WATERLOO — Carl Boyd underestimated Robert “Bob” Kincaid just once, and once was all it took.
Before there was David Johnson, Boyd was considered the best running back to ever play for Northern Iowa, starring for the Panthers from 1983 to 1987.
During his time in Cedar Falls, like many Panther football and men’s basketball players, Boyd considered Kincaid, the two programs’ academic advisor, a mentor.
Now a Cook County district court judge in Chicago, Boyd fondly remembers the greatest lesson Kincaid ever taught him.
“Well, I always respected people in authority positions, and coach definitely was big in stature, too,” Boyd related. “But one day, we were laughing. He challenged me to a game of racquet ball.
“I did not know he had an athletic background, and I was a premier student-athlete, so I didn’t think he had a chance. That day, I learned a valuable lesson about not judging a book by its cover. ... So needless to say, he beat me in racquet ball.”
That lesson made Boyd laugh back during his athletic career. It made him chuckle again Tuesday as he remembered Kincaid, who at the age of 76 died Sunday after a battle with cancer.
Kincaid, the Waterloo East Hall of Fame athlete who was also inducted into the Adams State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014, served UNI football and men’s basketball teams, first under Darrell Mudra and then Terry Allen, before following Allen to Kansas in 1997, and then to Missouri State, all in the same capacity.
“He had an impact on so many,” Allen said. “Carl Boyd. James Jones. Dedric Ward. Kenny Shedd and many more. He impacted so many, and many, many would not have made it in school if not for Bob.
“His impact is all over Northern Iowa athletics.”
Jones, who spent 10 years in the NFL (1991-2000) after his all-American career at UNI, frequently talked with Kincaid. Jones was succinct in what Kincaid meant to him.
“I loved him. I’d tell him I loved him every time before we got off the phone,” said Jones, who now resides in Phoenix. “He’s the reason for me being able to have the success that I have had in my life so far.
“He’s the unsung hero for so many of us at UNI. He was behind-the-scenes guy. His impact was so great, I don’t think a lot of people understand or appreciated what he did.”
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Boyd said Kincaid had the unique ability to understand every individual who came through his office, knowing each student-athlete came from a different walk of life.
“He had a unique way of catering to the needs of the UNI student athletes,” Boyd said. “That is what I loved about him is he understood everybody comes from a different space. Bob was persistent, resourceful, very compassionate and stern.
“He was invested in the lives of many, hundreds if not thousands of student athletes, and he treated us all with the same dignity, love and respect, and for that I’m certainly grateful.”
Another aspect Boyd respected about Kincaid: “He never beat his own drum. He never bragged about how many athletes he helped graduate.”
Jones added, “He always had others’ best interest in heart over his own. A lot of people he helped along the way probably took him for granted because he was always there.”
For example, Jones added, “About a year ago, I had a speaking engagement in my hometown of Davenport, and he just showed up, catching me off guard. That reminded me of the type of person he was.”
He also served Eldon Miller’s men’s basketball teams.
“Bob Kincaid was a great friend to college students, a wonderful influence on young people,” Miller said. “The real measure, in my opinion, on people is how you impact the growth in other people, and Bob was just tremendous with that.
“He was a great believer in education. He was just phenomenal in making sure kids stayed on track. There weren’t many excuses with Bob. There would be some who’d try to get something by on him, and he’d catch it right away.”
There is something else all of Kincaid’s pupils and colleagues remember about him.
“He taught me a lot about barbequing,” Miller said. “He was a barbeque master.”
“He brought me some ribs once, and I asked him where the sauce was, and he responded back, ‘If you make them like I make them, you don’t need barbeque sauce, and yeah, his ribs were tight, I’m not going to lie," added Jones.