Thursday will be a special day for Mark Littrell.
The Leavenworth High football coach and his career will be immortalized that evening at halftime of the 2017 Papa John’s Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star Game when he is inducted to the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association (GKCFCA) Hall of Fame.
The game begins at 7 p.m. at Blue Springs South High School in KCMO.
Littrell has known about his indication for a few months, but the excitement and pride in the honor still resonates to the first day he heard the news.
“I was pretty overwhelmed with it because the amount of people who get inducted, it’s quite an elite group and to be mentioned in that group, it’s an honor for me,” Littrell said. “I was excited for that. To do this job, you don’t coach football and coach with the wins and losses and state championships, you don’t do it for that reason. You do it to help kids and to help them grow and develop and get them ready for real-life situations. Football is one of those sports where you get knocked down, you get back up. There is always adversity that happens in a football game or practice and how do you respond to it? Those are real-life situations and things that happen.
“That’s why I coach. The wins and the losses and playing for state championship games? Those are icing on the cake. My goal is to teach our kids that, but also become successful and I want them to be successful on the football field, the classroom and in society and the community.”
Littrell was nominated for the honor by Shawnee Mission West head coach Tim Callaghan, a longtime coaching rival and friend of a longstanding 30-year relationship.
Littrell has coached for 40 years, 15 as a head coach, including 10 years at Olathe South, where he accumulated a 71-33 record and made three trips to the 6A state title game with the Falcons.
“It would be hard for me to pick one memory,” Littrell said. “I think probably in 1999 when I took our Olathe South team to play for the state championship, that’s one. The other was winning the first district championship in school history at Leavenworth. Those are probably the two fondest memories I have.”
What is the one game that got away?
“Probably in 2000 when we were undefeated – and that time only one team in each district went to state – and our starters never played much in the second half – one series – all year,” Littrell said. “The Monday before we were to play Olathe North for the district championship, our starting quarterback came down with mono and a outside linebacker separated his shoulder. We were beaten by them and went on to win the state championship and beat people by 25, 30 points. We didn’t even make the playoffs.
“That game probably sticks out as the toughest loss.”
Between Olathe South and Leavenworth, Littrell spent five years in Texas, but longed to be back to Kansas.
“I wanted to be back in the area and a part of this school (Leavenworth),” Littrell said. “I am indebted to them for taking a chance on me to get up there and guide this program.”