A fixture in the history classroom, and locally famous for patrolling the sidelines in those sweatpants and riding his bike all over town, Steve Kohler’s influence on students and football players for nearly four decades can hardly be measured.
Steve was born in Laurium, Michigan, and raised in Merrill. He graduated from Merrill High School in 1971, then moved on to UW-Stevens Point, earning his degree in 1976.
Kohler taught history at Antigo High School for 34 years, and continued to substitute for three years after his retirement in 2013. Many Red Robin alumni have fond memories of that classroom.
Arguably, Kohler had an even bigger influence on the sidelines of Schofield Stadium, where he roamed for 38 years, continuing to volunteer coach at the middle school level to this day.
All those years and so many memories, Kohler shared that many of those memories are not snapshots, but the consistent rhythm of the game and the effort of the players.
“Watching our kids come off the field completely exhausted after giving everything they had during the game,” he said. “Seeing the respect toward our team by opposing players and fans when the Red Robins took the field at the beginning of a game.”
Now, that tradition carries on, as Kohler is deeply proud of his sons coaching the Robins, Alex for 20 years and Ted four years, both working this year with the seventh- and eighth-grade gridders.
The third generation is well underway. Ty Kohler is a sophomore varsity player, A.J. is a member of the seventh-grade team, and 4-year-old Paul takes the flag football field.
Alex Kohler is likewise proud of his father and the impression he has left on so many Antigo students.
“It seems that wherever he goes, he runs into someone who had their life impacted by him whether it was on the field or in the classroom,” Alex Kohler said. “I’ve never witnessed another coach or teacher who is able to get the most of each individual player or student. It’s amazing to see how much, even now, our players love it when he comes to practice to help out. He’s truly one of the treasures of our community.”
Kohler also has a son-in-law, Judd Eastman, coaching in Neenah, along with two more grandsons playing in Neenah, 5-year-old Emzy and 4-year-old Cal.
When asked to sum up his career, Steve keeps it simple.
“Football is a family affair.”
Fun Facts about Kohler:
Coolest thing that ever happened to me: I considered it an honor to coach with some of the great coaches. Gordy Schofield, the best coach in Wisconsin high school history, as well as Dale Peterson, Bob Anderson, Ron Dillahunt, and Jerry Schunke, all tremendous coaches in their own right.
Your first car: Ford Galaxy 500 nicknamed “Black Magic.”
What item always finds its way into your cart at the grocery store?: Oatmeal raisin cookies.
Greatest food in history of mankind: Mom’s hotdish.
Favorite childhood toy: Everything sports-related.
Favorite song: Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven.’
Favorite TV shows: “Frasier,” “The Bob Newhart Show” and “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Favorite movies: “Hoosiers,” “Gladiator,” “Major League” and “Rudy.”
Favorite book: The Vince Lombardi biography ‘When Pride Still Mattered’
You can invite any five people in history to dinner, who’s on the guest list? JFK, Vince Lombardi, Muhammed Ali, Alexander the Great and Leonardo da Vinci.