Claremore Daily Progress


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_0111web.jpg ‘Team behind the Team’

    For the second-straight year, the Claremore Zebra student training staff will be represented in the Oklahoma Coaches All-State games held in Tulsa.
    Meranda Golbek and Sarah Szcinski, a pair of 2014 Claremore High School graduates, earned All-State honors for their athletic training careers and will join two other student trainers from Jenks and Stillwater High School on the East squad.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • FISHFRYweb.jpg Claremore QB Club holds Fish Fry Aug. 2

    The Claremore Zebra Quarterback Club will hold its annual Fish Fry fundraiser on Aug. 2 at the Claremore High School cafeteria.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former WTAMU men's basketball coach Rick Cooper tabbed Wayland Baptist AD

    Wayland Baptist University has named former Pioneer player and coach Rick Cooper as its new director of athletics.

    July 25, 2014

  • Arkansas men's basketball season tickets on sale

    Season tickets for the 2014-15 Arkansas men’s basketball campaign are now on sale, as head coach Mike Anderson’s fourth edition of the Razorbacks and their #Fastest40 style of play return six of their top seven scorers from last year’s club that won 22 games.

    July 25, 2014

  • BIG 12: OSU's Yurcich pumped up for second season

    With the 2014 season on the brink, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is ready for his second year at the helm after coaching a powerful offensive squad a year ago.

    July 25, 2014

  • MLB: Moss smashes grand slam, A's blast Astros 13-1

    A warm day helped Brandon Moss reach another milestone and it helped Jeff Samardzija enjoy even more run support.

    Moss hit a grand slam and the Oakland Athletics gave Samardzija more run support than he has had all season in a 13-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday.

    July 25, 2014

  • MLB: Ross records 11 strikeouts, Padres rout Cubs

    Tyson Ross kept mowing down Chicago Cubs hitters, long enough for San Diego's suddenly potent offense to carry the Padres to victory for the second straight night.

    Ross struck out a career-high 11, and the light-hitting Padres broke out for a season-best nine runs in the sixth inning in a 13-3 rout of the Cubs on Thursday night.

    July 25, 2014

  • MLB: Aoki's 14th-inning single lifts Royals past Indians, 2-1

    After four hours, 23 minutes and a dozen pitchers combining to throw 397 pitches, Nori Aoki gave the Kansas City Royals a win.

    Aoki singled home Lorenzo Cain in the 14th inning to lift the Royals to a 2-1 victory over Cleveland after Indians starter Corey Kluber carried a perfect game into the seventh inning on Thursday night.

    July 25, 2014

  • MLB: White Sox topple Twins, 5-2

    An impressive start from Hector Noesi was just a couple of pitches away from being something really special.

    Noesi allowed three hits over 7 2-3 innings, and Adam Eaton had three hits and two RBIs to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

    July 25, 2014

  • MLB: Chen helps Orioles blank Mariners, 4-0

    Wie-Yen Chen threw one of his finest games in the major leagues, allowing just five hits over eight innings in Baltimore's 4-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.

    July 25, 2014