When a retirement celebration was held recently for Apex High School football coach Bob Wolfe, plenty of wonderful accolades were directed his way.
Yet, very little of that high praise actually focused on football.
Even though Wolfe will step aside as the most successful coach in the program’s history with 118 wins, 11 straight winning seasons, multiple conference titles and state playoff victories, all of that seemed secondary when compared to his off-the-field success.
As a litany of former players, assistant coaches and educators spoke about Wolfe they passed over football and talked instead about the veteran coach’s impeccable character, deep spirituality and unquestionable integrity.
Former longtime Cary athletic director Guy Mendenhall recalled how he hired Wolfe as an assistant while employed as head basketball coach at Enloe High.
He called it one of his best decisions in decades of working in education.
“I can’t say how much (influence) he had on the jayvee players,” said Mendenhall. “They had their heads squared on straight. Bob held Bible study with the kids and he helped them with their math classes. You have been so fortunate to have a person like this at Apex.
“I never had a son or a grandson. But if I ever did have a son, I wanted him to be just like Bob Wolfe.”
Wolfe’s former high school coach, Gerald Whisenhunt, hired him as an assistant at two different high schools and was most thankful for his choice.
“I’ve never known a coach who did so much for his players,” said Whisenhunt. “I don’t know who will coach at Apex the next 100 years but they will not be a better person or care more for his players than Coach Wolfe.”
Numerous former players and assistant coaches praised Wolfe during a tribute video that was shown during the event held at Peak United Methodist Church.
Former Apex High Athletic Director Ed Tindal said he was looking for a “man of character” when he hired Wolfe 18 years ago. He said the coach had done a great job representing the town and school.
“He will always be a part of Apex history,” said Tindal.
Former Apex principal Tom Dixon said he enjoyed working with Wolfe for more than a decade.
“You had a class program and you are a class person,” said Dixon. “Your legacy will be much more than just winning games. It will be the influence you had on people at Apex High.”
Former Apex standout Jared Brogden said that Wolfe had been a “father figure” to him during his time in the program.
“You were always willing to put others before yourself,” said Brogden. “You are leaving a huge hole to fill. I’m not sure if they can (fill it) with a man of your integrity.”
Cheryl Pollard, who organized the event, noted that Wolfe was a very spiritual person who made the football program a family.
“I know his mother would be proud and is still watching him,” said Pollard.
Current Apex principal Matt Wight wrapped up the video by pointing out that Wolfe will be remembered for much more than football.
“One constant has been the respect players have for you and the respect you have for the players and parents,” said Wight. “Integrity is your hallmark and it has never been questioned. That is the epitome of a true great high school coach.”
Wolfe said he was grateful for his many years in coaching and believed that his time at Apex was part of God’s plan.
“It was the right place at the right time with the right people,” said Wolfe.
He said it was always his goal to make sure the program was something the community and school could be proud of. He thanked his coaches and players for their hard work and commitment en route to turning a losing program into a consistent winner.
“You have to surround yourself with really great people and then let them do their work,” said Wolfe. “They worked tirelessly.”
Wolfe said he was most proud of the family atmosphere that was instilled at Apex.
“You have been my family, more so than you’ll ever know,” said Wolfe. “I appreciate all the kind things you have said. I hope I’m deserving of them.”