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Tough Guy Tragedy


After retiring from Medicine Hat College in Alberta where I served as a recruiter, career counselor, instructor & registrar for twenty-eight years, I moved to the USA with my American wife to renew my much earlier life as an English teacher and coach. In order to promote harmony and to stop student violence, I discussed the following stories with my Arizona students.

One of the most successful football teams in California history had a star player on both offense and defense, T.K. Kelly. He was a tackling machine as a middle linebacker and a fast and powerful running back. He received a full-ride scholarship to Oregon. Many coaches said he was better than other local players, at the same age, who later became NFL starters.

Shortly before leaving for college, Kelly attended a send-off party. At the party a jealous punk called him out with insults. His friends told him to ignore the insults. Unfortunately, the insults got worse so Kelly, the football star, stepped outside and beat the crap out of the insulter. The insulter went home, got a gun, came back, then shot and killed Kelly. A book was written and a movie (When the Game Stands Tall) was made about this tragic tale.


After telling my classes this story, I required that all students sign a no-taunting pledge. I also gave the students an opportunity to write down what they would do to help make our classroom a happy, safe and positive place.

I was very forceful on this topic due to a sad incident that happened while teaching grade 10’s. A very troubled young man had already been suspended once for fighting during lunch. I met his Mom during “Meet the Teacher Night.” She was a single parent and a sweet lady who was trying her best but found him to be a very difficult challenge.

A little later, this troubled student was taunting and making fun of another student in my class for being too fat. The overweight student was very upset and on the verge of tears when his friend told the troubled bully to stop or else. It was getting loud enough for me to notice so I was able to get between them before any punches were thrown. Both students were temporarily removed from our learning community.

When they returned, we had a class discussion about what each of us could do to prevent this happening again. I told them about a tiny Filipina girl in my California class who held on to the arm of her boyfriend with both hands so he could not go after a guy who had pushed and insulted him. Then I gave them an assignment to write about what they would do to keep our classroom a safe, happy, and positive place.

The troubled bully didn’t get it and said he wasn’t taking “no crap” from anyone. This was on a Friday and all the next week the bully did not show up for class. When I asked why, there was a strange and mysterious silence. Finally, I got the rest of the story from one of my soccer girls.

Apparently, the bully challenged the guy, who stood up for his friend, to a fight in the desert. The bully picked the wrong guy to call out because the bully got beaten up so badly they had to call an ambulance for him. The bully was so embarrassed that he left the school and never showed his face again.

This was a very sad story that I determined would never happen in my class again, and it didn’t.


By: Jim McFetridge

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