Coach Boosts At-Risk Kids By Helping Them on the Field

Building better young people is the goal of most high school coaches, but what Kevin Kush has been able to do is truly remarkable. His players at Boys Town High School in Omaha, Neb., have been abused, abandoned or neglected. This season, for the first time in nearly 60 years, the Boys Town Cowboys have a perfect record of 11 and 0.

"Head football coach is kind of the title, but I think it goes much deeper than that," Kush said. "Working here is a mission. It really is. And we use the game of football to build a better young man. That's my job, I think. It truly is to get kids to make life changes and to use the game of football in order to do that."

Football is just one of the tools to help the boys turn a corner. They attend Boys Town because parents and society have failed them.

This institution, founded 88 years ago, was made famous by the inspirational 1938 movie "Boys Town," starring Spencer Tracy as its founder, Father Flanagan.

Father Flanagan knew his charges didn't have the opportunities of most children. That is still true, since two-thirds of the football team had never played the game before coming here.

"We always have a number of kids asking us how the pads go in the pants because they've just never done it before," Kush said.

Unlike most high school students, Kush's players only attend the school for a year or two. He has little time to build a team and to convince them that success on the field can mean success in life.

"If you really want to look at victories, that comes down the road, five or 10 years from now," he said. "Can you take what you learned in football, that passion that you pursued something, that getting up when you got knocked down, you can take that and put it into play in your everyday life."

"Coach, that's like my father to me, like the father to the whole team," said one player.

Kush Had NFL Aspirations

Kush grew up playing football very close to Boys Town, in Omaha, and he went on to play for the University of Nebraska, hoping to turn pro.

"And like every little kid I wanted to play in the NFL," he said. "But God didn't give me the physical tools to do that, so I found another way to pursue my passion, and that is through coaching."

That passion will be badly needed this weekend when the Boys Town Cowboys face the powerhouse Norfolk Catholic Knights in the semi-finals.

The Knights have 70 players on their team, but the Cowboys only have 28.

"They're going to be outnumbered a lot of times in their life," said Kush, "and I think if they can learn through football that 'there's no challenge too big that I can't take on,' that's a lot."

Kush admits he can't reach every kid. But he has no plans to stop trying.

"We're not batting 1,000 here and we never claim to," he said, "but we're getting a lot of hits and we're making a lot of difference in the lives of young men."

ABC News' Bob Woodruff filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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