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In the back of Tim Budd's thoughts, coming home to coach football at St. Thomas Aquinas was always something he dreamed of.
He was a Knight, dressed in black and gold, when he stepped onto the football field for the first time as a high school sophomore.
He fell in love with the sport instantaneously.
The 1995 St. Thomas graduate and Ravenna native has never fallen back out of love with football. In fact, it has engulfed his life.
"Football is my sole hobby. I don't do anything else," said Budd. "Like this week, I am waiting for some Michigan State DVDs to be mailed to my house. I can't wait to get them and dissect their defensive schemes."
Budd was first introduced to football after he spent his first eight years of school at Immaculate Conception in Ravenna. The school's only athletic outlet at that time was basketball through the Catholic Youth Organization.
Budd's class consisted of 13, while his basketball team had just eight members.
"It was the only world I had ever known and it was fun, but I did not realize how big athletics really were," Budd said."
While he admits that he was never a "really fantastic football player," the game and his coaches still left an everlasting impact.
"You have to be physical and you have to be tough, but you have to be tactical," Budd said.
Now a History teacher at Medina Highland, Budd was named the head coach at St. Thomas in March of 2011.
Returning to his alma mater brought a small amount of comfort, but also a sense of pressure and expectations.
"I got a great education and foundation for life at St. Thomas, so I wanted to make sure I did a good job," said Budd, who first started coaching middle school basketball at ICS at the age of 18 and has previous football experience at Streetsboro, Field, Highland, New Middletown Springfield and Green.
"There always has to be a high level of personal pride, and I wanted to represent the high school the way it deserved," Budd said.
Opening the 2011 season with three consecutive losses certainly was not what Budd had hoped for.
"That start brought with it some burdens," Budd said. "The notion of a dream job and a fairytale story were quickly erased. Anyone who is a coach knows that it is hard, hard work if you want to do it the right way, and we knew there would be no shortcuts."
Budd and his coaching staff stayed true to his coaching philosophies -- founded on toughness, excitement, physical play and preparation -- and a turnaround followed that led the school to its first playoff berth since 1988, winning six of the regular season's last seven games and topping Monroe Central in the postseason's quarterfinal round.
The Knights returned to the playoffs in 2012 after posting a 9-1 record, their only loss coming to Marlington (17-14), before losing 51-50 to Crestview in the quarterfinals.
A committed senior class, which included Portage County products Eric Rude, Nick Mudd and Joe Carpenter, highlighted the program's resurgence.
"They are such a great group of kids, and I was really glad to see them get rewarded for their hard work and dedication," Budd said of his senior class.
After qualifying for the playoffs in 2011, Budd saw the potential for 2012, but was unsure if the results would match what he thought the team could achieve.
"I knew we had talent, but I was not sure if they would jell," Budd said. "I'll be honest, I had my doubts. Around January, I really started to wonder."
The numbers for the team's weight lifting program were inconsistent and the off-season commitment just did not seem to be there. However, by the time summer came around, the lifting program was now experiencing perfect attendance.
"There was a 110 percent maturity improvement," said Budd, who is a graduate of Kent State University and points to his family support system as one of the most important part of his life.
"Without my wife Christina and my family, I would not have had the chance to realize my dream," Budd said. "Before every game, I look to see where they are sitting. I want to see them. If they weren't there with me, I wouldn't feel right about coaching the game."