His parents were Kolb's sternest coaches

Posted: September 08, 2010

Fourth in the

season-preview series

STEPHENVILLE, Texas - It was 1:30 a.m., and 17-year-old Kevin Kolb crept in from the cool November night, into the modest one-floor home his parents rented here.

Except for the hum of skeeters and critters coming from the acres of land that surrounded the rancher, it was silent. But as Kolb neared the living room, he heard the television and his mother crying.

She was seated next to Kolb's father, and they were re-watching the football game their son had played only hours earlier. Stephenville lost at powerhouse Burleson, 17-13, and a Kolb-led drive to win had stalled at the 1-yard line as time expired.

"I threw for like 300 yards," Kolb said. "I knew I could play better in the clutch, but as a young kid you put those kinds of stats up and you feel OK about it."

But Roy and Lanell Kolb did not. Kevin was accustomed to his father's high standards, especially when he played under him in junior high. But three years prior, Roy Kolb, with some prodding from Lanell, had decided to hand his son over to the professionals and to ease off the pedal.

But on this night, Roy hit the gas.

"My daddy already had the game film in there and my mom was crying and I'm going, 'Uh-oh,' " Kolb said. "And my Pops, he watched the whole game film and he just chewed me out. . . . He chewed me to smithereens."

Kevin looked to his mother - normally Switzerland in this family - for some sign of support, but all he got was parental unity.

"My mom took his side on everything," Kolb said. "And his last word before he went to bed was, 'You're not going to play college ball if you play like this again.' I was like, 'Wow.' I don't think I slept that entire night."

For just a football game, the Kolbs' treatment of their son may have seemed harsh. Kevin, in retrospect, doesn't see it that way. For the now-26-year old, on the eve of his first season steering the Eagles at quarterback, it was a necessary lesson that illustrated how his coaching father bred him to lead.

"That's a pivotal age where you can take a couple of different roads," Kolb said. "I got some friends that are hooked on drugs. I got some friends that quit sports. He just kept my focus on the game, kept me out of a lot of other things and put down the foundation for me being the leader I needed to be."

All eyes on you

For every Kolb success story, there are thousands of cautionary tales about fathers pushing sons too hard in sports. It's even worse for the son if the father is a coach or his coach.

Roy Kolb had been coaching pretty much ever since he left Stephen F. Austin, where he played college basketball. He coached basketball and football primarily but kept his growing son away from football until the seventh grade for fear he would "get beat up and hurt while my growing plates were stretched," according to Kevin.

So Kolb played basketball and baseball and traveled the countryside playing in showcases.

"I got pushed real hard as a kid in baseball because my dad never thought I was going to be 6-foot-3," Kolb said. "He thought I was going to be 5-10, 5-11 and a shortstop or third baseman. He pushed me hard in baseball during the summers, and I just got burnt out."

It was around this time that Roy finally relented and let Kevin, who had already been throwing in front of large crowds during halftime of his father's games, play for him at Decatur Junior High.

"That was tough," Kolb said. "My dad preached hard to me about 'Coach's son, don't make a mistake, because all eyes are always on you.' And if I did [make mistakes], he reamed me out about it."

Roy Kolb, in previous stories, has spoken openly about how strict he was with his children - Kevin and older sister Amy.

Requests to interview the Kolbs for this story were denied, however. Depending upon who's telling it, Kolb didn't want his parents to talk now that he's the Eagles' starting quarterback; Eagles coach Andy Reid didn't want a repeat of what happened whenever Donovan McNabb's parents spoke through the media; or the Kolbs simply preferred to stay in the background.

As hard as Roy was on Kevin, some parents felt he favored his quarterback son. So looking to get out of Decatur and coaching his son, Roy accepted a lesser junior varsity job at nearby Stephenville, where his son was to play under local legend Art Briles.

While Briles, and eventually Mike Copeland, guided Kevin on the field and in the film room, his father continued to drill in the thought that "all eyes were on him" - in football-obsessed Stephenville, in the locker room and in the huddle.

"His daddy was all about leadership," said Copeland, who still helps out with the Yellow Jackets. "He was hard on him. But Kevin admired him so, and you could tell how much he always wanted to please him."

The lectures started in middle school on the ride home from games. If another player made a mistake, it would be brought up in the car. Sometimes Roy Kolb would talk about his own mistakes, like the time he got caught with beer in the back of his truck when he was 18.

"He'd talk to me all the way home about drinking and driving and you're not going to do that when you get older," Kolb said. "And it always led back to being a leader and those guys looking at me and deciding whether they want to follow me."

A lot of pressure

Aside from his two starts last season, Kolb hasn't done much leading with the Eagles yet. Sure, he's helped set the course through the off-season and preseason. But the real tests will come in the season, in the game, in the fourth quarter and in that last-minute drive.

"In my situation right now, if I'm out there barking at people, they're going, 'Well, Kevin's never done that before,' " Kolb said. "They're not going to respond to that. I think right now the guys want to see an example from me."

Kolb's predecessor, Donovan McNabb, led in other ways - some derided by the media and fans.

"Donovan was the type of guy that kind of eased you with his laughter. Some guys liked that. Some guys didn't," said Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver, one of the few players to publicly criticize the off-season trade of McNabb to Washington. "Kevin is more of the serious look, 'Let's get this done.' And some guys like that. Some guys don't. I think it's just personal preference."

At the quarterback position, especially in Philadelphia, captaining the team is one thing. But there's also the added burden of a bloodthirsty media and championship-starved fans. It can be daunting. Those who know Kolb from Stephenville say he's prepared.

"I know he's got a lot in Philadelphia now, and there's a lot more with money and politics and yada, yada, yada," said Mike Christian, a longtime friend. "But there was a lot of that going on here, I tell you right now. It's a different kind of level, but it's still there. He felt pressure to win - a lot of pressure."

Kolb felt it in college, too. Randy Clements, Kolb's offensive coordinator at Houston, recalled when the Cougars lost to Division I-AA Louisiana-Lafayette, and as he and his quarterback ran off the field a fan threw a beer that hit Kolb in the face.

"I looked at Kevin and he said, 'Shoot, I would have thrown a keg of beer at us, too,' " Clements said.

It's that thick skin, coach Andy Reid said, that partially led the Eagles to draft Kolb and eventually name him the starter. Reid was recently asked how long of a grace period he expected Eagles fans to give Kolb before the booing started. Two games? One game?

"That's part of playing in Philadelphia," Reid said. "It fluctuates even during the game."

After Stephenville lost to Burleson in Kolb's junior year, locals say the quarterback took his share of criticism. The Yellow Jackets were about to end their second straight season without a state title, after winning four of the previous seven, and the town was getting anxious.

When Kolb stayed up all night, after his father's scolding, he realized his parents weren't necessarily upset about the losing. They were disappointed in how he led in those final moments.

In the season opener the next year, Kolb guided Stephenville past Jacksonville with a game-winning, fourth-quarter drive in which he completed six of seven passes. The next week, the Yellow Jackets stung Burleson, 31-10.

Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane.

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