Come fall, John Schultz might take a drive to the mountains to see the leaves change, trek to the Western Slope to visit his bouncing baby granddaughter or check out a University of Wyoming football game.
He might do all three. But whatever he chooses to do, it will be the first time in more than two decades that it won’t have anything to do with coaching Grandview High School football.
By far the longest-tenured head football coach in Aurora and one of shrinking breed of coaches in Colorado in the larger school ranks that spent more than a decade with the same program, the 56-year-old Schultz — who guided the Wolves to the 2007 Class 5A state championship and has amassed 150 career victories — is stepping down after 17 seasons.
“It will be a weird feeling (in the fall), but I’m so thankful to have been able to be so successful with it and with all the kids that have come through, it has been a wonderful experience,” Schultz told the Sentinel. “It’s just time to not be a head coach and recharge my batteries, spend some with the family and get ready to have some fun.
“You don’t realize how fast time goes by, you just grind. You just go and go and then you look up and 20 years has gone by.”
Schultz delivered the news in person to players Thursday in a meeting after school in a socially distanced gathering.
Schultz — who is a math teacher at Grandview as well — said he had originally planned to stay the course for two more years until he reached 30 years of teaching and coaching, which would have enhanced his PERA retirement benefits. The coronavirus pandemic created a chance for several longtime teachers in the Cherry Creek School District to retire early, so he plans to take advantage of that.
On top of that, hearing the words of Jay Madden — who announced his departure from powerhouse Pomona last December after nearly two decades — hit home with Schultz.
“I know I still have more coaching in me, but Jay Madden said a lot of things back in December that are exactly how I felt,” Schultz said. “I’m tired, exhausted from all the things that only head coaches have to deal with. It might be time to recharge my batteries a bit.”
In what form, where or when Schultz might coach again is yet to be determined, but he has established quite a legacy in the field since he got his feet wet beginning in 1994 with an “amazing experience” as part of the coaching staff of Overland legend Tony Manfredi.
Schultz then moved onto the staff of original Grandview football coach Rocky Whitworth, serving as defensive coordinator for four years before he ascended to the top job after it had begun to establish itself in the Centennial League.
From there, Schultz nurtured the program into one of the preeminent ones in Colorado. He and friend Dean Adams — who also applied for the head job in 2004 and coached alongside him nearly the entire time — wanted to make Grandview “great” in their time. They surely did.
The program earned its first postseason victory in 2005 and advanced to the Class 5A semifinals that year and just two years later, the Wolves hoisted the 2007 5A state championship trophy after a 20-14 overtime win over Douglas County.
“I was just talking to some friends about that 2007 season, just how amazing it was and how we just felt like a team of destiny,” Schultz said of that team, which was led by running back Bo Bolen, who scored all three touchdowns for the Wolves in the title game and led the state in rushing as well.
“We weren’t very good at the beginning, but we grew into it as we went,” Schultz recalled of the team that lost two of its first three games, then won 10 straight to finish the season. “That team was probably not our most talented team, but it had the best chemistry and will to win of any group that we had. That and things bounced their way as far as injuries and all that.”
As it turned out, that would be the only championship game appearance Schultz would experience, surprising considering the Wolves were always firmly in the conversation going into each season.
Between 2005-2019, Grandview made it to at least the quarterfinals 11 times and made it to the semifinals in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2018). Some of the semifinal games weren’t close, but the Wolves lost to Valor Christian in 2014 and 2018 in heartbreakers by scores of 14-7 and 31-29, respectively.
“I’m proud that over a 15-year stretch, I felt like that we had built a team that was capable of competing for a championship every time,” Schultz said. “Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t.”
Winning wasn’t the only thing that provided satisfaction for Schultz — though defeating Valor Christian three times, including a quarterfinal victory on the Eagles’ home field in 2017, gave him plenty to be proud of — but it was much more.
Sharing a semifinal appearance with all three of his sons (Taylor, Alex and Mason, who currently plays for the University of Wyoming) brought him joy, so did the return of former players such as Mike Pennel — who won a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs — the effervescent Eddie Yarbrough, Tanner Gentry and others.
“The 2007 season has a trophy next to it, but I have fun helping coach at JV games that have an exciting ending,” Schultz said. “We had some double overtime wins and losses and great rivalries with Eaglecrest, Cherry Creek and Cherokee Trail. Those games are just flat out fun when the stadium is packed and everyone is into it.
“There’s countless memories from every season.”
Schultz’s last season wasn’t ideal for sure, as the pandemic hovered over and impacted everything teams that played in the fall were able to do.
The Wolves finished 3-3 in the six-game regular season — which wasn’t enough to qualify for a playoff field reduced to just eight teams — but got to end the season with a non-qualifier game against Columbine, coached by Andy Lowry, another of the few longtime coaches to stay in one spot.
With all involved, Schultz considers missing the playoffs this past season as just “a blip on the screen.”
Grandview athletic director Wes Smock — who said he will post the listing for the open job at the end of the week — is very appreciate of Schultz’s time with the program.
“To have a football coach that is here for such a long time is rare,” Smock said. “John has been tremendous for us.”
Schultz said he would give his input on the new hire if he is asked, but he said he wouldn’t “get in the way” during the hiring process.
“Whoever is coming in next year is going to have an awesome team to coach,” he said. “We were very young and I’m excited for whoever takes over to keep the ball rolling in the coming years.”
Schultz may come back to check out a game or he may be elsewhere with his wife, Heather, doing something fun, but he believes Grandview will be fine in the future.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
JOHN SCHULTZ’S GRANDVIEW RECORD BY SEASON
2020: 3-4 overall (2-3 in Centennial League); 2019: 8-3 overall (3-2 in Metro East); 2018: 11-2 overall (4-1 in Metro East); 2017: 10-3 overall (5-0 in Mount Massive); 2016: 10-2 overall (5-0 in Mount Massive); 2015: 9-3 overall (4-1 in Centennial League); 2014: 12-1 overall (5-0 in Centennial League); 2013: 7-5 overall (2-3 in Centennial League); 2012: 8-4 overall (4-1 in Centennial League); 2011: 11-2 overall (5-0 in Centennial League); 2010: 9-5 overall (3-2 in Creek League); 2009: 6-5 overall (4-3 in Centennial League); 2008: 11-1 overall (7-0 in Centennial League); 2007: 12-2 overall (6-1 in Centennial League) (state champions); 2006: 9-2 overall (6-1 in Centennial League); 2005: 9-4 overall (5-2 in Centennial League); 2004: 5-5 overall (3-4 in Centennial League)