91-year-old veteran returns to alma mater as honorary football captain

Col. Eugene Raab returns to Caledonia sidelines
Eugene Raab returns to Caledonia
Posted at 9:43 PM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 23:09:58-04

CALEDONIA, Mich. — Eugene Raab has experienced a lot in 91 years, but hasn't forgotten where it all started.

"Back in my day Caledonia was a farming community and now it's suburbia out there," he chuckled while reminiscing at photos.

Raab is a 1948 alum of Caledonia High school where he was a three-year varsity football player, playing quarterback.

He also helped the Scotties to three straight conference titles.

Raab returns to the sidelines

"Back then it was the Barkinall League and we won 19 out of 21 games, we only lost two," he added.

Inside his Kentwood home remains press clippings, yearbooks, even his old varsity sweater, they all bring back memories that he has carried with him all this time.

"Back then, they didn't have jackets, they had sweaters," he explained. "Football became a great part of my high school education, it was character formation, teamwork, sportsmanship, things you can carry on in your personal life later on."

Eugene Raab's Caledonia football sweater, press clippings
Eugene Raab's varsity sweater, yearbook and press clippings.

And they were characteristics and lessons that Raab carried with him into the United States Air Force, where he served for 31 years.

"I wanted to uphold the military tradition of the family," Raab said, "I saw all these people in World War II but I just missed it, I had three older brothers in the military, but one of my goals was to become a military officer."

On Friday night, Gene returned to his alma mater after being invited by the school's superintendent and football program.

"I thought I was just going to go to a football game but I was just overwhelmed by the honor," he smiled.

The Scots had Raab serve as the honorary captain at the football game against Grand Haven, even running the game ball to the officials at 91 years young.

"I told the captains, 'boy this ball still feels really comfortable, it still fits real well in my arms'," he laughed.

Eugene Raab
Raab runs the ball to the game officials as an honorary captain.

A lot has changed about Caledonia in the 73 years since his graduation.

"My class was only 47 students, we were a class C school at that time and in my day when I played, what was now the football field was a cow pasture."

He's a humble man with many accolades and accomplishments, and Raab says his homecoming on Friday night was simply unforgettable.

"I felt overwhelmed, I was flattered and honored that they would remember me, I wasn't looking for that or expecting it but I felt good," Raab said.

Eugene Raab

The 1946 team at Caledonia went unbeaten with Gene under center.

Now, the 2021 Scots hope they, too, can make that happen as they currently sit at 5-0 overall.

"Don't get overconfident," Raab said about his message to the current team, "go out and win these games, you can win them, we've been a state champion before, I don't know if we'll repeat it or not but right now, pay attention to the next game and win it."

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