Hoffman remembered fondly

Published 3:36 pm Thursday, January 21, 2016

Edwardsburg fans of a certain generation may only know Leo B. Hoffman by name.

Leo Hoffman

Leo Hoffman

After all, it adorns the Eddies’ football stadium.

But those who remember Hoffman, who died Jan. 13 at the age of 88, know him as a no-nonsense educator and coach.

Hoffman wore many hats during his tenure with the Edwardsburg Public Schools, including football, basketball, track and baseball coach. He was even an assistant on the girls volleyball team when it captured the school’s only state championship in 1977.

Hoffman would go on to serve the district as a history and physical education teacher, athletic director, assistant high school principal and assistant to the superintendent until his retirement in 1988.

He even taught driver’s education.

Hoffman was born in Elkhart, Indiana in 1927. He graduated from Elkhart High School in 1946 and graduated from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois with a bachelor’s degree.

After teaching in Illinois for four years, Hoffman took his first position in Edwardsburg in 1955. He taught until 1969 before moving into administration.

Hoffman retired from coaching in 1969. At the time of his retirement, he was the “winningest coach” in southwest Michigan.

Former Brandywine coach Jim Myer was a student and played for Hoffman at Edwardsburg.

“I can tell you a story about when he resigned,” Myer said. “When he resigned, the reason he resigned was he didn’t get along with the administration because he wanted the kids cut their hair shorter. That was back in the long-hair days. He pretty much resigned because he couldn’t do that. So he said he wasn’t going to coach any more. I told you he had some standards that he set.”

Myer said that Hoffman was a tough coach who expected plenty from his players.

“With Leo you learned how to work hard and you knew you better do your job,” he said. “If you didn’t do your job somebody was going to take your place.

“He was a no-nonsense kind of guy, but he did have a sense of humor. I equated him at the time with Tom Landry. He looked pretty stoic and tough on the sidelines. He was an excellent teacher. He always prepared us very well. Back then we didn’t have videos or films to watch. We just had scouting reports that were hand written. I know when I played for him, I pretty much knew what the other team was going to run.”

Myers played for Hoffman from 1962 through 1965.

Edwardsburg honored Hoffman in 1998 by naming its football field after him.

Superintendent Sherman Ostrander offered up the idea to the school board.

“We perpetuate pride, passion, purpose and excellence,” he said. “We have those banners throughout our district and I thought to myself that Leo exemplified all of those. As I heard (at his funeral) more and more of his athletes and colleagues talk about him, he had a tremendous amount of pride for the district. Athletics, of course, were a huge part of his life. He was passionate about what he did. I heard that over and over again as people reminisced. He had a real sense of purpose and impacted the lives of the young people he coached and dealt with.”

He was inducted into the district’s Hall of Fame in 2008.

“Obviously he was a legendary figure in Edwardsburg Public School history,” Edwardsburg Athletic Director Kevin Dean said. “I had the pleasure of talking with him on few occasions. We were also honored to have him come out to football games during my time here. I also heard some stories about his coaching style and I would definitely say it was ‘old school.’ His legacy will carry on every time the Eddies take the field on Friday nights.”