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In 2017, Bruce Scifres found a letter in his mailbox. It was from the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
"It said that I had been nominated to be inducted into the Hall of Fame," Scifres says.
Scifres, a football coach from Indianapolis, considered it to be a huge honor. But something began to bug him.
"In my heart, I just felt that they had kinda picked the wrong guy," he says.
He says he thought about that a lot. He even prayed about it. And it became clear what he should do.
Back in the early ’80s, Bob Tully was an assistant football coach at Roncalli High, a private Catholic school on the South side of Indianapolis. One day, he made his way to a coach’s meeting.
"I walked into the gymnasium, and I heard this laughing and giggling," Tully says.
It was coming from Bruce Scifres and another assistant named Ken LaRose.
"Throwing each other off of the top of the stage into the wrestling mats," Tully says. "And I made the big mistake of coming in and saying, ‘What in the world are you guys doing?’ "
That gave the roughhousing coaches an idea.
"I saw Bruce look down, and I saw Kenny look down," Tully says. "And the next thing I know, they’re jumping down. And they’re chasing me, catching me and taking me up and throwing me off of the stage into the mats. Throwing me around."
“Bob [Tully] is an amazing guy. ... And he was one of the best football coaches I’ve ever been around.”Bruce Scifres, former Roncalli High School football coach
Bob Tully is a pretty small guy. The guys tossing him around weren’t. They had played for Butler University. Scifres was a 6-foot, 200-pound running back.
"He was just an animal," Tully says. "If you ever saw him run the ball for Butler University, you’d know what I meant. He was just an animal. I still have teeth prints on my neck from where Bruce used to grab me and bite me and wrestle me and do those kinds of things ... I was just kidding you. But he did bite me a few times."
"I think I hadn’t had lunch that day — so I was hungry, I guess," Scifres says.
The roughhousing went on for years. But Scifres' and Tully's story goes beyond childish antics. In fact, the marks they’ve made on each other’s lives are deep and indelible.
Bob And Bruce
When Bob Tully was in high school, he wanted to be an Indiana state trooper.
"However, there was a height requirement," Tully says. "And I didn’t quite meet it."
The requirement was 5-foot-7. Bob’s 5-foot-5. But his stature didn’t prevent him from playing football. He earned four varsity letters as a running back and four more in other sports. He graduated high school in 1960.
Two years later, while still an undergrad at Indiana University, Tully was offered a job at a new high school in Indianapolis called Bishop Chartrand. He took it.
"I cleaned bathrooms, I taught a little bit and I helped coach all sports," Tully says.
But, as far as Tully was concerned, he had moved to Indy for just one reason.
"I coached football," he says. "That was the main reason that I came up."
Tully juggled his college studies with his new job. He lived on the top floor of the Bishop Chartrand building and made regular trips between Indianapolis and Bloomington.
"I loved the experience," he says. "My life was a daggone ball of joy at the time. I loved it."
Tully served as Chartrand’s assistant football coach until 1969, when the school merged with another to create Roncalli High. He was head coach there from 1970–1973, posting a modest record of 21–19. Many credit him with holding the football program together during the difficult merger.
Those were Tully's only four seasons as head coach. In 1974, he became Roncalli High’s Athletic Director. But he stuck with the football team as an assistant. A few years later, Bruce Scifres joined him on the coaching staff.
"Bob is an amazing guy," Scifres says. "He has a booming voice when he’s coaching. A huge personality. Just a great sense of humor. And he was one of the best football coaches I’ve ever been around."
But Scifres says Tully's personal interest in students is what distinguished him from most football coaches. He says Tully was always making the school rounds.
"To motivate kids and relate to kids," Scifres says. "Whether it’s in the classroom or in the cafeteria during lunchtime or Friday nights during games. So, just an awesome guy."
As assistants, Bob Tully and Bruce Scifres helped lead Roncalli High School to two state championships. Then, in 1990, Scifres was promoted to head coach. He leaned on Bob during his "rookie moments."
"I found myself, oftentimes, on Friday nights — you know, if it was a fourth-and-1 out at midfield or third-and-4 on the 11 yard line going in, whatever — just asking ‘Hey, Bob, what would you do here?’ " Scifres says. "And he’d give suggestions, and they almost always worked."
Call To The Hall
Bruce Scifres was Roncalli High’s head football coach for nearly three decades. He won seven state championships, nearly 250 games and was Coach of the Year 12 times. He retired from coaching in 2016, six years after Bob Tully did.
“Nobody has impacted Roncalli football the way Bob Tully has. ... I just felt like he was the true Hall of Famer.”Bruce Scifres
On paper, Scifres has the much gaudier resume. But he always attributes his success to what he learned from Tully.
So a couple years ago, when Scifres got that letter from the Indiana Football Hall of Fame, he thought about Tully.
"Nobody has impacted Roncalli football the way Bob Tully has," Bruce Scifres says. "With all that he had done for the school and thousands of kids and our coaches. Bob was the mentor for all of us. I just felt like he was the true Hall of Famer."
Scifres contacted the Indiana Football Hall of Fame and declared:
" ‘If it’s possible for the two of us to be inducted, then I can’t think of a greater honor than that,’ " Scifres remembers. " ‘But if only one could be nominated, I wanted to withdraw my name and nominate Bob and see what needed to be done to move forward with his nomination.’ "
Scifres waited anxiously for three weeks. Then the Hall responded.
"Bob and I both had been selected to be inducted into the Hall," Scifres says. "You know, this was the best. To be able to be inducted with Bob, I couldn’t have imagined anything being more meaningful than that."
Scifres told Tully the good news.
"I was at a loss for words," Tully says. "This was a dream of mine just to be nominated. To have somebody recognize that they thought I was worthy. To have him do that — I don’t have the words in my vocabulary to tell you what that means to me."
And on Aug. 30, 2018, the two were inducted, together, into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame. You have to wonder if, on that occasion, Scifres looked across the stage and, just for old time’s sake, thought about throwing Tully off of it.
This segment aired on March 2, 2019.
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