The Kolb Family of Hoover
By Wayne Wood
I called them E.K., K.K. and I.K.–the sons of Mama Kaye and Papa Frank Kolb of Hoover. Eric, Kyle and Ivan moved with their parents from Louisiana settling in Hoover years ago. I first knew Eric when he was a 7th grader at Simmons Jr. High (now middle) in 1981. He played football, wrestled and threw the shot put & discus in track & field. I would see his parents and younger brothers at times when they came to watch his athletic events.
Eric played different positions on the line in the 7th & 8th grade. He was an intense player on the field and a nice kid around the school. By the time he was participating in spring football late in his 9th grade year, it was expected that he would probably contribute as a sophomore the following season and he did playing linebacker, noseguard & fullback for the Berry Bucs. This continued through his 1985 junior year and by his senior year he was a 215+ linebacker being recruited by some colleges. Vestavia coach Buddy Anderson once told me he thought Eric was a great player. He signed with the University of North Alabama in Florence and eventually wound up starting at center on the offensive line.
The second brother, Kyle, was much smaller than Eric and was a generally quiet kid. He played LB & FB at Simmons in 1985 & 86 and also wrestled & played baseball. By the time he was a sophomore at Berry he was about 155 lbs. He played LB/FB on the 1988 Berry which was state runner-up. Kyle won the prestigious Brett Kellum Memorial Award his senior season in baseball in 1991. He went to UAB but didn’t play baseball.
The youngest was Ivan and he was about Kyle’s size and very scrappy (being the youngest he had to be!). He started playing DB at Simmons but eventually moved to an outside LB position and by the time of his Berry Buc senior season was about 5-8, 165 lbs. Playing behind two big defensive tackles in 6-2;295 Eric Kerley and 6-5;260 Steve Thompson, Ivan could surprise opposing offensive players coming out of a blind side sometimes to make a hit. He worked on staying low which made his sudden appearance even more effective.
Buc Coach Bob Finley once remarked about Ivan, “He’s a big-play kid who had interceptions against Minor, Parker & Benjamin Russell (one of them for a 95-yard TD). He’s made some big hits & enjoys making contact. He comes up with reckless abandon & takes down blockers so somebody else can make a tackle.”
Ivan also played some fullback though he was more suited for defense. He referred back to his older brother Eric when he was growing up. “My oldest brother was kind of my idol. He was the biggest of the 3 of us at 6-1; 230 when he played at UNA. Eric used to punish me and that’s probably what made me tough. I don’t mind sacrificing my body. I’ve been doing it all my life.”
However, baseball was really Ivan’s sport as he played 2nd base for the Bucs. He also won the Brett Kellum award in baseball his senior year in 1993 and eventually signed to baseball at Central Alabama Community College under former Buc coach Larry Giangrosso & former Buc player & assistant coach Lee Hall. Ivan finished his college baseball career at the University of Montevallo.
Papa Frank Kolb was a great man to know and communicate with. But the matriarch and seemingly boss of the boys was Mama Kaye (as I affectionately called her). I could write a book about her. She was sweet to know but nobody dare mess with her boys. Both of those parents were so supportive like hundreds of parents I’ve known through the years.
Kaye worked as a secretary in the guidance counselor office at Berry for many years and of course through all her boys time in high school there and later for many years at Hoover High School. She did just about everything which needed doing and senior graduation was one of those times she helped make sure things were right.
Kaye was sort of my informant for many years whenever I wanted to know something or get something at the high school. It was always a joy to go by her desk and see her bulletin board of pictures of kids and like it was when her boys were playing sports one had better not mess with any of her thousands of Buccaneer students!!
Here are a few excerpts from a story Kaye wrote for the Finley book I composed years ago. “Even though I was hired to be the secretary to the College Admission Counselor, it seems my responsibilities evolved into my wearing a lot of different hats. One of the jobs I particularly enjoyed was working all the coaches in the Athletic Department at Berry High School.My sons were all athletes & I knew somewhat of the time restraints under which coaches operate.
The least enjoyable task that the job entailed was working on the eligibility list every year. It was one of the Athletic Director’s jobs to make certain that the list was completed & submitted to the state athletic department. Coach Finley (the Buc A.D.) always told me after it was finished that there would be a special place in heaven for me for doing that for him.
A comment Coach Finley made to me one time was interesting. He said that he had three sets of brothers play football for him. All of their last names started with the letter K-the Kolens from the 1960’s, the Krouts from the 1970’s and the Kolbs from the 1980’s and 1990’s.
It was very nearly his undoing when the announcement came that the new high school would be called Hoover High School even though he knew in his heart of hearts that would be the case. He was such a large part of the ‘face of Berry High School’ that it appeared outwardly to be a very difficult task for him to accept the name change. After all, I believe that he had been part of the decision to name the mascot Buccaneers, and he was very influential in choosing orange especially with his Tennessee background.”
One of the special times I remember about Mama Kaye was after football games in the small parking lot at Berry between the locker room and the top of the stadium area. When the players and coaches were entering the locker room (win or lose) there she was with what I called her “Buccaneer Hugging Towel.” Obviously, she used this against the dirt, grim, sweat, etc. the players had on their jerseys afterwards getting on her clothes. Of course, if you were one of the last coaches going into the locker room you’d absorb a collection of it all but it was worth it and meaningful.
When we began to play our games at the Hoover Met, the tradition of the hugging towel continued. Where the Bucs exit even today from the tunnel coming from underneath the locker room leading to the buses to take them back to the high school, Mama Kaye proudly kept her embracing going forward gloriously. She Loved Her Bucs! Sometimes, even now years later, I get the feeling that she needs to be there.
Kaye retired from Hoover High School a few years ago to spend more time with Frank and especially her grandkids and they still live in Hoover.
Eric and his wife Staci (who teaches accounting at the University of Montevallo) have two children: Savannah-a nursing student at Auburn and Carson-a junior who plays football at Briarwood Christian School near Birmingham. Eric is an administrator working for Santek Company.
Kyle’s job is working for Integrated Legacy Solution as a co-founder business director for Jack Henry Associates. His wife Carrie is a 1994 Berry Buc grad who was a cheerleader & gymnastics performer there and also was a cheerleader at UAB. They have two girls, Lilli Ann (Berry Middle School) and Ila Kate (Southminster School in Vestavia where her current art teacher is Amy Finley Alfano-Coach Finley’s youngest daughter).
Ivan works as a Database Analyst in the Transplant Division at UAB. His wife Jamie have a son Hendry-a 5th grader at Bluff Park Elementary in Hoover who is a fine little baseball player looking to play for the Hoover Bucs in years to come.
The Kolb Family of Hoover–one of many family legacies for the Buccaneers.