Go hard until someone tells you you're going too hard, and then that's hard enough. Senior Augustana College offensive lineman Kelly Clennon has heard the phrase countless times from his position coach, Tom Schmulbach.
"Every day," Clennon said. "Just to make sure everyone is going 100 percent."
Schmulbach isn't all talk. The motto has been on display this week as he prepares for his final game at Augustana. Schmulbach, who has been with the Augie football program for 30 years in a variety of roles, will retire from coaching after Saturday's season finale at Illinois Wesleyan.
Emphasis on after.
"That's what retirement is all about, isn't it? A time to reflect on things?" said the 64-year-old Schmulbach. "Until retirement, I'm gonna spend my time getting ready for this game on Saturday."
Indeed, Schmulbach still is going hard. But after the season, when Schmulbach may be ready to truly reflect on the good times from his coaching career, he might need to clear his calendar. It's going to take awhile.
The longtime Augustana assistant, who had the unenviable task of replacing the legendary Bob Reade as head coach in 1995, had his hand in 221 wins, 15 conference titles and four national championships with the Vikings.
"It was a pretty amazing time," Schmulbach said. "And to be lucky enough to be part of it was something I'll always be thankful for."
Schmulbach's tenure as head coach was cut short when he was diagnosed with cancer just before the 1999 season. He compiled a 34-13 record in five seasons, including two CCIW championships, before stepping down. He returned to the program in 2002 as an assistant and has coached the offensive line the past four seasons.
"I just thought it was the right time (to retire)," said Schmulbach, who looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Jan, and their two grandchildren. "I still feel really good. And if there's anything else I'm gonna get involved in, I want to be able to do it well."
Schmulbach started his coaching career in 1971 as an assistant under Reade at Geneseo High School. He then served as head coach at Rockridge for three seasons before rejoining Reade at Augustana in 1982, just ahead of the school's four-year run of national championships. Schmulbach started as the backfield coach before moving up to offensive coordinator and associate head coach. He also worked as defensive coordinator for a season before another former Geneseo coach, Larry Johnsen, took over the role.
"That was the nice thing about an assistant like him," Reade said of Schmulbach. "He just liked to do it and the (job) titles didn't mean anything to him. It was just the fact that we wanted to get the job done. And he was a very integral part of getting that job done."
Schmulbach was a standout defensive end in college at Western Illinois, where he played alongside his best friend, Mike Brewers.
"Ever since I met Tom I knew he was going to be a coach. I just thought he was born to do that," said Brewers, who joined the Augustana staff in 2004. "He was just so involved with football and so good with people, it was just a great match."
Brewers said Schmulbach has a gift when it comes to connecting with people. Vic Boblett could see it, too.
The retiring Rock Island football coach was a senior at Geneseo when Schmulbach started at the school as a freshman assistant coach. The two later coached together at Augustana during the championship run from 1983 to 1986.
"People knew that he cared about them," Boblett said. "He made people feel special."
Schmulbach's passion for the game hasn't waned through the years. If the Vikings offensive linemen aren't careful, Schmulbach might even outsprint them to the next practice drill.
"It's like, man, how old is he? Beating us to these drills," Clennon said. "Every day is an adventure out there with him. He gets so excited once he steps on that field. He's pretty calm and collected in the office and he's easy to relate to, and then when he gets on the field you can tell how much he loves the sport. He just lights up."
Augustana head coach Rob Cushman said he can find another offensive line coach. But he won't be able to replace Schmulbach.
"There's really few (like him) in all my years I've come across," Cushman said. "His passion and his tremendous interaction with people, both staff and players, just incredible people skills. Pretty darned good football coach, too. We're gonna miss him in a lot of ways."