Next year there will be more turkey, there will be more West Wing marathons, the Detroit Lions will play the best game of their season, but Darryl Stroh will not be patrolling the sidelines for Granada Hills. He will probably still be barking and gruff, he will certainly still keep the same hard-nosed competitiveness that he instilled in his players. He will still believe in a blistering defense and discipline, but he won't be passing those beliefs on to young men in Southern California.
So this Thanksgiving, as I was throwing thanks toward the sky, I made a point to throw one up there for Tom Harp, who'll be flying solo at Granada Hills next year. I lofted a prayer for the athletes at Granada Hills, who lose a winner, a mentor, and a teacher. But the big one, the one I took some time on, was the thanks I gave for Darryl Stroh. Took a little extra time with it because I figured some of you out there might forget, and everybody who's ever participated in, watched, or played football in California owes a little debt to Stroh. We should all have given him thanks, but just in case you forgot I took care of you.
Nearly 40 years Stroh gave us. Worked his way up, did things the right way. Took over the varsity at Granada Hills in 1985 where he and Harp teamed up to "co-coach". Essentially Harp ran the "O" and Stroh the "D". Seemed to work out, they took a team that had gone 1-9 the previous season and got them 12 wins in their first year. They produced five city championships. They've placed kids in college, gotten them scholarships, given them memories and ideals to cherish.
When guys sign their name with an "HOF" after it, it's pretty special. Next year John Elway will be able to do that, but ask him about Stroh and you might not realized which one of them was the Hall of Famer, "Coach was hard nosed, taught discipline and control. I had him in baseball and football, and he taught and coached both sports the same way. Work hard, play under control, and you'll win. I used the lessons he taught me in high school my entire career".
Did I forget to mention that Stroh was a baseball coach too? Sorry, when you talk about Coach Stroh you can talk for awhile and still forget to say things. From 1970 to 1996 Stroh coached varsity baseball. Stayed with that even when he took a few years off from football. It seemed to a lot of players that he was always coaching, even when he was away from the field. He started coaching because he felt it was a good way for him to pass along life lessons to young men. Thirty-nine years later it's still why he does it. Wins and losses mattered to Stroh, but the lessons produced wins, and the lessons were what mattered more.
So thanks Coach Stroh. From me, from thousands of former players, from hundreds of thousands who've watched you work. Thanks for doing it the right way. Thanks for sticking to your guns. Thanks for inspirational speeches, for grueling practices. Thanks for expecting the best from yourself, and everyone around you. Thanks for reminding us that hard work does pay off.
Last night Dorsey and their talented tandem of Johnson's eliminated an overmatched Granada Hills team in the City Section Championship division quarters. Granada Hills gave up 33 points, which I'm relatively certain will stick in Stroh's craw for some time to come. For parts of five decades if this happened Stroh would simply sit down, figure out what went wrong, and chomp at the bit for the next season so he could correct it.
But not this year. This year is his last. Retirement, Arizona, golf, free time, enjoying himself. He's earned it. Some would say that it would have been magical if Granada Hills could have rallied around the coach, used his final season as inspiration on the way to the Championship. It certainly could have been, but Coach Stroh wouldn't have seen it that way. There was nothing magical about football for him. It was about hard work, keeping your nose clean, being part of something, and trusting those around you. If that sounds a lot like life to you, you probably played under Darryl Stroh.
Thanks Coach, good luck to you.