John Gillen remembers the time he spent at Carroll College in Helena, Mont.
Moreso, he remembers the coach who shaped his career as an educator at John F. Kennedy High School - John Gagliardi, who recently announced his retirement.
Gagliardi, 86, won 489 games and coached 64 seasons - more than any other football coach in college history.
Gillen played for Gagliardi at Carroll College, where the legendary coach was at for four seasons, before leaving for St. John's (Minn.).
Gillen saw St. John's play Mount Union in an NCAA Division III playoff game more than a decade ago in Alliance.
"I went to watch the game, of course," said Gillen, 80. "I had a heckuva time getting in the dressing room. Finally, someone in security let me in. I walked in and he was on the chalkboard with 50 guys, looked up and called me by name.
"Hadn't see or talked to him for 40 years. What a memory the guy has. Then he invited me to come up in the booth with him, very personable individual."
That's what people say about Gillen, who has had just as long of a storied tenure as Gagliardi. Ask one of his former students and current JFK boys basketball coach Shawn Pompelia.
"I swear he was laying the bricks when they built Kennedy, he had been there so long," said Pompelia, a 1982 JFK graduate. "He's obviously a great teacher, coach and athletic director to me growing up in the catholic school system. He's a role model to everyone that has gone through that school. The loyalty and dedication he has shown is unmatched."
Gillen started his career in 1960 at his alma mater, the former St. Mary's High School, and continued when the doors opened at JFK in 1964.
His tenure as a teacher, coach and athletic director has never been tedious. He enjoys educating today's JFK students in sociology, psychology and world history.
"Just the people I work with, the faculty, staff and, especially, the student body, they keep you going," Gillen said. "They challenge you constantly. I look forward to those challenges every day with those young people."
Gagliardi challenged the football world, even when he was at Carroll College and on to St. John's.
"Great, great motivator," Gillen said. "I think way ahead of himself timewise with football. He would come up with defenses nobody had ever seen before, just so full of energy - unbelievable.
"He'd run a six and run so many stunts off of it that weren't really popular at the time. He'd run a four than a three, things that were way ahead of his time."
But the life lessons that Gillen learned from his college coach shaped him as a person.
"More than anything, his honesty," Gillen said. "If he said something, you knew that was going to happen. He never, ever dressed anything up. He was very straightforward. I think that was a good lesson, very honest person, just a good person."
Gagliardi has made an impression on the college football world.
In the same breath, somebody like Gillen made his mark on the lives of those at JFK.
"Kennedy is not a job, it is his life," Pompelia said. "The passion he has for Kennedy and the young men and women that have attended there is unmatched.
"I don't think you're going to see another John Gillen for a long time."