Claremore Daily Progress

Breaking News


March 20, 2013

‘Quite a Legacy’

Vardeman’s life, career influenced through Mobra

CLAREMORE — “Once a Zebra, always a Zebra.”

Though he didn’t play football for the Claremore Zebras, the late Frank Mobra never missed a game and loved ‘bleeding red and white’.

On March 8, the legendary coach and former Claremore High School athletic director passed away at the age of 88.

“He touched many people’s lives, including mine,” said State Farm Agent Robert Vardeman, who played for Frank Mobra at Stilwell and later coached with the legend at Talihina and Claremore. “I lost my dad when I was 8 years old, and Frank became the father figure that I needed in my life.”

Vardeman and close friend and longtime Claremore assistant coach John Smith sat down with the Claremore Daily Progress and reflected on the legacy that spanned over the past 45 years.

Mobra was a man of Character...

Mobra was a man of Integrity...

Mobra was a man that did things the right way, whether coaching, teaching or raising a family...

And, most of all, Mobra was a man that put Family first and coaching second.

“I had a special relationship with Frank, in that I could always read his mind,” Vardeman said.

Vardeman became acquainted with Frank as a teenager playing junior high football and later on at the varsity level in Stilwell, Okla.

Mobra, who was the head football coach at Stilwell from 1957-1964, took Vardeman under his wings and taught him that dreams come true through hard work, dedication and ‘heart’.

“Frank coached 3 of my brothers before me, and by the time, my turn came around (as a sophomore), I wasn’t worth shooting,” Vardeman said. “My junior year, I wasn’t any better. My senior year, we start off 0-5, and Coach Mobra says, ‘Robert, we got to do something.’”

So, a switch to the single-wing meant more production for Vardeman, and eventually wins for Stilwell.

“Coach Mobra asked me if I would play fullback in the single wing,” Vardeman said. “Coach, I’ll do whatever.”

The transition paid off as Vardeman started finding the end zone more and more and Stilwell started getting recognition around the state.

Vardeman added that his success led to scholarship opportunities from Oklahoma, Tulsa, Oklahoma State and Arkansas.

Knowing that Coach Mobra played for the University of Arkansas, it only seemed fitting that Vardeman would follow in his coach’s footsteps to Fayetteville.

Vardeman, however, took a different route and chose the Oklahoma Sooners.

“Frank never persuaded me toward Arkansas,” Vardeman said. “I do, however, remember asking him for a favor during my freshman year of spring drills. ... I returned to Stilwell and said ‘Coach, this guy at OU (Bob Ward) is running players off. I’m afraid he’s going to run me off too. Do you think you can call Arkansas and see if Frank Broyles will give me a chance? ... Coach Mobra’s response to me was ‘Robert, get back to Norman and work your tail off. You’re not a quitter.’ ... On Sunday, the Muskogee Phoenix had in the headlines that Bud Wilkinson had fired Bob Ward.  I knew then, I could play for OU.”

After a playing career at OU, Vardeman took on an assistant coaching role with Mobra at Talihina and then eventually at Claremore.

“Frank’s second year at Talihina (1966), we won the Class B state championship,” Vardeman said.

Following a four-year stint at Talihina, the Mobra legacy took shape in Claremore.

“Back then, the only thing you did on Friday nights was go to the game,” Vardeman said. “Frank had 105 kids out for football, and the games were exciting. The people really got into it.”

Coach Mobra prided himself into the Zebra athletic program, added Smith.

As the Zebras head coach, Mobra went 53-40-2 and led Claremore to the state playoffs in 1969, 1970 and 1972.

“He was one of those coach’s that let his assistants coach, but in the end, he had the final decision,” Vardeman said. “Also, Frank knew his x’s and o’s. He didn’t have to spend hours watching a lot of film to figure out how to beat a team.”

The thing that Vardeman and Smith both enjoyed about Mobra was his ability to put family first.

“The hardest thing in the world is coaching your own kid,” Vardeman said on Frank coaching his son, Mike at Talihina. “You have to coach your own like anyone else. You can’t show favoritism.”

The legacy of Frank Mobra long lives on in Claremore with the bearing of his name on the ‘Field House’ adjacent to the high school.

“Frank was All-Zebra,” Smith said. “It didn’t make any difference where he was. He loved Claremore High School.”


Text Only
  • DSC_0237web.jpg Hrdlicka, Teter pour ‘heart’ into Zebra soccer program

    For the past four years, Claremore High School seniors Katelin Teter and Nick Hrdlicka have represented the ‘heart and soul’ of the Lady Zebra and Zebra soccer programs.
    The soccer duo will join seven other seniors on Friday night for Homecoming against Collinsville at Lantow Field.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • DSC_0014web.jpg 9 straight for Lady Zebras

    Claremore sophomore forward Bailey Steckline got the ‘hat-trick’ plus one Tuesday night in the Lady Zebras’ 10-0 win over Tulsa Memorial at  LaFortune Stadium.
    Steckline tallied two goals in the first half, and added two more in the second to complete her impressive night.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0156web.jpg Tulsa Memorial holds off Zebras, 2-1

    Tulsa Memorial scored a pair of first-half goals  to steal the momentum away from the Claremore Zebras, as well as the 2-1 win Tuesday night in Metro Lakes Conference action at LaFortune Stadium.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0015web.jpg BASEBALL: Whatley, Howe power Zebras past Tahlequah

    Claremore’s Matt Whatley has proven over the past four years that he’s one of the toughest outs in the Metro Lakes Conference.
    On Tuesday, Whatley went 3-for-4 with two singles and a triple while sparking the Zebras to a 12-2 win over Tahlequah in five innings at American Legion Park.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • BASEBALL: Dewey takes pair from Sequoyah

    It’s very difficult to win when you can’t score.
    Class 4A third-ranked Dewey blanked homestanding Sequoyah 7-0 and 2-0 in a district doubleheader on Tuesday, improving to 21-3 with a dominating two-hit pitching performance in the opener and a four-hitter in the nightcap.

    April 18, 2014

  • SOCCER: Sequoyah topples No. 15 Catoosa, 1-0

    Sequoyah boys soccer coach Bob Campbell had one phrase to sum up his feelings following the Eagles’ game with 15th ranked Catoosa at home Tuesday night.
    “We’re in the driver’s seat.’’
    Alex Bourgeois scored late in the first half and Sequoyah made it stand up for a 1-0 victory over the Indians in a showdown for the district lead.

    April 18, 2014

  • Jackson sprints Zebras to 1st place at OBU Relays

    Claremore senior sprinter Tyler Jackson felt the need for speed Wednesday afternoon at the Oklahoma Baptist University High School Invitational.
    Jackson notched a pair of first-place victories in the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter dash to help Claremore earn 130 points for top honors.

    April 18, 2014

  • BASEBALL: Arkansas Tech roughs up ‘Cats

    The Rogers State University baseball team had a disappointing finish in its home finale as No. 12-ranked Arkansas Tech blanked the Hillcats 11-0 Tuesday evening in non-conference action from the Diamond Sports Complex.

    April 18, 2014

  • BASEBALL: Southwest Baptist slips past NSU, 5-3

     The Northeastern State baseball team lost 5-3 to Southwest Baptist Thursday afternoon at Dobson Field.
    The RiverHawks (19-22, 15-18 MIAA) held a 3-0 lead early in the contest, but a late rally from the Bearcats (23-18, 19-13 MIAA) and costly errors from the visitors allowed the home team to secure the series-opening triumph.

    April 18, 2014

  • WOMEN'S TENNIS: Conference champion NSU lands top seed in MIAA tourney

    The No. 31-ranked Northeastern State women's tennis team has drawn the top seed in the 2014 MIAA Women's Tennis Championship, the league announced Thursday morning.

    April 18, 2014

AP Video