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Tom Lutz: The true embodiment of a Charger

LINDEN - If you looked at the roster of nearly every North Montgomery football, boys basketball or baseball team over the last 30 years, there is probably one name on every sheet of paper, listed with the coaches.

Tom Lutz.

In his 30th year teaching (five years of math and 25 years of chemistry), Lutz is probably over 100 teams that he has been a part of, because in addition to three high school sports, there is a semi-career spent at Northridge Middle School, coaching and coaching and coaching.

Then there is his board-game prowess, as he is widely credited with teaching game strategy to three decades of student-athletes.

And, there is a lifetime of dedication to his faith, and to the countless hours he has put in with youth groups within his church.

“I’ve been blessed to work with so many great kids over the years, and had such great relationships,” Lutz noted. “One really fun thing about coaching at North so long is that I’ve gotten to coach with (and against) a lot of former players. There were a few years when I was coaching eighth grade football that out of the six coaches, four of them were former players.”

The fact that all those former players come back to help Coach Lutz is no surprise to any who have been associated with him over the years.

The fact that he is a lifelong teacher and coach is a bit of a surprise - to him anyway.

The son of a United Methodist minister, Lutz had moved a lot during his early life. “I even lived in Mexico while Dad was serving the Mexico United Methodist Church,” he said.

After graduating from North Miami High school, Lutz landed in Crawfordsville and at Wabash College.

“I was planning to do research chemistry,” he said. “All through high school, I said there were two things I would never be: a preacher or a teacher. There is some good irony there.”

Life at Wabash adjusted his outlook.

“I didn’t particularly enjoy the 3-4 hour labs, so I decided to go into teaching,” he noted. “My grandmother was a fourth-grade teacher, so I thought I would give it a try. I did my student teaching at North in the fall of 1991, graduated and got hired for a one-year math job, and 30 years later, here I still am. The first five years I taught math, and then the chemistry teacher left and I took over. I’ve taught every level of chemistry there is here at North.”

The teaching helped lead him to coaching, where Lutz has double and sometimes tripled down on teams.

“The first 14 years at North I coached three sports,” he said, “football, basketball and baseball. I started as a volunteer assistant while student-teaching, then was the freshman coach for several years. (Coach) Jake Gilbert asked me to move down to the eighth grade, which I did for 18 years, and now I have moved back to the varsity team as offensive coordinator.”

That’s just football.

His basketball coaching has been at the high school level, from the freshman and junior varsity level and for the last two years a varsity assistant.

“I’m in my 28th year of coaching basketball,” he said.

Oh wait, there is baseball too.

“I was with the junior varsity and freshmen teams for 14 years and another one as a varsity assistant,” he added.

That helping attitude has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

“Coach Lutz is a true professional and bleeds Orange and Blue,” current North Montgomery Athletic Director Matt Merica said. “Tom has impacted countless numbers of students and athletes in his 30 years at North Montgomery, and his commitment to Charger athletics is unmatched. He has served in many roles over the years and has always been willing to do what is best for our students.”

Lutz was part of the two Chargers state football championships under Charley German, who also used Lutz’s time and help when he as also the AD.

“Tom was an extraordinary help to me in my tenure as head football coach and Athletic Director,” German said. “Above all, Tom is an outstanding teacher of chemistry and the sciences,” he added. “He has always been highly regarded by the administration and the teaching staff as one who prioritizes learning first; he works hard to meet the needs of students in the classroom. He has been a role model to hundreds of students growing up in our county.”

“His well-established Christian values have guided his career as a coach; his priorities are faith and family first and the goals of the team second.”

That combination of faith and sports was easy for the minister’s son.

“As I think about 30 years teaching and being an assistant coach, I think the perfect examples and my ultimate mentors for that was my dad and mom (Phil and Malinda). Dad served as pastor for a lot of small churches and was such a great example of a humble servant leader. My parents instilled a strong faith in me, and I was fortunate to find my way to Liberty Chapel early in my career at North where Allen Sparks was the pastor. I helped Allen and Diane with the youth group there, and for years we combined with Waynetown Christian and Bob Cox. They were all examples of incredible servant leaders. The honest truth is that teaching and coaching is not easy, but thanks to my faith and the support of my Liberty Chapel church family, I’ve been able to get through.”

Sparks, now retired, remembered Lutz from all the work with the youth groups.

“On our last middle school mission trip, Tom observed that he, my wife Diane and I must have had the highest average age of any middle school church leaders in any church in the United States,” Sparks said. “That willingness to serve is a normal example of Tom’s life. He has led Liberty Chapel as an elder, played guitar in our worship band for years, and worked with the youth of our community, who know his door is open before classes in the Morning. There is his faculty sponsorship of FCA, his playing strategy games with students and grads, and his flexibility to fit into an existing need. He is a special gift.”

That time away from practice and games stood out for German.

“Tom and Jon Sparks served as quality mentors outside of the classroom,” he said. “It was well-known that Tom and Jon were lovers of board games, and they dedicated countless hours on free weekends teaching gaming strategy to any interested students. I can’t think of a student athlete in the North system who does not think highly of Tom Lutz. As a retired teacher and coach, a chance encounter with a former student or athlete always includes a question about him. He is clearly a man of character, and we are fortunate to have had him all these years as a leader of young people.”

It’s clear that three decades of teaching and coaching have impacted Tom Lutz, and his impact is as widely felt.

“I guess what has kept me interested for so long is partly the chance to still be involved in sports,” he said, “and partly the challenge of competition. Mostly, though, it has been the kids I have been able to work with over the years and the relationships you build with them through coaching. I was incredibly luck to start coaching football under Charley German, and have been fortunate to coach football under him, Jake (Gilbert) and Josh Thompson. It’s really something that in 30 years, there have been only three football coaches, and only three ADs (Chuck Kriston, German and Merica). There have been nine basketball coaches, but they have all been great to work with. Joel Grindle and I shared a love of hiking and mountains, which made a strong enough connection that he and his wife asked my to be their youngest daughter’s godfather.”

A guy that has filled so many roles for 30 years.

Teacher, coach, co-worker, friend, confidant, mentor - the list goes on.

Tom Lutz - making an impact at every turn.

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