Billy Tighe retired in November after 61 years as a high school football coach, the last 36 as head coach at Lexington High, but the legendary mentor may not be quite ready to leave the sideline.
Tighe was honored last night by the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association with its Distinguished Service Award.
“It’s the pinnacle of my head coaching career, but also the finale and very special,’’ the 86-year-old Tighe said of the award. “They also made me honorary Grand Marshal of the Patriots Day Parade in Lexington, complete with the tri-cornered hat.’’
The American Football Coaches Association, based in Waco, Texas, believes Tighe to be the oldest high school coach in the nation at the time of his retirement.
However, Tighe said he’s received inquiries from five programs about joining their coaching staffs next fall, and he said he is seriously considering the offers.
A three-sport standout at Ashland High School (class of 1942), Tighe began coaching in 1949 as an assistant at Wakefield High, the same year he graduated from Boston University.
At BU, where he is enshrined in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, he was quarterback and safety on the football team and a baseball captain. He was converted from infield to pitcher and responded by throwing a no-hitter against Fort Devens in his first start, and winning 13 consecutive games.
Tighe played football, baseball, and basketball at Ashland High for the same coach, Harold “Grump’’ Walker.
“Walker was a great baseball player at the University of Illinois and although he had a hearing problem, he could read lips. He was an innovative, brilliant man, just like my football coach at BU, Buff Donelli, who used to have all his quarterbacks watch the pro football team in town then, the Boston Yanks, and then compare our scouting report to his,’’ said Tighe.
“I knew after the influences of people like Grump Walker and Buff Donelli that I wanted to be a coach. It’s been a good fit.
“I’ve always said that the best kids I’ve coached have been all of the kids I’ve coached,’’ said Tighe, a past president of the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association and a member of its Hall of Fame.