The 1970 Saanich Hornets football team posed for a group photo. (Photo courtesy Bob Mueller)

The 1970 Saanich Hornets football team posed for a group photo. (Photo courtesy Bob Mueller)

Legendary Greater Victoria football coach Roy Vollinger dies at 78

Former Saanich Hornets coach remembered as an inspiring leader with big personality

Greater Victoria lost a football legend when Roy Vollinger – known to many as “the coach”– died at 78 on June 3.

Vollinger passed following a six-month stay at the hospital, according to his wife of nearly 50 years, Llynda Vollinger. She said he never lost his “positive, exuberant” spirit.

Vollinger was well-known in the Victoria football community. After playing for many years, he began coaching in his early 20s and went on to coach the Saanich Hornets and the Spectrum Community school Thunder – to name a few.

In his nearly 50 years as a coach, Vollinger also created several teams including the Victoria Spartans football team in the ‘80s and the Mount Douglas Rams in the ‘90s. In 2012, the B.C. Lions awarded Vollinger the Orange Helmet Award for his dedication to the sport.

Former Saanich Hornets player Bob Mueller remembers Vollinger as a broad-shouldered, square-jawed man intense passion for football who was about 6’5” but stood like he was even taller.

Vollinger was “about a subtle as a brass band, but once you got past the gruff exterior, he was all heart,” Mueller said. Vollinger instilled precision, teamwork and loyalty in his athletes.

Mueller first met Vollinger in 1969 during Saanich Hornets try-outs at Glanford Park. The field was packed with young hopefuls and Vollinger had the prospective players run agility drills before eventually choosing his team. Mueller, who was 12 at the time, was among the youngest rookies.

“[He] was a character with a boisterously loud voice, lots of brass and an absolutely maniacal love for football,” Mueller said. He was “a little afraid” of the coach at first, but grew to love to his commanding presence.

Vollinger worked the team hard – the “legendary” practices lasted three hours – but managed to turn those rookies into winners, said Mueller who played for the Hornets until he was 16.

Some of Vollinger’s former players went on to play professionally – such as Edward Murray who kicked for various National Football League teams – while others went on to find other careers. Mueller is confident they all carried Vollinger’s teachings about dedication and unwavering passion everywhere they went.

“He is one of a few men to whom I credit my own life accomplishments,” said Mueller who taught martial arts for 30 years. “What he taught … stuck with me all of my life.”

Vollinger didn’t have children of his own, but Mueller felt that the thousands of young athletes he mentored were his unofficial kids. Llynda said he always referred to his players as “the kids” no matter how old they got.

Mueller didn’t always live on the Island but managed to stay in touch with his former coach. The pair reconnected when Mueller moved to Maple Bay in 2015. Vollinger even came out to watch Mueller play a game of football with his sons in Victoria in 2017 – Mueller, who was 60 at the time, remembers his former coach spending most of the time laughing at him “hobbling around the field.”

Vollinger never really stopped coaching – he tried to quit a few times but just kept coming back, Mueller said.

In 2015, Vollinger returned to the Mount Douglas Rams coaching staff and “devoted his time [to] coaching the offensive and defensive lines” until 2019, said Mark Townsend, program coordinator for the Rams.

Vollinger was known as “Mr. Football” and was dedicated to mentoring young football players who “absolutely loved him and his energy,” Townsend said. “He was a close friend, father figure and mentor, and we have sadly lost one of the truly great pioneers in the sport of football.”

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

District of SaanichFootball

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