FEATURE: Coach Kline Inducted into the Shepherd Hall of Fame after 25 years of coaching with no sign of stopping
Kevin Couser, Reporter
Josh Kline with his wife Kim, their children Bradley and Kaylee, and their family dog Loki
On Saturday, Sept. 30, Josh Kline, Assistant Head Football Coach and Defensive Coordinator for the Shepherd Rams, joined three others in becoming the newest members of the Shepherd University class of 2023 Hall of Fame.
Kline got wind of his future achievement over the Summer this year. When he received the news of his induction into the Hall of Fame, he was completely flabbergasted. He recalls in an emotional and passionate manner getting the news in his office and not believing what he heard. It was safe to say the honor was not something he had on his bingo card for 2023.
“I haven’t had a chance to process this,” Kline says holding tears in his eyes. “This is thanks to all the people who made this happen, from families to players to coaches. It is a great honor.”
Kline’s beginnings are a humble one. His 25-year career at Shepherd started in 1998 when he was just a regular student at the University with a major in Sports Marketing and a minor in coaching. Kline played defensive tackle for the Rams for five years where he achieved being an Academic All-American and in 2003, he switched from being a student-athlete to starting his coaching career at Shepherd.
“I started my career as a Student Assistant for the Football team, unpaid,” Kline said. “The head coach allowed me to volunteer.”
As a student-athlete on campus, Kline was always looking to have fun and enjoy the small college experience with his friends. According to his wife, Kim Kline, Kline was a regular college kid who liked to party. The two high school sweethearts met at Middletown High School, with Josh being a junior and Kim being a sophomore.
“I was his first girlfriend,” Mrs. Kline says. “When I tell people our story, it sort of sounds like a typical Hallmark movie. He played football and was the captain and I was a cheerleader and was also captain my senior year. He decided to play football at Shepherd, and I of course followed him and was a member of the cheerleading squad.”
The two both graduated from Shepherd in 2003 and got married in 2004. They have been inseparable since, having two children Bradley and Kaylee, and moving into a beautiful home.
Josh Kline with his son Bradley and daughter Kaylee
According to Mrs. Kline’s accounts from their times as students, Kline never passed up a good party. If there was a party or somewhere fun to hang out, he would be there. However, he would never let his grades slip with Mrs. Kline saying her husband managed to get better grades than she did.
“We kind’ve made our own fun,” Kline says. “At Shepherdstown, there’s not a crazy amount of things to do and there’s not a lot of attractions. If you want to have a good time, you have to create a good time.”
Kline recollects the nostalgia of being with his teammates on campus and doing several memorable activities. One of those is creating a homemade golf course through West Woods on campus.
“Other times on the tennis court, we would play Homerun Derby,” Kline says. “It was always active games we would play around campus since phones weren’t a thing since my junior year.”
Upon recalling his favorite times being a student-athlete at Shepherd, he narrows it down to one thing that he holds dear in his heart.
“The road trips with the guys are what I remember with the stories I have,” Kline says nostalgically. “We didn’t have it as nice as they have it now, our buses rarely made it up the mountains and we slept four players to a room in the hotels. I remember when 9/11 happened and we had an away game in Indiana. We were one of the only teams to play and I won player of the week and we always joked that by taking off all the teams that week, that’s the way I can finally win an award. We got away and bonded as a team when a national tragedy was happening and that is a memory that I’ll always have.”
In his Junior year, Kline still did not know what direction he wanted his life to take. Although he majored in Sports Marketing, he admits that it wasn’t something that interested him or a path he could see his life taking. Instead, Kline thought it would be cool to work in a franchise, so he decided to take up Work Study and landed a coaching job with Bob Haley, Defensive Coordinator of the Shepherd Football team at the time.
“We tried to make some jobs for me to do,” Kline says. “I became the data analyst. I did the work all the grunts do coming up in the coaching world. I typed all the data in our system, made cutups, and helped the coordinator (Haley) out while I was still a player. Just getting to hang out with him and understanding what he was trying to do interested me so that was the track that showed me this is what I want to do.”
When looking back on how he got started in coaching, he credits Haley for being an instrumental part of his development from starting as a player, to getting into coaching.
“Coach Bob Haley stuck with me and trusted me through my work-study and let me coach the defensive line my first year,” Kline says. “He gave me my start.”
Ernie McCook, Head Coach of the Shepherd Rams Football team, has a memorable history with Kline, recollecting watching him evolve from a standout player into a dedicated coach since 1999.
“Coach Kline is very dedicated to the game of football and the University,” McCook says. “He wants to be good at everything he does, a constant professional, works hard, and has a great passion for the game of football.”
McCook also considers Kline a good friend and an outstanding person outside the game.
“He’s somebody I feel like I can talk to when I have issues and has been a good friend to me for the last 10 years,” McCook says. “One of my favorite memories with Coach Kline is when we beat Grand Valley State in the semi-final championship game at home. Just to share that with him and the other coaches that were all together made that season magical. And then his wedding of course!”
Coaching is still Kline’s passion after 20 years. His wife emphasized how much time he puts into his work.
“It’s shocking to me how many people think when I say that my husband is a college football coach, pretty much everyone thinks it’s a part-time four-to-five-month job,” Mrs. Kline said. “I would say that Josh is one of the hardest-working, most dedicated people I know. Before the season starts and during the season, there are many nights that he doesn’t get home until midnight or later and he leaves by 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the morning.”
The tough and gritty parts of coaching, along with the long hours, are what Kline embraces in his profession. It is what he considers rewarding.
“The grind of coaching and everything that goes into it… I love that part,” Kline Says. “It’s about family, the comradery, and helping people. That is what I look for. It’s rewarding to see those guys (players) achieve what they may not thought possible.”
Kline is always one to look out for his players, considering them as part of his family. Whenever they need something, he is there.
“He 100% cares and considers all of his players family,” Mrs. Kline says. “I remember a few years ago one of his players called him early in the morning and needed somewhere to stay. Josh picked him up and gave him a place to stay for however long he needed to. He’s still in contact with so many former players, he loves any chance he gets to hang out with them.”
Coach Josh Kline with some of his current players
Kline will continue leading his Shepherd Rams this Saturday as they go head-to-head with Lock Haven.
Editor’s note: Reporter Kevin Couser is on the Shepherd Football Team, and due to the specialty of the article, it was deemed fit for the reporter to write the story despite the conflict of interest.