Longtime Hannibal coach Mark St. Clair was inducted into the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Mark St. Clair begins to explain how humbled he was by his induction into the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, which became official Friday night with a special banquet at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach.
Finding the words that do his emotions justice proves difficult, but like many times before, St. Clair is up for the challenge.
He pulls out a tale that involves a turtle sitting on a fence post.
“Well, I know that turtle had help getting up there, but I'm not exactly sure how,” St. Clair said, reflecting on his rise to the most successful football coach in Hannibal High School history. “There are a lot of people that helped me get to this point. A lot of coaches, a lot of players, my wife and kids, there are a lot of people who deserve credit.”
Just one glance at St. Clair's resume indicates he has the credentials to join Trenton's Wes Croy and Webb City's John Roderique as one of three inductees in this year's MFCA Hall of Fame class.
St. Clair has compiled more wins than any other Hannibal coach with a career mark of 176-64. Under his watch, the Pirates have finished with a winning record in 20 campaigns while outscoring opponents 7,753-4,457. His 21 seasons leading the team, eight more than any other Pirates head coach, have produced 21 first-team all-state selections and a run to the 2006 state championship.
Even with all the on-field success, St. Clair views the personal growth of his players throughout the years as what's ultimately significant.
“You focus on winning early on in your career, but after a while, as I told them down there during the speech, when I quit worrying about winning is when we started winning big time,” St. Clair said. “We started enjoying the process of going through the things that needed to be done to be successful. The fact is the same principles that have made us successful in football apply to life.”
The longtime coach mentioned these principles are what he hopes players remember from their time in his program.
“Winning doesn't have to do with athletic skill, speed, size or strength, it has to do with those very things we talk about everyday: doing the right thing, being committed, making good decisions, being dedicated, being prompt,” he said. “I tell the kids every year that I want them to have an experience where they come back in five, 10, 15, 20 years or more and still want to talk about their experience of playing football.”
Many coaches and players who have helped St. Clair build Hannibal into an annual contender were in attendance at the banquet Friday night.
But the person St. Clair calls the most instrumental in his career was his late wife MaryAnn.
“That would have been her cup of tea, the whole process, this Hall of Fame thing,” the coach said. “Not only does she deserve a lot of the credit for me being inducted and doing what it takes to get there, but she was a big part of the process.”
Hearing from the other two inductees during the banquet reaffirmed to St. Clair why he has poured his life into coaching.
“We're in a good position to have a positive effect on kids,” he said of coaches across the state. “We all know that, but we get reminded from time to time. It was a great night to realize again why we do what we do, to take young boys and make men out of them.”
St. Clair announced his retirement last winter before reversing course just over a week later.
“After a little bit of soul-searching and self-analysis, I have changed my mind and had a change of heart and realized that here at Hannibal High School is where I need to be,” St. Clair said at the time.
St. Clair said Monday afternoon he has not made up his mind about returning for the 2018 season.
“I have not made that decision,” he said. “Right now I'm doing offseason coaching and preparation like I'm going to be back. But even if I wasn't going to be back, I'd still be doing that preparation because that's the stuff the kids need to do to be successful. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure they're ready to go whether it's me or somebody else.”