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Tim Kish, middle, poses for a picture with his family.

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Kyron Cumby has flashed his top-end speed during the first week of training camp in a position switch from high school. The now-former running back has received reps exclusively with the Illinois wide receivers to go with some time as a punt returner.

On March 7, Big 12 power Oklahoma opened spring practice. Tim Kish thought about checking it out.

“I got up, made the coffee and was reading the paper,” Kish said. “I was saying to myself, ‘Man, this is the first time in 44 years you’re not going out to the practice field.’”

So, what did he do?

The just-retired Sooners linebacker coach put his clubs in the car and drove to the on-campus Jimmy Austin’s Golf Course. To play a round.

Kish stepped away from coaching at the end of the 2018 season. He spent the last seven years with the Sooners, the 11th stop in a career that started in 1976 as an assistant at Mariemont High School in Cincinnati.

A defensive back at Otterbein College, Kish worked the bulk of his time in the FBS coaching ranks.

He coached at four Big Ten schools, including a four-year run as Illinois defensive coordinator for Ron Turner from 1997-2000.

“I have good memories of Champaign,” Kish said.

Right before joining the Illini, Kish worked with defensive ends and linebackers at Northwestern.

Kish’s move to C-U helped change the destination for a tight end from West Lafayette (Ind.) Harrison High School.

“I had him committed to Northwestern,” Kish said, “Well, I left Northwestern to come to Illinois. You put the pieces together and you know where he ended up.

“Gary Barnett’s still mad at me to this day about all of that,”

Yada, yada, yada, but 23 years later, Josh Whitman is the Illinois athletic director

Happy staffer

Kish interviewed to be the head coach at Bowling Green in 2001. He finished runner-up ... to Urban Meyer.

“I guess things happen for a reason,” Kish said.

He eventually got to run his own program. For a limited time. In his final year at Arizona in 2011, Kish took over as interim head coach after Mike Stoops got fired.

In six games, Kish went 3-3, including wins against UCLA and Arizona State.

“We made the best of it,” Kish said. “We had a great time. My staff was awesome. I enjoyed every minute of that half year. I appreciated the opportunity to be a head coach.”

Free time

After four-plus decades on the sidelines, Kish has an open schedule.

“I’m so humbled and blessed by the 43 years that I had,” he said. “That’s a long time to be in this coaching profession.”

Kish is a young 65. So, why stop now?

“I just felt like it was good timing for me,” Kish said. “I know the program is in great shape. I could have come back again with Coach (Lincoln) Riley. I loved him. It was a great experience for me to be there two years with Lincoln.”

Kish went to work for Bob Stoops at Oklahoma in 2012. The Sooners made the College Football Playoff three times in his seven seasons.

“I’ve known Bob forever,” Kish said. “That was a no-brainer to come to Oklahoma. “

I’m ready to give Kish credit for the last two Heisman Trophy winners, but he deftly praises Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

“I’m really excited those guys are having the success they’re having,” Kish said.

Kish has stuff to do, places to go, people to see.

“I’m not working football,” Kish said. “I’m working at things that I’m supposed to enjoy when you get to retirement. I’m trying to make the best of it.”

He wakes up every day at 4 a.m. and goes on a walk by 5. After that, he rides his bike.

“That eats up my morning,” Kish said,

Three times a week, he golfs. Kish’s game is getting better.

“My handicap is going down, so that’s a good thing,” he said. “I actually live on a golf course. It’s a perfect scenario for us right now. I’m kind of setting five-year intervals. I don’t know exactly what that’s going to be.

“I’m taking a year off from anything I have to commit to.”

Long ago, Kish and his wife Angela decided they would settle post-football in Arizona. He was on the Wildcats staff from 2004-11 and has moved back to Tucson.

Tim and Angela have three kids. Megan lives in Columbus, Ohio. Emily lives in Las Vegas. So does Michael, who is a graduate assistant on the UNLV basketball staff. He’s keeping the coaching tree alive.

Saturday plans

Training camps are well underway for college football teams this month. It’s a grind. Not the part of the year retired coaches miss.

When the games start at the end of the month, Kish might get an itch. One he won’t scratch.

“That will be my first challenge,” Kish said. “My plans right now are not to attend any games. It’s not on my calendar right now. I’m going to stay away from it.”

He will still watch. At home.

“I’m sure I’ll be twitching and making suggestions like they were made to me along the way,” he said. “I’m rooting for every team I’ve ever worked for.”

Ask any coach after retirement and the hardest part is saying goodbye to the players. No different for Kish.

“I miss those relationships with the kids,” Kish said.

A string of his former players came to watch him during his final season at Oklahoma.

“That’s the reason I got into this thing to begin with was to build relationships with these kids beyond just being their coach,” Kish said. “They’re calling me when they’re getting married. They’re calling me when they’re having babies.”

Kish enjoyed his time at every school. But ...

“When people ask me what my favorite job was,” Kish said, “I don’t hesitate to tell them it was coaching those kids at Army.”

Bob Asmussen is a college football reporter and columnist for The News-Gazette. His email is asmussen@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@BobAsmussen).

College Football Reporter/Columnist

Bob Asmussen is a college football reporter and columnist for The News-Gazette. His email is asmussen@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@BobAsmussen).