Special to the Enterprise
Kenny Roark, an all-state lineman at Middlesboro in the mid-1970s, a standout player at Kentucky and a state championship football coach, died at the UK Medical Center Thursday night.
Roark coached at Clay County last fall.
“He was a wonderful fellow,” Clay County athletic director Robert Nicholson said Friday morning. “The staff here just loved him. It’s just heart-breaking. I think he was only 54.”
Nicholson said Roark had “a long fight with health problems” that became more serious during the winter.
“He was such a positive role model for our kids. Not only X’s and O’s and strategy and teaching, but just a good person,” Nicholson said.
Kenny Roark was synonymous with Middlesboro football for a long time. He was a star lineman on the Jackets’ Class 2A state runners-up in 1974 and ‘75 before going on to play center at Kentucky. He earned All-SEC honors in 1980.
He later coached Middlesboro for 17 years and led it to a Class A title in 1998. His son Chase, then 5 years old, was on the sidelines for that championship game.
Roark was the Jackets’ coach for Chase’s freshman and sophomore years in high school, but he got out of coaching the next season. Still a teacher at Middlesboro, though, he was able to watch his son every Friday night during the 2010 season.
Roark missed coaching so much he decided to get back in it at Clay County last year. Chase could have transferred and played for his dad, but he chose to stay at Middlesboro.
“He loves his buddies and wanted to play with them their senior year,” Roark said last fall. “I understood that.”