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All-State football: A hometown hero in Thomas

1942 All-State running back Kenneth Roof returned home as coach to help start the Thomas dynasty
by Ed Godfrey Published: December 18, 2012
/articleid/3738728/1/pictures/1910701">Photo - Kenneth Roof, 87, was an All-State running back at Thomas in 1942. <strong>Photo by Ed Godfrey, The Oklahoman</strong>
Kenneth Roof, 87, was an All-State running back at Thomas in 1942. Photo by Ed Godfrey, The Oklahoman

Like many of the boys who played for him, Roof grew up on a farm near Thomas, located 17 miles north of Weatherford.

Even while he was coaching in Thomas, Roof spent his summers working the wheat harvest.

“Farm boys always made good football players,” Roof said. “Why? Because they know what work was. Football is work, if you are going to play it right.”

Roof spent a year on the family farm after high school graduation before being drafted into military service.

He spent two years stationed in Texas, where he played for an unbeaten Army football team.

After leaving the military, he went to OSU and played for head coach Jim Lookabaugh. Roof averaged six yards a carry in his collegiate career.

After leaving OSU, Roof turned down an opportunity to try out for the Chicago Bears and returned to Thomas.

He took a job as an assistant for the coach he respected the most, Joe Ross, his high school coach at Thomas.

Together, they had a phenomenal coaching run in the 1950s, when the Terriers won five state titles,

“If Thomas had a Mount Rushmore, Mr. Ross and Mr. Roof would be on it,” Friesen said.

In his 18 years as an assistant coach at Thomas, several schools tried to lure Roof away from his hometown to be a head football coach. Roof was tempted but never left.

“I liked it here in Thomas too much,” he said. “It was a great place to raise a family.”

Roof was Ross' assistant on six state championship teams. After Ross retired, Roof became head coach and led the Terriers to the 1969 state title.

In Roof's 19 years as head coach at Thomas, the Terriers went unbeaten in the regular season six times and won the district championship each year. He finished with a career head coaching record at Thomas of 189-44-2.

Two of Roof's four children, Woody and Kim, followed him into the coaching profession. Woody Roof, an all-state quarterback at Thomas in 1966, later won five state football championships as head coach in Elk City, Weatherford and Watonga. He is now athletic director in Weatherford.

Roof's daughter, Kim, an all-state basketball player in 1974, led Altus to three state tournament appearances as head basketball coach. She is now living with and taking care of her elderly parents.

Roof entered the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1981.

He still lives in Thomas and attends all of the Terriers' home games. The Terriers' football field is named for Ross, while the track around the field bears his name.

Roof, who will celebrate his 88th birthday next month, is still a fiery competitor, but now his game is dominoes instead of football, playing at least twice a week at the local grain elevator.

“I'm not the worst. Maybe next to the worst,” Roof said of his domino game.

He hates to lose at dominoes, just like he did in football.

“If you are going to play, you better hate to lose,” he said.


by Ed Godfrey
Copy Editor, Outdoors Editor, Rodeo, River Sports Reporter
Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more...
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