We could all use a bit of luck now and again. Maybe you hit straight green lights on your way to the office this morning. Maybe the kind bloke ahead of you in the drive-thru line felt like paying it forward and bought your lunch. Hopefully you did the same for the lucky sap behind you.
Me, I got lucky when I came to Sheridan to work as a sports reporter.
I can probably break that luck down in various forms, and I’d like to think a lot of that luck came as a byproduct of the effort and passion I put into the work and the resume that got me to Sheridan in the first place.
One thing for which I can’t take credit, though, is the Sheridan Broncs football team and its head coach.
Don Julian had seven years of coaching under his belt at Sheridan High School before I even got to town. That was plenty of time to build a dynasty from a program already rich in tradition.
It didn’t take long before I realized that.
Sheridan went 8-3 in 2014, my first fall covering the Broncs. The team lost in the semifinals to a Natrona team that couldn’t be stopped, but I could still sense the dynamics of football in Sheridan. Julian had already won two state championships before I got here. More were coming.
And they did. A 32-2 record and three state championships over the past three seasons. A 42-5 record since I’ve been in Sheridan. That includes 11 playoff games — an extra season.
I’d like to take credit for those four seasons, but I’m pretty sure no correlation between small-town newspaper journalism and high school football exists. But the Broncs football program has certainly made my job a bit more fun.
I could sit here and bombard you with more statistics. But that would fill up most of this column, and you can read many of them on today’s front page — in the story of Julian’s resignation.
Instead, since Julian announced he’s hanging up the blue and gold headset, I took a little time to reflect on my four years with the SHS football program. And I say “with” because that’s what Julian did for me. Just as he’s done with his staff and his players, the head coach made me feel like I was a part of the team. He made me feel like I had a role.
Sure, winning makes it easier. But there were losses — few, but still losses. Two shutouts against Natrona in 2014 brought plenty of frustration for a head coach and a rookie journalist.
But it became about so much more than what was happening between the end zones. I got to experience life off the turf — the meetings, the practices, the film sessions.
If he’ll let me, I’ll keep our weekly Tuesday meetings on my schedule just to pop in to his office and chat. Interviews turned to casual conversation — both of which always expanded my knowledge in some fashion.
As I stepped into a new role at The Sheridan Press, I turned those chats with Julian into tools. I wasn’t one of his players. He wasn’t my coach. Yet, he taught me how to lead, how to build a culture and what it takes to reach lofty expectations.
If you’ve experienced Sheridan football in any way, you’re not surprised by the decade-long run of success. If you’ve conversed with its head coach, you understand why Tuesday’s decision (a year-long decision, in reality) was an emotional one.
I’m certain Sheridan High School football won’t skip a beat. The process and expectations are in place. Julian put them there.
And for everyone that’s gone through that program, myself included, the tools are in place to push those expectations even further.
Thanks, coach. See you Tuesday.