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Jim Conboy

Inducted 1999


Jim Conboy was more than an ankle-taper to Air Force Academy athletes. He was a friend, a confidant, a father figure, a soul mate.

Conboy dispensed wisdom as effectively as he dispensed medical care.

Conboy spent 43 years with cadets, 43 years nursing their aching bodies and often-ravaged psyches. It’s not easy being an academy cadet. For the young men and women he tended to with a never-wavering smile, Jim Conboy made it easier.

From 1955, before a single cadet set foot on the AFA campus, through 1997, when health problems forced him off the sidelines and into an advisory capacity, Conboy was the academy’s head trainer. He worked with all cadet athletes, but mostly with football and basketball players.

Conboy’s failing health was one of the only negatives of the 1998 Air Force football season, a season when the Falcons won 11 games and their first outright Western Athletic Conference title.

But when Conboy finally succumbed at age 74 in a Colorado Springs hospital in October, his friends and colleagues chose to remember the good times. They spoke of a man who nourished their lives with good words and good deeds.

“He was one of the most unusual people I’ve ever known,” said Dean Smith, an assistant basketball and baseball coach at Air Force in the late ’50s before becoming a legend at North Carolina. “He was one of the most caring people in the world, and he was great company. That’s a great match.”

Smith was among a group of some 1,000 mourners who came to pay respect to Conboy at services held at the Cadet Chapel. The gathering was a who’s-who list of Colorado and Air Force sports figures past and present.

James Conboy was born and raised in Denver, growing up to star in baseball and basketball at Holy Family High School. He spent several years as a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, and then attended the University of Denver, graduating in 1948. He spent several years as chief of physical therapy at a pair of veteran’s hospitals before signing on with the newly formed Air Force Academy in 1955.

Conboy and the academy were a perfect fit. He loved his job, worked at it tirelessly, smiling all the way. With his wife, Jeanne, who died in 1972, Conboy had seven children of his own. He had hundreds more who loved to hang out with him in the AFA training room.

“He really taught us that we live in an unranked human system, meaning there is nobody better than anybody else,” said Conboy’s son, Brian. “With all the brass and the notables around here, he never forgot the equipment managers or the assistant trainers, or the children of the coaches. We’re pretty proud of that.”

The Conboy clan richly deserves to be proud. Jim Conboy was one of the good guys.

Jim Conboy

Conboy dispensed wisdom as effectively as he dispensed medical care.