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Former FHS coach Clabo dies
Friends recall Clabo’s ‘joy of working with young people while ’building FHS into 1960s powerhouse


Head football coach at Farragut High School for 16 seasons, Robert William (Bill) Clabo’s success was rooted in the joy of working with young people and motivating them to succeed.

That’s according to a number of former coaches and players who interacted closely with Clabo, who was also a teacher of 30-plus years.

Clabo, 73, died Monday, Nov. 14, at Parkwest Medical Center after battling what a close family friend said was heart-related complications.

The close friend added that Clabo had fallen ill just a few weeks after the FHS football stadium was named in his honor during a pre-game ceremony Friday, Sept 2.

Lendon Welch, a successful track and field coach at FHS who was Farragut’s only assistant football coach when Clabo took over in 1961, said the former skipper “was just like a brother to me. It’s hard to express how you feel about somebody you’ve worked with all those years and you learn to love just like a brother.”

By Clabo’s side last Saturday and Sunday, “He’ll be missed,” Welch said. “He was a good coach and a good Christian man, well-loved by a lot of people.”

Clabo built Farragut into a regional power by the mid-1960s, winning 88 games at FHS from 1961 to 1976 that included two county titles.

“He was the best that I’ve worked with as far as being a coach and preparing the kids,” Welch said. “A good moral leader for ’em, they played for him. He was real good at making adjustments during a game, at halftime, and motivating the kids.

“I never heard a kid say a bad thing about him,” Welch said.

Richard Hobbs, a halfback on Clabo’s unbeaten county championship team of 1963 who is a development manager for Horne Properties, Inc., said Clabo “was such a good motivator, he loved the kids. He was in it for the kids, to help them and make them better people. We all were better for the privilege we had to play for him.”

For example, “somebody would ask him to stay over for supper, and he’d say ‘no, I can’t, I’ve got to get home, I’ve got two kids I’ve gotta call, I’m concerned about them and I’ve got to make sure they’re O-K,” Hobbs said.

“Just that kind of man, and he did that all his life. He’ll be greatly missed.”

Current FHS head football coach Eddie Courtney was a young assistant coach who remembers Clabo after being hired onto the staff of then Farragut head coach Ken Sparks in 1977.

“Coach Clabo, the biggest thing I remember about him, first of all, was he offered himself the first two years we were there, just whatever he could do to stay around the program,” Courtney said. “I was just impressed how a guy like that was willing to stay around and help the new coaches coming in, anything he could do.”

Saying he got to know Clabo well over the years, Courtney said he was also impressed by “the influence he had with his players, he was always a helping person to anybody that needed help in any way.

“Education, teaching and coaching, is what he always wanted to do in his life, and helping young people,” Courtney added. “I believe the way he lived his life was a great example of that.”

Marty Oglesby, a wide receiver under Clabo in 1972 and ‘73, said the former FHS skipper “was a kind man, a gentle man to be a football coach. He had such a positive influence on so many people.”

Clabo survived his late wife, Peggy Jane. In addition to grandchildren Tate, Bo and Peyton Sams, Clabo is survived by a daughter, Jill Sams, and a son, Neil Clabo, a former All-state FHS player under his father’s coaching who punted for the University of Tennessee and in the NFL.

 

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