Icing on the cake: Dudas retires as Soroco football coach
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Cake with less eggs ain’t cake.
Or something like that, Soroco head football coach Dick Dudas said.
Dudas has a lot of sayings like this one, ones that are profound with few words. He’s a walking quote encyclopedia of life lessons, and the “cake” one comes from his retirement chapter.
After nine seasons with the Rams, including four as assistant coach and four as head coach, Dudas is stepping down at the age of 73.
That cake has three layers: knowledge of what you’re doing, heart for the people and passion in the endeavor.
“I started to think that these kids, the school, the fans in the school, the town folks don’t need a less-than-cake coach,” Dudas said.
He combs through his memory of football players who can best describe how Dudas feels. He lists a few who stayed too long and others who left at the right time.
“Now Jimmy Brown for the Cleveland Browns, after 10 years, he walked away on top,” Dudas said. “Roger Staubach did the same thing. He could’ve played another four to five years easily, but he walked away on top.”
Dudas doesn’t want to block anyone’s upward mobility and doesn’t have further coaching aspirations after he retires. Coaching football was just a funny twist spurred by a two-hour conversation at Stagecoach Lake with former head football coach David Bruner.
“He had no experience, but I knew he would be great for the kids,” Bruner said. “His integrity and character fit what we did, trying to teach kids life lessons.”
Dudas’ sports background is predominately baseball focused. He played for Ohio State University in college. He traces his instinct for football back to his time in the U.S. Air Force.
The 485-man squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, where Dudas was stationed, employed a plethora of talent with backup players from major universities, including a left tackle from the University of Missouri, a right tackle from Arizona State and a star running back from the University of Tennessee.
Although a baseball player, Dudas was a football fan at heart. He knew how to read coverages, but mostly, he knew that on-field aggression and off-the-field character can go a long way.
“We played a team that wasn’t supposed to be that good, civil engineering or something,” Dudas said. “They had a quarterback we just could not contain. Especially in 8-man … if you let the quarterback out of the pocket, it puts a lot of pressure on cornerbacks and safeties.”
Tied 6-6 with 30 seconds left before halftime, Dudas, a linebacker at the time, knew he had to take out that quarterback.
“It was obvious if I tried to get a flag, he was in [the end zone],” Dudas said. “So I just took him by the knees, and we rolled out of bounds. He jumped out to throw a punch at me, and I was automatically thrown out for the hit. This kid and I became pretty good friends sitting on the sideline.”
That was the football Dudas knew, and with a physically smaller team at Soroco this fall, he often told his athletes, like 5-foot-2 senior Grace Beaty, to “take ‘em by the knees.”
But what makes Dudas unique is his old-fashioned view of the coach’s role: being a father figure to his athletes, offering advice through his storytelling.
“He’s definitely helped me grow off the field,” sophomore quarterback Tyler Wixom said. “Just by all of his life lessons. When he would tell us one of those stories, I would learn from that and put it into my life and see what I could do from that situation.”
Dudas’ ability to connect with the athletes was something special.
“You don’t have to be superman. You just got to be there for them,” assistant coach Johnny DeCosta said. “And I think that’s it, he spends a lot of time and you develop that relationship and it makes them relate to him.”
Dudas remembers driving one of his players home from practice and taking a detour down Colorado Highway 131, talking about developing healthy habits when it comes to schoolwork. Some of those habits included doing the homework you hate first or reading standing up to keep from falling asleep.
This year, Dudas implemented the three “H’s” program, which allowed members of the team to list a hero, hardship and highlight after every practice or game. And at team dinners, he’d make the players turn their cell phones in to encourage face-to-face conversation.
Those team dinners are just one of the traditions that DeCosta said the assistant coaches would like to carry on.
“I want to try to get some of his sayings in there, too,” DeCosta said. “I don’t know if they’ll have the same ring to it.”
Dudas moved to Oak Creek in 2008 from Burlington, Vermont, to be closer to his grandchildren, Morgan and Shelby Geiger.
He had spent six years in the Air Force before working 17 years in the Air Guard. Then, he worked a variety of “odd jobs” before settling on the Amway business.
Now, Dudas and his wife, Michele, have a house nestled atop a windy dirt road, next to their family.
He never would’ve guessed that this move would allow him to live out one of his many dreams: coaching football. Sometimes, he wonders what would’ve happened if he had started coaching at 25.
But he has no regrets, and in retirement, maybe he’ll take a weekend trip with Michele to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or watch football from atop the hill with a heater going, talking to Bruner.
Dudas said, at first, he felt guilty for leaving the kids behind, especially the younger ones coming up.
And then he said that missing the playoffs this year might have been a blessing in disguise. The Rams would have entered as a low seed, potentially getting trampled in their last game.
Instead, they finished on top with a season-ending 66-28 victory over rival Hayden.
Now, ain’t that some cake?
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