that some of us would find ourselves at underage drinking parties in future years.
“If you don’t remember anything else I say today, remember this,” said LeGrand. “When you find yourself in trouble, call your parents anytime, day or night. I guarantee they will come and get you. They love you and will want to help you.”
Those words, a half century ago, stood out more than LeGrand’s review of the undefeated freshman football season that included six consecutive victories. His words hit home with some of us to not get into trouble in the first place. Oats knew his words were reverse psychology.
LeGrand’s funeral was held in Valley City, N.D., on Sept. 1. Among his former junior high football players and physical education students in attendance were Dan Larson, Dave Balfour, Pat Osterberg, Pat Sagerhorn and others.
Having a role in the funeral was Osterberg, who sang in honor of LeGrand.
For several years, Osterberg called Oats and sang Happy Birthday to his former mentor.
“The outpouring of sympathy following the passing of Oats is evidence of his effect on so many lives,” said David Stock, a 1966 FFHS graduate and member of the 1962 Otter football team. “Oats’ discipline was mixed with love and affection. He had a positive effect on shaping our character. It’s good that the school system honors this great individual in the Kennedy School Walk of Fame.”
Sending condolences from California was Danny Loomer, a member of LeGrand’s 1960 VFW baseball state title team. Loomer, who played minor league baseball for the California Angels and St. Louis Cardinals, said that Oats was the best coach he ever had.
There were 42 members on that freshman squad 50 years ago. For many players like me, who didn’t play football at the senior high level, it was an opportunity to participate at the junior high level and learn some valuable lessons from Oats.
Highlights of 1962 included a 13-12 Otter freshman team win over Fargo Shanley, alma mater of Roger Maris, a 7-0 victory over Detroit Lakes and two wins over the Wahpeton Indian School (now Circle of Nations School). Later that same school year, LeGrand coached 46 ninth-grade basketball players, divided into three teams.
Five years later, in 1967, the junior high on Cavour Avenue burned, leading to construction of the Fergus Falls Middle School at the site of the old fairgrounds on Friberg Avenue.
After the fire, LeGrand was able to retrieve some valuable mementoes at the lower level boys gymnasium, water soaked on the east side of the complex.
One of the items retrieved was LeGrand’s famous Board of Education, later displayed in 2011 during the FFHS all-school reunion.
One of a kind and legend have been mentioned a lot in recent days. Oats, with that twinkle in his eye, would no doubt be extremely grateful.
Tom Hintgen is a Fergus Falls resident.