Rockford stadium renamed to honor longtime coach Ralph Munger

Football Frenzy

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — The house that Ralph built now bears his name.

Since it was built nearly 30 years ago, the Rockford Rams have called their football field Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium. Carlson was a longtime board of education trustee and Rams superfan.

Coach Ralph Munger has been just as much, if not more, an icon in Rockford high school sports.

“He has literally built the football program,” Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler said, going on to say the program has set the bar for all district sports.

Rockford decided to honor his nearly three decades of service by renaming the stadium Carlson-Munger Stadium.

“When Dr. Shibler told me that this was going to happen, yeah, it kind of blows you away,” Munger said. “Just grateful. Just trying to continue to maintain an attitude of gratitude.”

“…It is quite an honor,” he continued. “To me, it reflects on all of the hard work that all of the coaches, that all of the athletes put in.”

Munger spent 12 successful seasons coaching for Frankenmuth before Shibler hired him in 1992. He kept up the success with Rockford, turning the team into a perennial powerhouse with 25 consecutive playoff appearances, six perfect seasons, five finals appearances and three state titles.

“We really wanted to do a great job of keeping kids in sports and out of courts,” Munger said. “If all of us could do our part, we knew that we’d have a program that, in the end, we could all be extremely proud of.”

Munger also has 335 career wins between both Frankenmuth and Rockford, the sixth most in Michigan high school football history.

As he built that record, he mentored thousands of young athletes.

“It’s his integrity and his character that he’s passed on to his athletes and for the people just around him. And so he’s made such a significant contribution to our community, which carries on for decades,” Shibler said.

By 2019, Munger was starting to think about retirement, though he still thought it was a couple of years off. Then in August of that year, he underwent a quadruple bypass. Recovery kept him on the sidelines for the start of the season.

“Number one is it strengthened my faith,” Munger said of how the experience shifted his perspective. “It certainly made me take a look at what was and appreciate significantly more.”

He decided to retire at the end of the season.

“I did take that opportunity to look back and see just how unbelievable things really were,” Munger said. “I think my perspective, I think clarity — that’s a great word, clarity — clarity certainly entered in and helped me understand more about what was. And of course, my wife did, too. She was a great reminder of what we needed to be thankful for.”

Along with a new name, Carlson-Munger Stadium debuted a new video scoreboard, on-field locker rooms/classrooms, entrance and plaza, bathrooms, expanded press box with a new elevator, new visitor’s press box with field access on both sides and a high-tech track. A 12-foot bronze Rams statue is still to come.

“I’m good about the fact that we’re going on to a new chapter,” Munger said. “Hopefully the program stays strong and even gets better.”

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