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
  • Patel named RSU men's basketball assistant coach

    Rogers State University head men’s basketball coach Justin Barkley named Vinay Patel the new assistant men’s basketball coach on Monday.

    “I am very excited about bringing Vinay on board,” Barkley said. “He brings invaluable experience to the program as he is a well-respected recruiter and his NCAA Division II resume is a perfect fit as we continue our transition to become a full-NCAA Division II member.”

    April 22, 2014

  • DSC_0089web.jpg All-State Hoopsters

    Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell capped off a stellar four-year prep basketball career with Tulsa World 2nd-Team All-State recognition.
    O’Dell, a 5-foot-5 floor general that will compete for the Lamar University Lady Cardinals in the Southland Conference next season, was one of five girls basketball players from Rogers County to earn All-State accolades.
    Claremore senior point guard Kaleigh Cox, Inola senior point guard Lexi Williams, Verdigris senior guard Caitlyn Hanslovan and Verdigris freshman forward Keara Battenfield were named to the honorable mention squad.

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • DSC_0127web.jpg SOCCER: Lady Zebras ranked 4th in Class 5A poll

    Strong senior leadership and a talented core of underclassmen have kept the Claremore Lady Zebras on a nine-game winning streak since falling in the season opener.
    Senior midfielder Katelin Teter and senior defenders Jentry Cruce and Anna McGuire have the Lady Zebras playing their best soccer in the closing week of the regular season.
    Behind Teter, Cruce and McGuire, as well as other seniors Bailey Bacon and Emily Parkinson, the Lady Zebras (9-1) are currently ranked No. 4 overall in the Class 5A girls soccer state poll.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0181web.jpg BASEBALL: Claremore splits series with Collinsville

    The moment Claremore senior catcher Matt Whatley got thrown out at home plate in the top of first inning, it was downhill for the Zebras.
    Collinsville took advantage of six Claremore errors and erupted for 17 hits to thump the Zebras, 15-2 Friday afternoon in Metro Lakes Conference play.

    April 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • BROWNweb.jpg BASEBALL: Catoosa’s Brown holds off Ft. Gibson

    Nick Brown twirled a four-hitter and Catoosa held firm defensively with the game on the line, powering the Indians to a 4-3 victory over Fort Gibson Saturday on Senior Day.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_0216web.jpg RSU's Law silences UT-Permian Basin

    The Rogers State University baseball team dropped game one of a Heartland Conference series at Texas-Permian Basin, 2-0, but battled back to split the twin bill Friday with a 7-1 victory in the night cap.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Southern Mississippi searching for new basketball coach

    Southern Mississippi athletic director Bill McGillis thought basketball coach Donnie Tyndall might not last long as the team kept winning games.

    April 22, 2014

  • Kentucky's Julius Randle enters NBA Draft

    Kentucky forward Julius Randle took a lot of time and talked to a lot of people before deciding to leave after one season for the NBA draft, where he is expected to be among the top five selections.

    April 22, 2014

  • BIG TEN MBB: Illinois player Darius Paul arrested

    University of Illinois police say basketball player Darius Paul faces preliminary charges of resisting a peace officer and unlawful consumption of alcohol by a minor.

    April 22, 2014

  • SEC MEN'S BB: Tennessee hires Southern Mississippi's Donnie Tyndall

    Tennessee's coaching position had just become available when Donnie Tyndall received a text message urging him to pursue the job.

    April 22, 2014