Rod Kirby was the driving force behind football in Lloydminster—but he would never take the credit for himself.
Instead, the spotlight would shine on a player or coach, or the collective group that helped either win a football game or put on a football event.
His hours spent making sure football thrived in Lloydminster are uncountable, as Kirby at one point or another, wore the hat of every football team in the Lloydminster Minor Football Association (LMFA), an association he was the president of since Dec. 2009.
On Friday, at age 48, Kirby passed away, leaving behind a legacy in football that will be a difficult challenge to fill.
“Rod was humble, he took credit for nothing,” said Vince Orieux, head coach of the Holy Rosary Raiders football team and an executive member with LMFA.
“He always put the credit on someone else. He always let someone else shine, whether it was a kid or a coach. Everyone knew Rod was behind it, but he would never take credit for the success.”
Kirby started with LMFA back in 2006 with Cal Harper and become the association’s president where he would be instrumental in the development of not just the players in Lloydminster, but the program as a whole.
It was Kirby who made the phone calls for Lloydminster Minor Football Day, and the one at the field who was setting up early in the morning. But he was also the one, no matter what day of the week, who would be at the field watching any game that was on, be it high school, bantam or peewee, as well as coaching the midget Red Dogs.
He simply loved the game of football and had a passion to see the players succeed. Regardless of which team he coached, Kirby took no sides when it came to football and always gave congratulations and offered support, no matter what the scoreboard said.
LMFA has plenty of people working to ensure football continues to grow in Lloydminster, but at the head of that group was the leadership and love of the game from Kirby.
“It takes a lot of people to make the thing work, but it takes one person to direct it and steer it in the direction it needs to go,” said Orieux. “He had a large supporting cast, but the impact he had at all levels of football from peewee up to high school, we wouldn’t be in the same place we are today if it wasn’t for Rod.”
Last month, Kirby coached the Lloydminster Red Dogs to their second Capital District Minor Football Association midget Tier 1 championship, finishing the season undefeated while also bringing midget football back to Lloydminster for the first time in five seasons with a home game. With the Raiders as their offensive line coach last season, he was also part of the program that won its second straight Wheatland Football League title.
To Kirby, it didn’t matter what team he was on the sidelines with, it was simply about offering kids in Lloydminster a chance to play football. And if that meant taking hours out of his day to make phone calls, take in registration, or just be at the field watching a game, Kirby would do it without hesitation.
“Rod has taken the ball and ran with it,” said Darren Pawsey, an LMFA executive who coached with Kirby—and against him—plenty of times over the past decade.
“It’s not about all on field stuff. Him being president of LMFA was critical because he was able to see what needs to happen in the overall organizational part of it; the money end of it, the equipment end of it, the fees, or tier committees. That’s not the on field product but it is all part of it. And he’s been at the forefront of that every since I’ve known him.
“He’ll assign jobs to our LMFA executive and they’ll phone to do those jobs and Rod has already contacted whomever to have it done.”
Orieux and Pawsey describe Kirby as a great friend with an even better sense of humour, capable of talking about any subject matter, from politics to sports. But get him started on football, you were in for a long talk.
“He knew once the game was over, the game was over and you’re buddies and that means more than what was happening on the football field,” said Pawsey.
The amount of championships Kirby helped bring to Lloydminster, or the amount of games won, pales in comparison to the legacy he leaves behind in football.
Without Kirby, Lloydminster players wouldn’t have had the many levels of football they have today and many wouldn’t be suiting up for universities or junior teams after they leave high school.
But throughout it all, Kirby remained humble and out of the spotlight. He let the kids shine and gave them a platform in which to showcase their athletic talents.
“He was always present, whether it was Saturday afternoon, when he has no kids involved, he is at a bantam game—or Sunday afternoon, when he could be at home relaxing, he’s at the football field watching peewees,” Orieux said. “Whether it was just for the pure enjoyment of the sport, it was also to let the coaches know he had their backs, but most importantly to let the kids know he cared.”
“It was a care and compassion for the sport and a care and compassion about the future of minor football, he just lived and breathed it.”