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Published October 06 2011

Well-respected 80-year-old coordinator is the man behind the Barnesville machine

Barnesville, Minn. - Barnesville High School football player Colby Braton might have the homecoming crown, but on Facebook he let everyone know who the real king is.

There’s a photo on his Facebook page that he took during homecoming with Barnesville assistant coach Andy McCarty. It reads: “Me with the greatest man I know.”

And this man is 80 years old.

“Our kids just have so much respect for Andy and the man he is,” said Barnesville head coach Bryan Strand.

Around this area, there are plenty of people that would probably take a number in that line.

At 80, McCarty is still molding minds and building young men on the football field. He’s doing it as Barnesville’s offensive coordinator, a position he’s held for six seasons.

And he’s not doing a bad job as the

5-0 Trojans are averaging more than 49 points a game.

“I don’t do anything like play golf, but I have a big yard that takes me six hours to cut,” McCarty said. “I like staying active and I like football.”

Liking football might be putting it mildly. He’s either been a head coach or an assistant for 40 years – pretty much half his life.

McCarty once went to a coaching clinic where he sat at a table and talked with Vince Lombardi.

“He just knew how to win,” McCarty recalled. “He could make a rock walk.”

His career has seen him be inducted into multiple halls of fame, including the Minnesota State Coaches Football Hall of Fame and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

McCarty even joked that what he’s done isn’t that impressive when compared to others in his family.

“My sister is in the Skiing Hall of Fame,” he said. “And she didn’t start until she was in her 40s. She’s in her 90s now, so she stopped.”

McCarty has been a head coach in Minnesota at Redwood Falls, Parkers Prairie and Park Rapids. His final job was at Menagha where he hired a young assistant coach.

It just happened to be Strand.

“I don’t know if he even got paid when I hired him,” said McCarty, who drives nearly 70 miles from his Park Rapids home to attend practices. “Now, it’s the other way around. He’s not paying me anything.”

Strand, whose father is also in the state’s coaches hall of fame, met McCarty many years ago. It was that friendship that prompted McCarty to take a chance on the younger Strand.

Then as it turned out, McCarty’s daughter actually took a chance on Strand too.

“We were on our way to a game and he was talking about hunting,” Strand said. “Then he said, ‘By the way, my daughter thinks you’re cute,’ and then went back to talking about hunting. I didn’t know what to do.”

Strand, obviously, got it together and married McCarty’s daughter. They have two sons, and both of them just happen to be on the football team.

And as fate would have it Strand’s oldest son, Robbie, is the starting quarterback.

“I don’t think there’s a smarter person that knows football like him,” Robbie Strand said about his grandfather. “He just knows so much about the game.”

McCarty has done just about everything a coach could do – except win a state title.

He had that chance with the Trojans last season, with the team going undefeated until it lost in the Class A state title game.

“You know,” Strand said with pauses every few words. “That was something we talked about before the game. We talked to the kids about doing it for Andy.”

Barnesville fell short, but so far it is looking like it could be another good year. The Trojans return six starters on offense and have a four-man rotation at running back.

Last year’s team scored points. But this year’s group is different. It’s put up 50 or more in its last three games.

And they’re doing it after moving up to Class 2A.

“This year we were worried because we were moving into a harder class,” McCarty said. “So far, it has worked out to where we have more talent than the teams we’ve played.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com