The Florida A&M Rattlers cross-country team won the Fourth Annual Bobby Lang Invitational last month, just hours after winning second place at the Florida State Invitational.
However, many students may not know the history behind the name Bobby Lang.
“Coach Lang may be very well one of the most important coaches of Florida A&M,” said Vaughn Wilson, interim sports information director.
“He coached all the way back from the Jake Gaither era all the way into the new millennium, which means he affected athletes over 40 years.”
Lang retired in July 1999, but the university has not forgotten his legacy.
Lang had been directing the men’s track program since 1966 and had been coaching men and women’s track since 1982. Additionally, he headed FAMU’s National Youth Sports Program, a government-funded summer athletics program.
Lang is no stranger to hard work. Under his coaching, the track team won 38 conference titles. Lang was the first MEAC coach to win conference championships in cross-country, indoor and outdoor track – a triple crown. However, Lang said his job did not bring about any difficulties.
“I didn’t have too many obstacles when coaching,” Lang said. “My job was a pleasure. I enjoyed going to work every day. That’s a blessing in itself.”
He also produced track All-Americans such as Pam Oliver and Olympian Rey Robinson. Robinson went on tie the record for the 100-meter dash and Oliver went on to become a successful broadcast reporter.
Lang recalls his high school days as a track athlete, football and basketball player at Stanton High School in Jacksonville. He earned awards in almost every sport he participated in.
In 1953, Lang entered FAMU on a football scholarship and ran track. By the time Lang graduated, he helped win conference championships in track and became captain of the football team. After graduating, he worked at FAMU Demonstration School in 1958. Lang was later offered a position as a health and physical education professor at FAMU and began coaching track.
“The honor of having a chance to work for and with my college coach, who is Jake Gaither, was a great honor,” said Lang, who described his relationship with Gaither as fantastic.
“He was very influential on my life and helping me become the type of man I became,” he said.
Lang was mostly recognized for his work as a track coach, but he also coached football. He was a member of the coaching staff that won the 1978 inaugural I-AA football national championship.
Four men – Hansel Tookes, Costa “Pop” Kittles, Robert Mungen and Lang – who all played football at Stanton, created a new era for FAMU athletics.
“I guess there must be something about those guys from Stanton High in Jacksonville,” Lang said.
In addition to a legendary career coaching FAMU track, Lang met his wife, former FAMU Provost Gladys Lang, at the university.
“I was very lucky and very fortunate to meet my wife here on campus,” Lang said. “The idea of being in a college surrounding was important to us because that meant the kids would be in a good place.”
Together, they raised three children – Marlott, Angela and Ronald – who each graduated from FAMU. Angela Lang met her husband at FAMU, and Ronald Lang met his spouse at the university as well.
“FAMU has been a real good thing for the Lang family,” Lang added.
He said his only vision for FAMU athletics is to be successful.
“My vision for coach Moore and coach Angel is to have as much success as they possibly can,” Lang said. “That will come with great recruiting, hard work and a lot of support from FAMU.”
While Lang hopes for the track teams’ success, he remembers who urged him to make great accomplishments. J.P. Smalls, Stanton’s football coach, played an important role in Lang’s achievements.
“My high school coach insisted that I do well,” Lang said.
Another motivator, in addition to adult influence, was “the chance to get out of the ghetto.” Lang was the first in his family to finish high school, and his mother and grandmother pushed him to go to college.
“I was the first boy in a 20-blocksquare to get out of the ghetto,” Lang said. “That kind of put a heavy load on me. That programmed me not to fail.”
Coming from humble beginnings, Lang said he always wants students to remember where they came from. Lang has had the opportunity to coach many students during his tenure at FAMU. However, the fact that these students still keep in touch with him, he said, is what makes the job worth it.
“I have so many kids that I had coached who have finished school and have gone into the world and are doing well,” Lang said. “They’re successful in life, their jobs and families, and they haven’t forgotten their ole coach. Every now and then, the phone will ring from time to time and there’s one call to say, ‘Thank you, Coach.’ That’s pretty important.”