News Article: Great Article About Deboer

Rollingtide

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Dec 13, 2023
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Kalen DeBoer was a high school football player in Milbank, South Dakota when he received his first recruiting letter. Now they’re both headed for the University of Alabama.

On Friday, DeBoer was hired to succeed Nick Saban as Alabama’s head football coach. The recruiting letter will be coming with him, as it has on each of his previous seven coaching stops.

"This letter sits behind my desk in a drawer usually that I check often and just think about why I do what I do," DeBoer, 49, said earlier this year.

This season he led the Washington Huskies to the national championship game -- not unlike the author of the recruiting letter once led DeBoer.

The man was Bob Young, former football coach at the University of Sioux Falls, a Baptist-affiliated school in eastern South Dakota then competing in NAIA. It’s where DeBoer became an All-America wide receiver, a fast-rising coach and a protégé of Young, who shared his love for football, his deep spiritual faith and, as reflected in the handwritten recruiting letter, attention to detail.

"It’s just perfectly handwritten," DeBoer said. "There’s no blemishes."

DeBoer’s remarks about the letter were part of his taped comments played in June at a Celebration of Life for Young, who died almost a year ago. After Washington beat Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game last month, he received a congratulatory text from Young’s son, Steve.

Replied DeBoer, "We learned from the best."

Washington coach Kalen DeBoer visits with running back Cameron Davis (22) during warm ups before a game in 2022 against Oregon at Autzen Stadium.


Difficult times for DeBoer's family
In her mind’s eye, DeBoer’s mother said, she sees little Kalen mowing the vacant farmland near where they lived. He did it so there was a place to play football with his two younger siblings and cousins.

It’s a warm memory from a difficult time, said Phylis Waterfall.

She said became a single mother in 1982, about the same time Kalen turned 9, and moved her three children into a rental house on the vacant farm.

Life was tough, recalled Waterfall, who said she worked at a drugstore and got help from fellow churchgoers. God protected them, she said, but added that she leaned on Kalen, too.

"He was my rock," she said.

They lived on their own until Waterfall remarried about seven years later, she said

"It probably forced me to grow up a little bit quicker," DeBoer told The Associated Press.

In an email to USA TODAY Sports, DeBoer wrote, "My dad and I stayed in touch. Just don't want it to come across in a negative way toward him."

After Bob Young died, DeBoer sent Young’s son Steve a text message. In part, it reads, "Your dad is the most influential male in my life. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without him."

GAMBLING MAN:Washington's DeBoer thrives with ice-cold risk-taking

Humility and filling gopher holes
At Sioux Falls, Young was more than a football coach.

He also taught three math classes, washed the football team’s jerseys and occasionally drove the team bus. He also compiled a record 172-89-3 at the school.

In 1996, DeBoer was a key player on the school’s first national championship team. But he showed he’d learned more than winning.

For example, after DeBoer joined Young’s coaching staff as offensive coordinator in 2000, DeBoer more than once carried buckets of dirt and filled in gopher holes on the practice fields, said Ken "SID" Kortmeyer, then a senior athletic official at Sioux Falls.

"It was just that humble ability to help when help is needed," Kortmeyer said.

Young’s handpicked successor, DeBoer took over as head coach in 2005. The season ended with a 55-0 loss to Carroll College in the NAIA national semifinals.

"There’ve been times where I’ve really dreaded doing a postgame interview with a coach after a blowout or a tight one," said Tom Frederick, the longtime play-by-play announcer at Sioux Falls. "He couldn’t have made it any easier. He wasn’t down. He wasn’t mad."

DeBoer went out and found more talent, and Sioux Falls won three of the next four NAIA championships.

Nudged by Willie Sanchez, then athletic director at Sioux Falls, DeBoer left South Dakota and began his climb up the Division I coaching ranks.

'Coach Young nailed it'
Oct. 15, 2021. Laramie, Wyoming.

DeBoer was a head coach again, and in his second year in charge of the program at Fresno State, and with his players at the team hotel.

Fresno State was coming off a 27-24 loss at Hawaii as it prepared for its game the next day against Wyoming. Young, then 81, made the 9½-hour drive from Sioux Falls to be with DeBoer.

At DeBoer’s request, Young led team’s chapel service Friday night.

"Coach Young nailed it," DeBoer said in taped remarks played at the Celebration of Life in Bob Young Stadium in Sioux Falls. "He had talked about the peaks and the valleys and how to get through it and how to stay the course and keep the faith."

Then came the peaks. And more peaks.

Fresno State beat Wyoming, 17-0, won six of its last seven games and finished the season 10-3.

DeBoer got hired by Washington in November of 2021.

Last season, DeBoer inherited a team that went 4-8 and led them to an 11-2 record.

Connecting with his players like the father-figure he found in Bob Young, the magical ride continued.

What real love looks like
Four of Washington’s victories have come by four or fewer points. DeBoer continues to operate with the composure of his mentor, but that’s not ice water in his veins.

On Nov. 4, after Washington beat Southern California 52-42, Washington linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui broke down in DeBoer’s arms after the DeBoer told him, “The team loves you.’’

Tupuola-Fetui, a senior, was playing a week after his father died.

Michael Penix Sr. the father of Washington's star quarterback, said there's something unique about this football team.

"You hear coaches and players always say they love each other," he said. "But there ain’t too many of them really show it day by day. I think what Coach DeBoer is doing up there with that program is showing them real love.

"It’s not the love that happens one day and three days off. It’s everyday love. That’s big for the players."

At the Celebration of Life for Young, DeBoer talked about his final conversation with his old coach and mentor.

"Of course I hardly got any questions in on him about how he was doing," DeBoer said in the taped remarks. "He was always about you, right? And asking how the team was and how my family was and how recruiting was going.

"And, of course, that patented, that always final, 'Love you, man' at the end. And that’s the thing I’m going to remember forever, is the ‘Love you, man.'"
 

TideEngineer08

TideFans Legend
Jun 9, 2009
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Good read. I only have one question, will there be any uni changes. None I hope. Silly question I know, but the thought crossed my mind.
Western society will crumble before Alabama changes its uniforms. Heck there is weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth any time the sensible suggestion of periodic use of white helmets is brought up.
 

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