Walker has been a fixture at Dayton
DAYTON – Rick Walker has given 17 years of his life to helping kids in Oregon, Montana and Nevada learn the game of football, and it’s all coming to an end.
After Dayton finishes its season, which could be as early as this weekend barring an upset of Elko, the 44-year-old Walker will step down as Dayton High’s head football coach after nine years at the helm and 10 years in the program.
He’s coached both of his sons, Zane and Kage, at Dayton and given the program some notoriety. In nine years as a head coach, he’s never won fewer than four games in a year, and he is 47-43 entering tonight’s game at Elko.
“I really have enjoyed it,” Walker said earlier this week. “Mike Burrows has been with me the whole time, and there is no way that we would have the success we’ve had without Mike. He’s been a great guy to bounce stuff off of. I don’t think I have the energy to take us to the next step.
“They talk about teachers getting three months off every year. It’s really only 2 1/2 when you coach football. You spend a lot of time each week in the weightroom and you go to football camps. I’m getting a little tired of doing that stuff.”
Walker was an offensive assistant for the first eight years of his career, and he loved doing that. It’s easy to see why. As an assistant you don’t have nearly the time commitment or administrative duties that fall on the shoulders of the head coach.
Walker was brought to Dayton with the idea of promoting him to head coach, according to Butch Cattanach, the Dust Devils’ previous head coach.
“I had told Mr. (Dan) Regelado the principal at the time that I couldn’t put in the time anymore (being an off-campus coach); that I couldn’t continue as head coach,” Cattanach said. “Rick has done a great job. He’s had the most success of any coach at Dayton. He’s a classy guy and a good coach, but a better man.
“Rick is great with kids; loves being around them. He can get on kids, and they know he’s not mad at them. He expects a lot out of kids. When he gets upset they know it’s not personal. He has a great way of doing that.”
Kevin Kranjcec, Dayton’s athletic director, has appreciated Walker’s effort.
“I’ve known Rick for eight of the nine years he’s been head coach,” Kranjcec said. “He’s put in his time. Since I’ve been here, in Dayton I’ve seen him change the atmosphere; the caliber of the program.
“Rick doesn’t do things half way, he does it the right way.”
The only regret Walker says he has of his Dayton experience is that the Dust Devils failed to make the state championship game. He was in the state Final 4 twice, the last time in 2006 which was the lone 3A title for the Dust Devils.
“Obviously losing to Virgin Valley (was hard),” Walker said. “We had eight turnovers in that game, and I think they lost the state title game by a touchdown the next week. I thought we were so much better. We should have won the state title that year. We were absolutely the best 3A team in the state.”
But 2006 was the high point of Walker’s tenure, too.
“We beat Truckee twice that year,” Walker said. “We had some huge high points. It was a double whammy for sure.”
Walker has had to battle the numbers game at Dayton in recent years, and certainly that partially contributed to his decision to step down. That, and his love of fishing, camping and hunting.
“There has been a shift in work ethic (with kids),” Walker said. “Everyone wants a quick fix. Football isn’t that way. You need to be in the weightroom 12 months out of the year. You need to dedicate and sacrifice that time. (Not enough) kids are unwilling to pay the price.”
Football is a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It’s a lot of physical and mental work, and that scares off a lot of kids these days.
At least for the next couple of years, Walker will be spending more time with his family, which includes watching his youngest son, Kage, possibly compete at the college level next year. He isn’t totally getting out of coaching. He’ll assist Brad Wick with the boys and girls golf squads, something which he started last year.
Could he possibly ever coach football again at Dayton?
Walker said he would never be a had varsity coach again at Dayton, but would consider helping out with a freshman or JV squad. Having a coach with that kid of experience would be invaluable to the school and players both.