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Alumni Happenings -December 2006
Grand County High School


Dewayne Gwinn, GCHS Class of 1972,
looks back on coaching career

by Jeff Richards

Dewayne Gwinn
Dewayne Gwinn 2006

Dewayne Gwinn, a member of the Grand County High School Class of 1972, recently completed what he says was his final season of coaching youth football over the past three decades.

Dewayne was recently presented with a crystalline football trophy in recognition of his 30-plus years as a coach, including the past five years as the 8th-grade coach of the Grand County Middle School team, which operates its football program under the Moab City Recreation Department.
Dewayne says he decided to quit coaching middle school so that he could follow the high school careers of his two youngest boys living at home. Foster son Billy Keddington, an 8th-grader, was the top scorer for the Thunderbirds this year, racking up more than 20 touchdowns. In addition, stepson Jack Osness, who played on Dewayne’s team last year, was a freshman on this year’s Grand County High School squad, which had another remarkable season. The Red Devils followed their first-ever state championship in 2005 with an impressive 8-3 record in 2006, losing their quarterfinal playoff game to eventual champion San Juan.

“There were a couple of games this year that Jack played in (on the high school’s C team) that I wasn’t able to make it, because I was coaching the 8th-grade team,” said Dewayne. “Next year, I want to be able to go to all of Jack and Billy’s games.”

A native of Colorado, Dewayne and his family moved from Naturita to Moab in 1968, right after he finished his 8th-grade year in junior high. He participated in sports in high school, including playing football for coach Glen Richeson. Dewayne’s high school yearbook photo shows him in a lineman’s blocking pose while wearing uniform number 62. He also wrestled for one year.

Dewayne Gwinn 1972
Dewayne Gwinn 1972

The Red Devil baseball team took the state 2A championship in 1972, when Dewayne, a senior, was the team’s right fielder and backup catcher. The baseball team’s coach was Ward Curtis, whom Dewayne credits for helping inspire his own coaching career.

A fan of most sports, Dewayne especially enjoys watching NFL football, his favorite team being the Chicago Bears.

Dewayne and his wife Deborah both work at Allen Memorial Hospital, where Dewayne is the environmental services director. He has been with the hospital for the past nine years, while Deborah has worked there for four years (she moved to Moab about six years ago). Together, their blended family includes six children, one foster child, and five grandchildren. Dewayne’s two oldest children are Rae Lynn Gwinn and Travis Gwinn, both mid-1990s GCHS graduates who now live in Las Vegas.

The next oldest children (Dewayne’s stepchildren) in the family are daughter Racheal Pool, who lives in Salt Lake with her husband Charles; son Jeremiah Johnson, who lives in the Provo area and is engaged to marry his fiancee Jessi in mid-December; and daughter Crystal Johnson, who is currently attending Snow College in Ephraim. That leaves Jack and his foster brother Billy, who live with Dewayne and Deborah on their one-acre property on Knutson Corner in Moab.

The Gwinns, who have served as foster parents for the past two years, have cared for seven other foster children in addition to Billy during that time. Earlier this summer, Dewayne was named the 2006 Foster Dad of the Year for the eastern region by the Utah Foster Care Foundation.

“My biggest attraction to him is how good he is with kids,” notes Deborah. “Whether he’s saddling up the horses for a ride around the yard or fixing the grandkids pancakes for breakfast, he loves being around children, and they idolize him.”

“He’s also a great football coach, and knows how to motivate the kids,” adds Deborah.

Dewayne says his own coaching days started at the age of 17, when he coached a Pony league baseball team with players not much younger than he was. Over the years, he says he has played or coached a total of 46 years worth of baseball and softball, plus more than 30 years of football coaching at various levels, including both junior and senior little leagues, in addition to a dozen or so years off-and-on at the helm of the middle school team.

The GCMS Thunderbirds finished with a 5-3 record this season, improving Dewayne’s overall career record coaching 8th-grade football to 64-12, including one impressive stretch of 48 consecutive wins.

Another noteworthy distinction is that Dewayne has coached both a father and his son in 8th-grade football (James Dixon and son Devon Dixon). “That makes me feel really old,” laughs Dewayne.

One of Dewayne’s most dominant football teams outscored its opponents 254-6 during a seven-game undefeated season. Still, middle school success hasn’t always carried over to the high school level. “I’ve watched my teams go undefeated as 8th-graders, beating Blanding and Monticello 45-0, then get blown out by similar scores by those same teams a year or two later,” he notes.

But Dewayne says he feels good about the current crop of 8th-graders that he just finished coaching. “They should be a really talented group of kids for the high school team,” he said, adding that he felt the same way about this year’s senior class, which included several of his former 8th-grade star players, including Tanner Brown, Kerby Smith, Kelly VanArsdol, and Ricky Lopez, to name a few.

This year’s 8th-grade team even included one girl, Ashley Norman, whom Dewayne called “a solid, talented athlete who isn’t afraid to get hit.” She was one of a handful of female players that Dewayne has coached over the years.

During a recent interview, Dewayne spoke of many of his former players with pride, noting their accomplishments both on and off the field.

Dewayne has long stressed the importance of good grades. “One year, there were 16 of the 24 kids on the team who had at least one F, so I started setting aside one practice day a week where I’d make the kids sit down and do homework, and making sure they stayed academically eligible,” he notes, adding, “Grades come first.”

“I just enjoy spending time with the kids,” says Dewayne, adding with a laugh: “Every year, when the season ends, I go through about two weeks of depression.”

“The hardest part about coaching is that you have to get into each kid’s head and find out what motivates them,” adds Dewayne.

Dewayne says despite the fact that he’s returned to coaching several times, he now plans to hang up his coach’s hat for good, at least at the 8th-grade level, so that he can enjoy watching Jack and Billy during their high school years. “In my mind, I’m retired,” he says, adding that he looks back with no regrets and a great deal of gratitude for the countless players, parents, assistant coaches, and fans who have helped shape his coaching career.

“Football teaches discipline, respect, and responsibility. It’s all about working together as a team,” Dewayne says.

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