Fellow MLHS Alums:
Following are the remarks made by Eric Waxman commemorating the retirement of Doug Wilkins as Principal of MLHS. As you all know, Mr. Waxman was Principal of MLHS for MANY years, is a distinguished scholar and historian, and also did so very much to serve our community so well. I know most of you were not there for Doug’s retirement and know love runs deep for him, so thought it appropriate to share Eric’s thoughts with this group. May God rest Coach’s soul. -Fred Simmons (’73)
It is indeed a privilege and an honor to be here this evening to pay tribute to one of the greatest and most inspiring high school football coaches of all time, Douglas C. Wilkins, whom many consider to be a direct spiritual descendent of another New Jersey high school football coach of the 1940s. This earlier coach worked his wonders at a small high school in Ramsey, New Jersey. You may have heard of him, Vincent Joseph Lombardi. Coach Wilkins and Coach Lombardi are similar in many ways, not just in winning many championships but the great and long-lasting impact each had on the players they coached. I can just hear one of the 500 plus athletes who were part of the fearsome HERD during the past forty-three years saying, “Every high school football player in the State of New Jersey should have the opportunity of playing under Coach Wilkins for just one week,” as Bart Starr had said of Lombardi. Coach Wilkins’s great stress on weight training, physical conditioning and stamina building showed his belief in Lombardi’s saying, “Fatigue doth make cowards of us all.”
This may come as a shock to you, but there was a time in the history of the world when the HERD did not exist. Historians of Mountain Lakes football have divided its football chapter into two distinct parts, BTH and ATH; BEFORE THE HERD and AFTER THE HERD. Before the coming of the HERD, Mountain Lakes football was somewhat antiquated, ah, but it was unique, being the only high school football team in New Jersey still using the single-wing offensive formation. With the coming of the thunderous HERD in 1967, ah, yes I remember it well, Mt. Lakes’ football fortunes soared upwards. For the first time in the history of Mountain Lakes football, came victory over then arch-rival Glen Ridge, a resounding defeat of Ridgefield, 75-7, and with a record of 7-1-1, the HERD was crowned Co-Champions of the old North Jersey Conference. The 1967 team made such a tremendous impact on high school football it was described as the HERD shot round the world. Apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson.
While our focus this evening is on Doug Wilkins’s incomparable career and life as a football coach, we would be remiss if we did not pay proper attention to his career as Principal of Mountain Lakes High School. I understand the New Jersey State Legislature had to enact a special bill to enable Doug Wilkins to become Principal while continuing to serve as Head Varsity Coach of the Mountain Lakes High School football team. Many feel this was the most significant piece of legislation passed by the New Jersey Legislature in recent times. It was on his watch as Principal while continuing to coach the HERD that Mountain Lakes High School was named the NUMBER ONE HIGH SCHOOL IN THE ENTIRE STATE OF NEW JERSEY.
So, there you have it, Doug Wilkins leading Mountain Lakes High School to the top of the world of education while continuing to coach the HERD. Like Alexander the Great, Doug Wilkins had no worlds left to conquer. Ever mindful of the depth of feeling we all have for Coach Wilkins and for the countless ways he has touched our lives, I think the following quote captures some of the qualities of this remarkable man:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strongman stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dirt and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the very best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt
I would like to conclude my tribute to Coach Wilkins by paraphrasing Henry Adams, “A coach affects eternity, he can never tell where his influence stops.” Here’s to you Coach Wilkins.