Kanzigg: Grid coach, farmer, cancer survivor

What do farmers and football coaches have in common?

They are both at high-risk for contracting melanoma, commonly known as skin cancer.

Unfortunately, for Paul Kanzigg, he falls into all three categories.

The 58-year-old former Beallsville football coach and self-employed Monroe County farmer of 240 acres recently underwent a couple of surgeries and is currently taking chemotherapy treatments while in stage 3.

“Once I found out I had the cancer and had to go through the treatments, I knew I couldn’t continue coaching football with all the responsibilities,” Kanzigg said, partly, of his decision to step down after two decent years that saw the Blue Devils compile a 11-10 record and qualify for the 2013 Division VII playoffs.

The other part surrounded whether the school, let alone the football program, was going to be around for the 2014-15 school year.

“As far as I know, they haven’t looked for a (football) coach since school finished,” he added. “I haven’t talked to anyone lately, so I really don’t know what the situation is right now.”

Calls to Beallsville High School and Switzerland of Ohio School District Superintendent John Hall concerning the employment of a football coach, as well as an athletic director, went unanswered and unreturned, respectively.

Kanzigg explained that during the surgeries, which were performed at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, a big part of his chest, along with all of his lymph nodes, were removed.

“They (the doctors) thought that had gotten all of it, but then it got into one of my lymph nodes, so they removed all of them,” he said from his Beallsville home. “An organ check was clear for now.

“It came on all at once,” Kanzigg, a 1974 BHS graduate and two-way lineman, said of the disease. “A doctor in Cleveland told me that farmers and football coaches are the highest proportion of people that get skin cancer, mainly because they live in the sun in both professions, and they – like most males – tend to put things off.”

Kanzigg has spent, basically, his entire life either playing or coaching at Beallsville. In addition to his playing days, he served as a junior high coach for four years before moving up to the varsity for 10 years.

“I will always be amazed at how successful we were despite the lack of boys,” he noted. “The boys at Beallsville are hard workers, there’s just not enough of them.”

The year prior to Kanzigg’s arrival as head coach, the Blue Devils sent veteran head coach Dave Caldwell out with a Division VI playoff ride that won’t soon be forgotten in the tiny community. The fifth-seeded Big Blue went to the regional semifinals where they were defeated by eventual state runnerup New Washington Buckeye Central.

“Those kids deserved all of the credit,” Kanzigg said. “Coach Caldwell was so instrumental in not only teaching the kids the game of football, but his assistant coaches, as well.

“I learned so much from him during my days as an assistant.”

For his leadership of the Blue Devils last fall, he was named a Division VII co-Coach of the Year and The Times Leader co-Coach of the Year.

“We lost our first game of the season to Weirton Madonna 63-8 and a lot of people thought we’d get beat like that all year,” Kanzigg said of the McDonald’s OVAC Kickoff Night at Kettlewell Memorial Stadium in Wintersville. “The boys really worked their tails off and we finished with five wins and a playoff berth.”

As far as farming goes, “I’ve got a lot of good friends and neighbors who have been helping me out. Most days I’m not very energetic, but my No. 1 objective is to beat this.”

I’ve known Coach Kanzigg for quite some time now, and I know he will do all he can to beat the dreaded disease, just like he did when he coached the Blue Devils.

Good luck and best wishes, coach!