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The Woodley Profession

December 19, 2013
By: Sam Knehans, Communications & Sports Information Intern

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When you grow up with a football coach for a father, the game becomes a family affair. The early-morning practices and late-night film sessions build to a crescendo on the one day of the week that truly matters—game day. Whether it’s Friday, Saturday or Sunday, that day becomes sacrosanct for those steeped in the folklore of coaching.

That’s certainly been the case for Grand View (Iowa) head coach Mike Woodley—who’s spent nearly 40 years patrolling the sideline at the high school and college levels—and his four sons.

As a two-time team captain, three-time First Team All-Conference selection and four-year letterman at NCAA Division I Northern Iowa, Woodley has the football pedigree that many of the game’s modern coaches lack. A 1973 Second Team All-American and a 2005 Northern Iowa Hall of Fame inductee, Woodley still holds the Panthers school record for career interceptions, with 20.

As a local hero, Woodley has seldom strayed from the state where he made his name, spending 34 of his 39 years coaching in Iowa as a graduate assistant at NCAA Division I Iowa; assistant coach at Waterloo East High School; head coach at Osage High School, Fort Dodge High School and West Des Moines Valley High School; head coach at St. Ambrose (Iowa); assistant coach at NCAA Division I Iowa State and now head coach at Grand View, since the program’s inception in 2008.

His successful tenure as a high school football coach in the heart of the Great Plains, including an undefeated season in 1979 at Osage, spurred his induction into the Iowa High School Football Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame in 2003. Outside of the Hawkeye state, he’s coached at the high school level in Alamogordo, N.M., and in Houston, Texas, where he also served as the athletic director at Sam Rayburn High School.

With his lengthy resume, Woodley has certainly impacted thousands of lives, but none more than Brian, Matt, Andy and Joe. Because of, or in spite of, their father’s influence, all four of Woodley’s sons have joined the coaching fraternity.

After their collegiate careers—Brian played football for his father at St. Ambrose, Matt played basketball at Drake (Iowa), Andy played basketball at Northern Iowa and Joe played football at Iowa State—each of the Woodley boys found his way into coaching.

“I never wanted them to go into coaching, but obviously there was something that attracted them around my football teams and the other teams that I coached, so all of them got into it,” Woodley said. “I’m lucky too that they’ve all been successful.” 

Currently, Brian is the head football coach at Johnston (Iowa) High School, Matt is the head basketball coach at NCAA Division II Truman State (Mo.), Andy is an assistant basketball coach at Grand View and Joe serves as his father’s defensive coordinator at Grand View—a position he’s held since the program’s introduction in 2008.

While busy coaching schedules may make it difficult to arrange a family gathering, the Woodley career field certainly makes for interesting story-swapping around the holidays. “At Christmas time and Thanksgiving the topic of conversation is generally sports,” Woodley said. “That’s a big topic. It’s a big part of our lives.”

When you’re coaching into the holiday season, rather than sitting at home swapping stories or heading out for a final recruiting push, you’ve had a successful year. In the sixth season of football at Grand View—with Mike at the helm and Joe as his right-hand man—the Vikings, who are 13-0 on the year, are having the greatest season in program history.

After a 35-0 victory over in-state rival Morningside (Iowa) in the NAIA Football Championship Series semifinals, Grand View sits just one win away from its first-ever NAIA Football National Championship, with Cumberlands (Ky.)—and its triple-option offense that leads the nation in rushing (4,669 yards) and scoring (593 points)—as the final hurdle to its perfect season.

Now, in the final game, with the holidays upon them, it’s up to Mike and Joe to write the perfect ending to the greatest story in Woodley coaching lore.

That ending will be written on Saturday in Rome, Ga., and can be seen on ESPN 3, with kickoff scheduled for 4:34 p.m. EST.