AURORA | Rodney Padilla believed T.C. (Thomas) Newland was making a difference as head coach of the Hinkley football team, which was overwhelmingly young in 2021.
Filled with freshman and sophomores, the Thunderbirds learned a lot of lessons during a winless campaign and Newland — who loved coaching and spent several decades leading teams in a variety of sports — appeared dedicated to helping them build for the future despite numerous challenges.
Newland didn’t get a chance to see that growth pay off, however, as he died Dec. 17 after several weeks in the hospital, a loss that sent shockwaves through a Hinkley community that has dealt with a significant amount of tragedy in recent weeks. Newland also taught science at the school after previously teaching at Clyde Miller Elementary.
“It’s devastating and shocking,” Padilla told the Sentinel. “He was 56 (years old) and in relatively good health. He was a good man and he will be tough to replace. He was definitely a quality individual.”
Services for Newland, who is survived by his wife, Catherine and a variety of other family members, took place Dec. 30 at the Brush Memorial Cemetery.
According to his obituary, Newland was born on May 26, 1965, in Englewood. He went to Brush High School and graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Industrial Science Technology Education. He also earned a M.S. Sports Administration degree from the University of Northern Colorado.
At Brush, Newland played prep football under Larry Mills, who has been inducted into the Colorado High School Coaches Hall of Fame and also the National High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame and he was also a star in basketball and track & field. Newland went on to a collegiate football career at Colorado State and played halfback under Leon Fuller until he graduated in 1986.
Newland had been a head football coach previously in Alamosa as well as in Nevada at schools of various sizes and spent two seasons coaching the offensive line at nearby Gateway before he applied for the Hinkley job vacated by Michael Farda following the 2019 season.
A month into the coronavirus pandemic, Padilla hired Newland via Zoom (story) and watched him make progress with a program that had to restart with a lot of turnover after a strong run in the last two years under Farda, who returned to his native Texas. The Thunderbirds played in the spring and fall of 2021 due to the pandemic.
“T.C. did a good job and he was working hard with a lot of young kids, many of which had never played football before,” Padilla said. “It was coming. They made big strides from the spring to the fall, they started scoring some points and doing everything they could.”
Padilla said he and Newland spent a few hours together in the same office during the lockdown from a shooting outside the school a few weeks ago and talked about football, their experiences while attending Colorado State and other areas of life.
When he found out Newland was in the hospital, Padilla exchanged texts with him for several days, many just checking in and others to give Newland updates on how some of his football players were doing as part of Padilla’s wrestling team.
The texts stopped, however, and Padilla feared the worst.
“It’s pretty devastating; life is weird with its twists and turns,” Padilla said.
Newland was the sixth coach of the Hinkley football team in the past 11 seasons and became the second one to pass away in 2021. Bob Bozied, who coached the Thunderbirds in 2011, died in August at the age of 74 of a heart attack.
The search for a new Hinkley football coach will resume some time in the new year.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports