By Rod Miller, columnist
At the risk of type-casting myself as the Cowboy State Daily Unofficial Eulogizer, I want to remark on the passing of a great man that few in Wyoming have ever heard about. Coach Bob Young of the University of Sioux Falls has hung up his earthly whistle and left the field.
I am reminded of Coach Young’s greatness, his class, his dedication to young athletes both in uniform and out, and the power of his mentoring every time I see my son, Isaac.
As father of four young jocks, I coached each of my sons in several sports and I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. And, as a father, I hoped that each of them would be fortunate enough to find good men to coach them after they left my orbit.
Bob Young recruited Ike to play quarterback at Sioux Falls, and a dad’s prayers were answered. In point of fact, Coach Young kept a sharp eye out for good players from the Big Empty, knowing that very few would get recruited to play for the Wyoming Cowboys on Saturday.
The University of Sioux Falls Cougars, now a Division II school, had won the NAIA national championship a few years before Ike donned the uniform, so the football program took a back seat to nobody. Ike spent four years at USF and had a stellar career, winning a conference championship.
He brought back all the plaques, trophies and awards that one would expect. But beyond that, my son brought home the imprint of having worked under and learned from a football genius who was also a good man in every sense of the term.
I think any Wyoming family who had a kid coached by Bob Young will tell you the same thing.
It is cliché, but Coach Young treated his players like family. He didn’t merely coach X’s and O’s, he coached life. In a small school football program, that can be done if the coach is dedicated and caring. In a big D1 school with all the hoopla and pressure, its nigh on impossible.
Don’t misunderstand, Bob Young was a fierce competitor and his Cougar teams were most certainly NOT out to acquire participation trophies. His teams took the field to kick ass and take names. Young’s record as the winningest coach in school history attests to that fact.
His players revered Coach Young not only because he helped them win, but because he helped them become better men. Masculine virtue isn’t only winning, but also becoming better men, fathers and citizens. A proud dad could ask for no better influence on his jock son than that.
Last year, UW played Fresno State at home, and the Fresno team was coached by Kalen DeBoer, who a few years earlier had taken over the Sioux Falls program when Coach Young retired. DeBoer is now the head coach of the Washington Huskies and he was Ike’s offensive coordinator during his Sioux Falls years.
Several of Young’s former players from the Cowboy State scored tickets to the game for their former coach, and arranged a brunch in Cheyenne with him before heading off to War Memorial. These guys are all grown now, with growing families and waistlines of their own.
While Coach Young sat in the place of honor in an easy chair with his cane next to him, his former players arranged themselves around him like they were in a team meeting. There was a lot of love in that room! They swapped old war stories and laughed at the goof-ups of young men. Coach Young remembered an anecdote about each player in the room.
He asked them questions like, “Are you writing down all the lessons you learn?” and “Are you keeping yourselves clean and busy?” He never stopped coaching life.
As they gathered to head over to Laramie, I pulled Coach Young aside and thanked him for answering my prayer as a father, and being a mentor to Ike. His eyes twinkled as he patted my arm and said, “Ike’s a good man. A good man”.