WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Jack VerDuin spent 43 years as a football coach at Wyoming Park High School, but he always preferred a different title.
“I am a football teacher,” he told News in 2001.
“I think a true coach teaches and he taught so many young men not only the sport of football, but also many life lessons that carried them through their entire life,” his daughter Jami McNees recently recalled. “I think at last count, it was 1,800 young men that he had mentored through life.”
VerDuin’s lessons began when he joined the Park staff as an assistant coach in 1957. He became head coach in 1962. Over the next 38 seasons, he led the program to 243 wins, 19 conference titles, two trips to the state finals and a state championship in 1984.
But his tenure was about more than statistics; it was about people.
“His gains were much more than what the football scoreboard said,” McNees said. “His gains were seeing how these young men carried on their life and how successful they were in life.”
“When you see somebody go on and be successful or when you see somebody that might have taken the wrong path and in some little way you or your coaching staff have helped aim them in the right direction, that’s what’s really rewarding,” VerDuin said in 2001.
He said he often tried to set goals for his students and set them in the right direction.
“I think football is one of the greatest teachers of life,” he said.
Jeff Vander Klay, now the basketball coach for Wyoming, played football for VerDuin in the early 1980s.
“It was always about how is this going to apply to things other than this small little football time. One of the things he conveyed always was the idea of preparation and confidence,” Vander Klay said.
Ver Duin died in April 2007 at the age of 73.
On Friday, on behalf of the more than 2,000 athletes he coached and all the families he helped, Wyoming will official dedicate and rename its new stadium Jack VerDuin Stadium.
“He would not want this,” his daughter said with a laugh. “He was so humble and he would not be about this at all. You know, ‘It’s not about me.’ But we are so proud.”
“He would probably think it would be too much, knowing Jack, but he would be very happy and he would celebrate along with the rest of us,” Ted Hollern, the athletic director for Wyoming, said.
“I think it might be a little much as far as how he would see it,” Vander Klay agreed with a smile. “But for all of us, the generations of kids who played for him, it’s just such an honor for us.”
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” VerDuin said in 2001. “I’ve had great kids over the years, I’ve been blessed with great assistant coaches, and so it’s just been a wonderful experience.”