When the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, Andy Reid, calls Kirby Roach “Santa,” his preparation for one of his part-time jobs is paying off.
Roach has had myriad jobs. He served as a principal from 1993 to 1998, when he retired for health reasons. Fortunately, he recovered but decided not to go back to working in school systems. But now every fall as he drives the Kansas City Chiefs charter bus, he’s also growing out his beard for Kansas City’s children.
Roach, a Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings fan, has driven the bus for several professional teams, but one of the most welcoming coaches, Roach said, was former University of Central Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson.
“Kim Anderson was without a doubt, I’d say, the greatest coach I’ve ever had on a bus in 30 some years of doing this,” Roach said. “Kim had so much respect for everyone, including myself, and it didn’t matter who you were.”
Roach was told from the get-go that Anderson considered him part of the team. Roach ate with the team and watched the games. Anderson even invited Roach to the home games.
“Coach Anderson handed me a pair of scissors and said, ‘Go up and cut down a piece of the net,’” Roach said. “I said, ‘No, coach, I’m just the bus driver.’ He said, ‘No, I want you to do that.’ So I did. I think that exemplifies what kind of guy he is.”
Now Anderson is coaching at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where Roach believes he will be an asset to the players and the program.
“Some guys are good coaches and may not care about the bussee, but he did,” Roach said.
A coach for the Kansas City Chiefs wasn’t as nice, Roach said, but he added that Reid, the current coach for the Chiefs, is respectful of him and his players.
Some players, Roach said, would become arrogant as their fame grew. When he was driving for the Chiefs, one rookie was very friendly to Roach, but as time went on and the rookie became more famous, he wouldn’t even acknowledge Roach.
Not all the Chiefs players were that way. Marcus Allen and Trent Green would always treat Roach with respect.
“You appreciate that,” Roach said. “They’re famous, wealthy and they still recognize a bus driver.”
Starting on April 15 of every year, Roach begins to grow out his hair and beard for his seasonal job as Santa Claus.
“It was just something I wanted to do,” Roach said. “I like being around people and kids, and I thought it would be fun. It is fun. Sometimes it’s a lot of work.”
On his shelf, Roach has a book with a few quotables from various kids who have sat on Santa’s lap. One boy asked for three toys, the last being a Transformer.
“He attempted to describe what it does. He said, ‘A transformer does what a transformer does,’” Roach said.
Two sisters visited with Santa once. After being asked what she wanted for Christmas, the younger sister said she wanted a candy cane.
“The older one said, ‘No, she means a Dora (the Explorer) doll,” Roach said.
Roach said he’s 72 and has 13 grandchildren. He and his wife, Virginia, have lived in Kearney since 1993 and try to attend as many of their grandchildren’s various activities as they can. He also operates a mowing and snow removal business with his grandsons.
“I just like to keep busy,” Roach said.
Kearney Editor Dave Hon can be reached at 903-6001 or at email@example.com.