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Corbin Leaves a Legacy On and Off the Gridiron
Richard "Dick" Corbin did not coach a football game for Milford High school after 1978. Yet more than 30 years since he turned over the reins of the Scarlet Hawks program, he remained a fixture in the community, the subject of tales of Milford's championship teams of the past, a model for the teams that would follow, and most importantly, a friend to dozens of former players and fellow coaches.
That is why his death last month in an automobile accident shocked and saddened so many. In a town that has always prided itself on athletic tradition, Dick Corbin was truly the coaches' coach.
Three and a half decades after he starred on the defensive line of Corbin's Super Bowl champion 1975 team, that's still how current MHS head coach Tom "Waxy" Cullen referred to him. "Coach. I never called him Dick, always coach," he said. "That's just the respect he deserved."
Not every town gets to have a Dick Corbin. Those who knew him best describe his unique ability to motivate, his superior organizational skill, and the incredible way he was able to relate to his players and get them to achieve great things. "I think all of us learned a lot of things from him," said former assistant Dennis Breen, who became head coach when Corbin left Milford High to become an assistant coach at Harvard. "He taught us about making a major commitment to make sure the players would have a chance to play at the highest level every week. Not once in awhile, but every week."
"He'd get at the kids, but he'd always love them up in the end," said Tom Cullen's older brother Brien, long time Worcester State football coach and an assistant with Corbin during his final year at Milford. "They knew he really cared about them. That was Dick, he cared for all the guys that were with him."
The caring did not stop when his players graduated and moved on from high school. Tom Cullen recalls Dick and his wife Ruth Anne being there for him during a trying time in his life, saying, "Back in the 90s, I was going through a divorce and a hip replacement. Dick and Ruth Anne took a day off and came to see me in Amherst and spent the day with me. He said 'Wax man, ya all right?' For your high school football coach 20 years later to do something like that, that's something I'll never forget."
Of his 11 seasons coaching football at Milford, Corbin's 1975 Scarlet Hawks stand above the rest. The Super Bowl winning team featured a defense that included the likes of the Youngstown State-bound Tom Cullen, the Maryland-bound Pat Cornelius, who Corbin called the best player he ever coached, and a guy named Howie Long who wound up in Canton in the NFL's Hall of Fame.
When he was inducted in 2000, it was no surprise to hear Long thank his high school coach during his speech. He said he can tie his success directly to the day Corbin asked him to join the team. "I was a 14 year old kid who had just moved to Milford and he pulled me out of a hallway in school and talked me into playing football," Long told the Town Crier. "In many ways, if not for Dick Corbin, there is no Howie Long, pro football Hall of Famer."
He brought Tom Cullen to the Scarlet Hawks in a similar fashion. "When St. Mary's closed, it was the worst day of my life. Then 9 o'clock in the morning one day, Mr. Corbin is at the door," he said. "I felt like I was being recruited by Al Davis."
Corbin was a great innovator on the football field. He often had players focus on one position to maximize his depth and skill. In addition to his success in football, he also played a big role in expanding the physical education department at Milford, as well as the opportunities for female athletes.
Jim Wittorff came to Milford in 1969 when Corbin asked him to join his coaching staff in Milford. Wittorff said there were only a few boys' sports and no girls' sports but that soon changed under Corbin's leadership. He didn't mince words when it came to Corbin's impact on Milford High athletics. "Dick took great pride in the success of the other teams, both the women's sports as well as the men's," said Wittorff, who believes the soon to be restored football field, track, and tennis courts should be renamed in Corbin's honor. "I believe that without Dick Corbin, Milford would never have achieved the tremendous success we had in football and the success accomplished by the entire athletic department."
But where Corbin's impact was felt most of all was simply as a friend to his players and fellow coaches. "Dick wasn't a guy who just dealt with you only professionally, he wanted to know you, wanted to have a relationship outside of the school day," said Breen, who brought the Milford program to three more Super Bowl titles in the 80s. "Any success I had I can attribute to his guidance and his mentoring. He sat with me and taught us how to be organized, be honest, and then get out there and make it happen."
Brien Cullen, his best friend for more than 30 years, knew Corbin on many levels and even partook in a new sporting pastime with him in recent years. "He started to take up golf, which was tough for him because obviously he was a great athlete and he thought he would be a scratch golfer and that's not the way it was," Cullen said with a laugh. "It took him awhile to be able to relax and enjoy it. A lot of people didn't realize how funny he was, and he could always laugh at himself. He'll be missed that way too."
And he'll be missed by many, including players who donned the red and white of the Scarlet Hawks or the Crimson of Harvard, many of whom were in attendance when their coach was laid to rest. Entering St. Mary's church that day, mourners were greeted by a sea of red as the current Milford High team wore their game jerseys at the behest of their current head coach. They'll also play the rest of this season with "DC" decals on the back of their helmets.
Tom Cullen found out about Coach Corbin's passing at halftime of Milford's game against Westboro last month and will coach the rest of this season with a heavy heart. "Coaching this year will be a different game," he said. "I can hear him though, 'Wax Man, go out and give it everything you've got.'"
As his most famous pupil points out, if one measures success by the people whose lives they touch, Dick Corbin was about as successful a coach and a man as he could be. "I will miss Coach a great deal," Long said. "But his legacy lives on in his three daughters, his beautiful grandchildren, and the hundreds of players whose lives he has impacted."
How about that? Even after a Hall of Fame professional career, Long still calls Dick Corbin "Coach." It's just the respect he deserves.




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