On March 17, 1973, at the retirement celebration for Bill Wilkins, then Shelby Mayor Raymond Wilkinson summed up what Mr. Wilkins had meant to Shelby and Shelby Schools: “Football and Bill Wilkins are synonymous in Shelby. Perhaps the best way to express our feelings for Coach Wilkins is to say that Bill Wilkins means to Shelby what Woody Hayes means to Ohio State. The very great influence he had on hundreds of boys, who have enjoyed playing under his guidance, will not be lost in passing years but will be alive when the present generation of young football players are attending banquets with their sons.”
After graduating from Mansfield Madison High School in 1939, Mr. Wilkins earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Akron, where he played end in football, and his master’s from Ohio State University.
He arrived at SHS in 1946 as a civics and health teacher and assistant football coach.
In 1948, he was named head football coach. His coaching record: 155 wins, 53 losses and 12 ties. His Whippet teams won 12 Northern Ohio League titles, had six undefeated seasons and an undefeated streak of 35 games spanning 1966-69. In 1967, Mr. Wilkins was named Ohio High School Coach of the Year. He also was elected to the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame.
Observes an alumnus, “One of Mr. Wilkins’ great strengths as a coach was his ability to teach. He was outstanding at teaching the fundamentals of the game, and he knew how to balance seriousness of intent with levity. On Mondays during the season, his teams often played spirited games of touch football-with Coach Wilkins very much a player.”
Says another alum, “Coach Wilkins took even more pride in his players who went on to higher education and became doctors, teachers, businessmen, lawyers and good husbands and fathers, than he did in football victories.”
Mr. Wilkins passed away in 1997. He left behind his wife Bertha Mae, also a 1939 Madison High School graduate, his sons Bill ’60 and Tom ’65 and his daughter Ann Wilkins ’72.
Nominator: Bill Van Horn ’60 who lives in Shelby, Ohio.