Fonzie And Vance Slike, Pillars Of The Bobcats And Wildcats Football Programs Throughout The Years
Above image: Kevin “Fonzie” Slike and brother Vance Slike at Wildcats Equipment Trailer
Some folks, you just mention their first name or nickname and everyone knows who you are talking about. You mention Fonz, or Fonzie and everyone involved in football around Clarion County and much of District Nine and beyond knows exactly who you are talking about.
That nickname belongs to the diminutive (in physical stature only), 4’11” Kevin Slike, who is currently in his forty-eighth season on the sidelines of the Clarion Area Bobcats and now Central Clarion Wildcats as the Varsity football manager.
In fact, even the origin of Kevin Slike receiving the moniker, is a bit of local lore.
As a seventh grader in 1974, Kevin was the manager for the Bobcats’ Junior High team under Coach Ray Austin. Coach Austin moved up as Head Coach starting the next season,
1975, and asked Kevin to go with him.
And as the story goes, Kevin was fixing a helmet during a practice, for Bobcat player Frank Yoho. “I remember, I fixed a helmet, it was just a little screw out.” He put his screwdriver down. “I just went like this.” (Kevin showed two thumbs up, like Arthur Fonzarelli – the Fonz or Fonzie style from the TV Sitcom “Happy Days.”) “That’s how I got it.”
The two thumbs up and Kevin’s using the Fonzie catchphrase “Aaaay” must have impressed Tim. Kevin mentioned that Tim immediately said, “We better start calling him Fonzie.”
Kevin tried to keep the nickname under wraps, with members of the team knowing it (maybe only a few others) but to no avail. “I kept it a secret. Some of the kids knew it from shop class, but they couldn’t figure it out, the football players said ‘we’ll see you at practice Fonz.’ (The others asked), ‘What are they talking about?’ I said, ‘They don’t know what they’re talking about.’ ” “We played Karns City for the Little 12 and we had a pep rally and Ray announced it.”
I guess it caught on. Who could imagine that a helmet repair would lead to Kevin being lovingly referred to by football players, coaches and other members of the community as Fonz or Fonzie for nearly half-a-century running?
After interviewing Kevin and brother Vance who is also a major part of this story, for this article, I wanted to find out the height of Henry Winkler who played Fonzie, remembering that he isn’t very tall. And according to Celebs Revealed, Winkler is 5’5.”
I also found out from different online sources that “Fonzie” is an actual word with origins in Spanish and Italian, meaning “noble,” or “ready” and the Spanish connotation adds “ready for battle.”
In a way, that sums up the “Happy Days Fonzie.” The tough guy exterior masked a strong person who was always ready to help his friends, Richie, Potsie and Ralph, coming to their defense and being a moral compass to direct them when they were “at a fork in the road, “and being there when Jonie or ‘Shortcake’ as Fonzie called her, when she was down. Another person who fit that description was Howard Cunningham, Mr. “C.”
I guess you could say that kind of fits Clarion’s Fonzie and his brother Vance, who has been at Kevin’s side along the sidelines on Friday Nights in the fall for roughly twenty-two or twenty-three years, estimating that he started in 1999 or 2000. Vance has been kind of the guy in the background, as far as everybody recognizing him. But that’s fine with him. Sort of like Mr. “C.”
Fonzie has worked under five coaches, Ray Austin, Larry Wiser, Judd Allan and Dave Eggleton. Vance played for Austin and wrestled for Wiser and has worked under Wiser and Eggleton.
This brother duo has many official duties for the football team as well some that maybe aren’t in the job description, that they have taken on over their many years of service.
Some of the typical duties for Fonzie during the week, include washing the varsity practice jerseys, making sure water is there for players for practices, preparing the helmets, changing cleats on the field and setting tables and supplies up for water, tape, crutches etc. He also makes himself available at JV games in case a need for his services arises.
After the season, he is in charge of storage of equipment and uniforms after the season. He catalogs what is there.
Game Day has changed over the years for the Slikes,’ going from putting uniforms and equipment in the back few rows of the team bus, to the bed of the pickup truck, to the team trailer. For games at Clarion University, they make sure the kids are set up with uniforms and equipment and ready to go for the walk to Memorial Stadium. The truck is loaded with practice balls, towels extra equipment, helmets, shoulder pads, the trainers’ table and their necessities, tape, crutches and more. Vance said, “At C-L they have their own trainer and they set up. We take the practice balls and towels, extra equipment (shoulder pads, helmets (and so forth).”
Away games tend to be about three and a half to four hours long, including the drive both ways. Things have changed over the years from where uniforms, equipment and supplies were loaded in the back few rows of the bus, to being transported in the bed of Vance’s pickup, to being put in the trailer today, with the players help; with some items still being transported in the pickup bed. Vance and Kevin remind trainers about crutches etc., set the table up for the trainers, water, supplies etc, teardown, have the players load the trailer with uniforms and equipment for the return trip. With the trailer you have to wait till team showers and gets their uniforms and equipment into the trailer. So now, we get back when team does.”
When asked why they do it, Vance said, “It lets the coaches coach…”
“It lets the trainers do their job. We’d remind them, do we have this, do we have that?. We make sure the water is there, we make sure they have the tape and stuff, their bag is on the sideline, always double checking before we leave, making sure we have everything.
“We’ve been through seven trainers. Murt (Keith Murtha) is the longest. Then Steve (Seifert) is the (next) longest. He’s been here three years. “When we start with a new trainer, I always say, ‘This is the way we do it. If you have anything better for us to improve on, we’re open for it. None of them did. They were just happy for the help.
Fonzie and Vance mentioned that Fred and Kim Cherico would help Vance and Kevin load for away games. Fonzie said, “They were a great help.” Vance, “They were always asking ‘Can we help take anything to the truck, can we help load?’ They would help us take things to the truck. Once we got the trailer, help load the trailer. They were very helpful to us.”
There are other members of the Slike family who have helped over the years, Vance’s daughter Bailee, son Cameron and wife Tammy. Vance gave a special shout out to Tammy for being so understanding and supportive of his Friday night gig in the fall. Cam did it since he was a ball boy.
Bailee was a long term “Friday Night regular,” from first grade on, with a break during YMCA swimming years. Nephew Damien and other younger kids, many Junior High football players, helped as well. A number of helpers ended up playing on the varsity. Although Cameron no longer assists with football, he has been a volunteer wrestling coach for several years now.
But the underlying reason they do it. Vance said, “The kids… and you give back to the community.” Fonzie echoed that. “Vance is right. You give back to the community and the kids love us.
“I’ve been enjoying it. It’s just been fun being around everybody. Just giving back to the community. Just like Vance said, it’s fun having people come up to you and say, ‘you’re still coaching.’ Kids say, ‘you’re not going to quit are you?… Who’s going to fix our helmets.’ “
Vance shared, “A standing joke with Larry Wiser. People would ask, ‘When you giving it up?’ One night when Larry and his wife Annie were out to eat with another couple, someone asked and Annie said, ‘Whenever the Slike boys retire.’ We always told people when Larry retired, we were going to retire. Two years into Larry’s retirement, we’re still here. Kevin reneged on that promise to Larry.”
Among the duties the Slike brothers take on that aren’t in their job description are things like building a player up who is down, trying to keep positive and keep the player positive.
And who hasn’t seen Fonzie going quite a ways out on the field, a big smile on his face, giving players high fives, slaps on the back, after a score. And yes the Fonzie thumbs up and “Aaay” are still utilized after all these years.
Fonzie has never been shy to share words of encouragement with the players in the Thursday night meetings; more on that in Coach Wiser’s comments below. Vance has been known to share as well.
Oh, and they do like to have fun on Game Night.
Vance said, “And we have fun with the other teams. Moniteau’s coaches are great. You can joke with them about bribing the officials before the game. So they get little treats.
“The Karns City girls take our stuff down to the field. They have a cart. It’s a long distance down there, so we try to take care of them by giving them treats.
“That (always carrying a “truck load” of goodies with them) all started because Larry always wanted to be at the games two hours, three hours before. When we had to train little kids to help us, you had to have something to give them, because the concession stands weren’t open. So we started taking treats with us and the kids and the trainers eat them on the side line.
“Larry liked wintergreen LifeSavers and Fireballs. Davey likes wintergreen LifeSavers. Whenever he left and went out to C-L, I always made sure I walked over and gave him a handful, when he started coaching out there.
(Tongue-in-cheek) “You bribe the officials with them too… they know us. It’s just fun. All in fun. You know, they have a rough job, too. So ‘We might not like what you call against us, but here…’ Peace Offerings before the games.
“All-in-all, the schools, the coaches are friendly. You get to know a lot of people, a lot of their volunteers. It’s just a good time.”
Some of Fonzie and Vance’s colleagues shared their thoughts on this iconic duo:
Former Longtime Clarion Area And Central Clarion Coach Larry Wiser
The Slike Family has been part of the Clarion Football program for over 50 years. Kevin was a student manager in the seventies and Vance along with their recently deceased brother Rick were outstanding players at Clarion Area. Vance’s son was also All-Star player for Clarion and would later on join the family to support the TEAM.
Kevin (Fonz name given to him by his classmates in seventies) and Vance have been an integral part of the success of the Clarion Area Football Program. ( Now the Wildcats) Kevin is there everyday for practice to take care of the equipment needs of the players and sometimes the coaches.
(Under Coach Ray Austin) all the things that we had to do as assistant coaches, and I’m sure Ray as the head coach, just to get ready for a game… I can’t say how valuable it is that we were going to have the footballs there, we were going to have all the extra equipment, if the kids needed any. I was more worried about what my team was doing, what my opponents were practicing out there or getting across to a player, what they were to do during a game, not did a kid have a pair of socks, was a chinstrap broke. My assistant coaches didn’t have to worry about the water.
The athletic trainers, the Slike family picked up their equipment and made sure it was transported to the sidelines and taken back to the training room. They would unload the truck, so when we would come back from a game, the kids would have their equipment out there so they could just grab and go.
Beyond doing this job he (Fonzie) does a number of things that don’t necessarily fall into his job description.
Generally on Thursday night, we give everyone an opportunity to speak, every one of the coaches. And Kevin’s one to never give up on that opportunity to give a speech and remind players of the tradition of winning at Clarion over the years. He always gave a good historical perspective, going back into the seventies, when Ray was coaching.
Vance also gave a good pregame speech before one of our first ball games at Clarion. Those are things that I’m sure, beyond actually hearing or seeing it (people don’t know), both of them have done at practice. They’ve been a great help for the kids, to talk about what it’s like to be a part of a winning tradition.
Sometimes, I think it helps players who don’t understand some of the issues about getting into a game, when they get in a game. And they’ve helped out since the early years, quite a bit there.
During the week he provides positive feedback to players at practice, and sometimes unsolicited advice to coaches.
Most important he is there every day with a smile on his face.
(Fonz on the sidelines) Patting somebody on the back, or a kid may have been disgruntled because he wasn’t playing; Kevin would counsel him or Vance would counsel him. Those were things you couldn’t put a price tag on.
Game day the Slike brothers literally back up the team for away and home games. They take care of the sideline needs of players, athletic trainers, and coaches. This has allowed me and my staff to focus on the game. During the game Kevin will take care of hydrating players, repairing equipment, and providing positive feedback to players. Players coming off the field are greeted with a high five, hug, or fist bump from the Fonz.
Beyond Clarion Football, the Slike family is well known in the community for their contributions to their church, and many other groups.
Simply stated this a family I cherish and admire.
These guys are well known in this community, all the things that they do. I know Kevin was taking his dogs down to Water Run to visit people to cheer them up.
Kevin and I took a trip to a Steelers Game at Pittsburgh. I always keep telling Kevin that he’s the Mayor of Clarion; or he’s been the President of our organization, our manager or he’s my Boss. And here we were going to Pittsburgh and we stopped at a restaurant. The waitress comes up to us and immediately yells out ‘The Fonz!’ I never met the young lady before and she didn’t know me. But she obviously knew Kevin.
But we go to the game. And of course we get into the stands. You would have thought he was one of the players on the football field, with all the people that he attracted around us in our seating area. He was like one of the Jon Bon Jovi’s of Pittsburgh. It’s like whether we go to Williamsport to football camp or wherever, Kevin seems to have a following of people that love him. Obviously, I’m going to be one of his number one fans, beyond his family.
I’m probably missing some of the things around the community, but they (the Slike family) do so many things for so many different people.
When I wasn’t able to do some things because of health reasons, Vance and Cam came down and mowed my lawn. They were up on my roof (cleaning off leaves and cleaning my gutters and so forth), when I broke my back about twenty years ago. And you want to pay them and you can’t pay them.
I have a history with the family. It goes back to when their mom was working at the college cafeteria. That’s when I first became acquainted. The kids were in junior high, other than Rick (and Neva). She talked about Rick. She had so much pride in her son Rick, who was the star player when I was in school. We went down to watch a couple of high school games. He was their star player, obviously.
I knew their dad. But their mom (was something), she would throw some fruit my way… I’m assuming a lot of (their life of service) came from her and I don’t want to discount what John did. He did a heck of a job raising up a pretty neat family… both of them.
(Larry couldn’t remember Mrs. Slike’s first name, with good reason. He said he always called her Mrs. Slike out of respect.) Every college student knows what that’s like. They’re your mom away from home.
I’D PUT HIM UP FOR CITIZEN OF THE YEAR.
Keystone Head Coach Todd Smith (former Clarion-Limestone Head Coach and Clarion Area Assistant Coach)
In 2010 when I started coaching football at Clarion Area, one of the things that impressed me the the most, was the work of Vance and Fonz.
They were there to volunteer and provide whatever the team needed. Especially on game night Vance would get things loaded up and set up, you could always count on him. Of course Fonz was at every practice and a huge part of the team on daily basis. He and I would always pick on each other, absolutely one of the things I looked forward to.
Both men are genuine souls, and as loyal as you can find. Their efforts and sacrifices over the years are uncommon. I thank both Vance and Fonz for their friendship and support.
Clarion Area Superintendant Joe Carrico
There are so many components to a successful program and one of the most valuable are the people that support the students and coaching staff through selflessness and loyalty. Kevin and Vance are the definition of these two characteristics. They work tirelessly to support the kids and staff with the program.
We are very blessed to have these two as a part of our community, district and program!
Central Clarion Wildcats Head Coach Davey Eggleton
When I first came to Clarion as an assistant, before going to CL, I was blown away at the amount of work and support Kevin and Vance give the football program. I can assure you that most programs are not lucky enough to have guys like this. I am beyond blessed to have them both continue on with the program. They devote a countless amount of time to our football program.
Kevin is at every practice doing the behind the scenes work that makes everything go smoothly.
Vance’s help on game days is invaluable. He takes care of a lot so that the coaches can concentrate on the game.
I can’t express enough gratitude towards these men!
Former Longtime Clarion Area Bobcats Head Coach Ray Austin
As far as a young man managing, he did a fantastic job for us. Great! Anything we ever asked him to do, he was right there to do it.
And I can recall, there were times when we had a Saturday game, I usually showed up at the locker room about 9:30 and he was already at the door waiting on me. He devoted an awful lot of his time, at that time. And of course, he still does. That is the thing I remember the most about Fonzie when I was coaching there.
Boy, I’ll tell you what, he was an ideal manager. It took him a year or two to really get on to what his responsibilities were. But once he got them, he did a fantastic job.
Former Bobcat Head Coach and Assistant Coach Judd Allan
It was always obvious he loved helping out with the equipment and ANYTHING else that was needed. He found joy in serving however the team needed; always above and beyond.
Also when I think of the Fonz, I think of his kindness. He treats everyone with kindness; The players, the coaches, the parents, the bus drivers, the opposing teams.
Kevin takes so much pride in everything he does and does it well. I know he loves Clarion football and everything about it. Always thankful to have Kevin.
Vance was always a reliable driver and helper as well.
I think we were one of the first teams that I can remember that had an equipment trailer.
Very thankful to the countless hours he’s volunteered driving back and forth to games.
Central Clarion Wildcats and Clarion Area Athletic Trainer Steve Seifert
Working with Vance and Fonzie has been an absolute pleasure.
They consistently make it much easier for me to focus on the care I give to the athletes and know that I never have to worry about whether the gear is going to be where it needs to be, allowing me to do my job far more efficiently. Both of them are consistently looking to help on the sidelines any way they can and always have a smile on their face while doing it.
Fonzie is always a riot to talk to on the sideline during practices and to have him help with set up is a great help everyday. Then Vance, the half-time hero when you forgot to grab food before leaving for the game, and he leans in and says, “Hey, the Oreos are in the bag” along with other goodies, and your night is now saved from sideline hunger.
Without a shadow of a doubt, I can say having these two great guys to help the team and myself out for not just my time here but also all the years that came before I got here, these two have made every effort to help this team and have loved every minute of it.
These two are what a small home town hero is, and I’m glad to know them.
Clarion-Limestone Athletic Trainer Emily Lubas
This is my 7th school year at Clarion-Limestone as their Athletic Trainer and I have been working with Fonz and Vance since the Wildcat co-op started. They are such a great help on game day with the set up and tear down of the field, which allows Steve and I to focus on preparing and treating our athletes.
Longtime Team Doctor Robert Armstrong
Fonzie has been there for the kids all the time. He’s done it for a long time. I think he’s like an unrecognized hero to some of the kids. Especially for everything he’s been through himself. He is very nice to work with.
(As to Kevin and Vance helping Dr. Armstrong on the sidelines) Oh yea, definitely. They help whenever they can. It’s not like I do a whole lot with trainers (there) any more. Steve is very good with the kids. So we’re lucky we have Vance, Kevin and Steve.
Current Clarion Area Cross Country Head Coach and (Longtime Trainer Clarion Area and Clarion-Limestone), Athletic Director and Multiple Sports Coach Keith Murtha
When you need something done in Clarion, you ask the Slike brothers, many times, when the
Slike brothers travel with you on the road you just ask them there, as well!
When I first started at Clarion and with Clarion Football in 1999, Coach Wiser and I did pretty
much everything from equipment to water, to my athletic training supplies, whatever was needed
using his pickup and/or mine and it took a while.
We had a certain standard, Like Coach Eggelton said, you don’t see at small schools we wanted to achieve so it was worth it. A couple years in, an amazing thing happened, the Slike brothers, Kevin “the Fonz” and Vance showed up! Kevin was there daily, organized and took care of equipment and it was so helpful to
everyone, the coaches, players, and me!
On game day, Vance showed up with his pick up, what a game changer! They loaded and unloaded everything door to door, while I was taping, finishing treatments, it became a well oiled machine! Every year, I doubled their salary, double of nothing, still nothing!
The Fonz and Vance are jacks of all trades when players or coaches needed something they
had forgotten, a player forgot a piece of equipment, see Fonz, need a white board, marker, winter
green life saver, towel, helmet repair, check in equipment with the officials, ball boys see Fonz.
Need to fix equipment on the fly, move or transport something- see Vance. Through his small
business, Vance has every tool known to man in his truck and can repair anything on the spot.
Several examples, Once at a playoff game at Bradford on Thanksgiving weekend, Skeleton
crew because of the holiday, a snow storm came through during the game, we could see the
line, Vance pulls a couple shovels out of his truck. The brothers jump right in to assist
the game crew to clear the lines.
Once Film had to move to digital and hudl, we would load the
equipment take the coach with the film and be back to Clarion, have the film downloaded and
ready to send to the opponent and everything unloaded before the team arrived.
At a playoff game at DuBois, the camera wouldn’t operate, so the brothers ran over to Staples and bought
a battery and saved the day.
Finally, during a playoff game at Slippery Rock University during Thanksgiving week, we again had a heavy snow a few days earlier, skeleton crew, we shoveled the field and the brothers led a crew that shoveled the seats so the fans had somewhere to sit and cheer the Bobcats on!
Finally, if you need to know anything just ask Kevin. He will check in with his old ladies and get
back to you! Fonz always says, “OK guys the old ladies think we’re going to win this week” or “The old ladies don’t have much confidence in you against this team. Just what I heard around town.”
Two of the finest men I am proud to call friends in our community.
Thank you for your service guys!
I would like to thank those who shared there reminiscences on Fonzie and Vance, Wow!
How many lives has this brother duo had a positive impact on over the years?
I guess there is nothing left to say but “Aaaay! and two big thumbs up to the Slike brothers and the whole Slike family!!!!”