Jim Gottfried is one of the real good guys.
The local doctor was honored prior to Friday's kickoff of the Norwalk-Willard football game at Whitney Field. For the last 30 years during the football season, Gottfried has spent almost every Friday night on Norwalk's sidelines.
He said, simply, it hasbeen the right thing to do.
"My feeling is sports has given me so many benefits and advantages over the years ... we owe that to the students," Gottfried said. "I think we all need to do that. I am in a position I can do that on the football field ... I think we need to pay forward. There are others who can do it with the boosters clubs and in academics."
I came to Norwalk in June of 1979 and started covering the Truckers football team that fall. It's no secret the team has struggled over the last 30 years. I have been blamed more than once for the losing seasons, but Gottfried beat me to the punch by a year.
Maybe it's all his fault.
"I hate to take the credit for that," Gottfried said with a laugh. "But I have witnessed some lean times."
He was quick to point out, however, that high school sports are a lot more than just winning and losing.
"There have been a great bunch of young men who have come through that program," he said.
There's one thing I can say for a certainty about Gottfried: he is, without a doubt, the most optimistic Trucker fan there is. You could tell him the Truckers were playing the Cleveland Browns and he still would be confident about a Norwalk victory.
"The way Cleveland has been playing, sure," he said with another laugh.
"If you're not optimistic, why play?" he said. "That's with anything. Your job. Dealing with other people. If you are pessimistic, why do it?"
Gottfried and his wife, Patti, have three children who graduated from NHS Heather, 33, Matt, 30, and Mike, 26. Matt and Mike played football, while Heather played in the band and was a Truckerette. His children also played in the orchestra.
"It's important to be involved in as much as you can," he said.
Gottfried, a 1968 graduate of Upper Sandusky High School and a 1972 graduate of Capital University in Columbus, is no stranger to the gridiron. He played football in high school and then in college. The 1970 Capital team was honored Saturday for its Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl victory.
The Stagg Bowl decides the Div. III national football champion each season. From 1969 to 72, NCAA Division III football played two regional championships, but no national final.
The West championship game (Stagg Bowl) was played in Columbus as Capital topped Luther 34-21. The East game (Knute Rockne Bowl) that year saw Montclair State top Hampden-Sydney 7-6 in Atlantic City, N.J.
"That was a great experience," Gottfried said about Saturday's reunion. "But it still wasn't the best thing about college. I still have to think meeting my wife and marrying her was the best thing that ever happened to me. And she doesn't like football."
The two met while they were students at Capital.
Patti has had to share her husband over the years on Friday nights, but he hasn't had to do it alone. His sidekick the last 20 years has been the Rev. Fred Wiechers of St. Peter Lutheran Church. While Gottfried heals the sick, Wiechers takes care of the soul.
It's been a great run for Gottfried and, like he says, well worth the time and effort.
"We owe it to give back," he said. "That's the main thing."