South High School Alumni Foundation

Ryan Goddard: Gridiron glory, heartache and hope

10/21/18

Inside a locker room in the old building behind the fancy scoreboard at Dutch Clark Stadium, Ryan Goddard and his South High School football team had just finished the Lord’s Prayer.

“Bring it up tight,” he said.

His players rose from one knee and pushed their way toward the front of the small room, forming a semi-circle around their coach.

“Fellas,” Goddard began, “we are going through the greatest lesson of our life right now. We are going through the greatest lesson of our life. We’re up against it, yes?”

In unison, his team responded, “Yes, sir!”

“Things have been going against us,” Goddard continued. “Things haven’t been going our way necessarily. Right?”

Again, in unison, “Yes, sir!”

“Tonight, you get the opportunity to turn it around and make things right,” Goddard said. “You get this opportunity to get this lesson that someone is trying to teach us right now — that it’s OK to have your back against the wall.”

Goddard’s team certainly had its back against the wall. A season after winning a state championship, the Colts sat in that locker room with a 1-5 record. On the field, Pueblo County awaited. It was the first meeting between the teams since 1999.

“It’s OK to have things go wrong in life,” Goddard added. “It’s OK to have all these things happen because you’re learning this lesson right now. The lesson is that you never stop fighting. You never stop caring. You do things the right way. You play with great passion. And at the end of the night, you can look your friggin’ brother in the eye and he’s going to know and you’re going to know that you left it on the line for 48 minutes. That’s all you have to do. Lay it all on the line for 48 minutes.”

By this point, South’s players were ready to go. They were swaying from side to side, their weight shifting from one side of their body to the other. Some pulled on their helmets for the final time before hitting the field. Others pounded on the shoulder pads of teammates.

Goddard, however, wasn’t done with his nearly 2½-minute pregame speech.

“Is it going to take some guts? Absolutely! Is it going take some heart? No doubt! Is it going to take some fight? You better freakin’ count on that!” he said, his voice rising in volume with each word. “But the end of the day, at the end of 48 minutes here, you’re going to be able to look your brother in the eye and know he played his tail off for you and you played your tail off for him. You’re going to know that when bad (stuff) happens to you, when bad things happen to you, it’s OK because you can still fight. It’s OK because you can still respond. Right? You don’t control the event. You control your response and you control the outcome tonight. Understand that?

“Now let’s go play. Have some fun. Great energy. Juice up. Get after it. Colts on three … one, two, three. Colts!”

To that point, Goddard had gotten this team as far as he could. Players rushed out of the locker room. All that was left was the game.

South started strong and never let up in a 56-7 rout over Pueblo County. The Colts had their second win. To know how they got there means to start at the beginning of the week.

***

Six days before the win over Pueblo County, the Colts lost 41-14 to rival East in the annual Cannon Game. It was the 60th meeting between the schools that opened the same year, in 1959.

Goddard has been around South athletics all his life. He played for the Colts. He was an assistant coach. Now he’s the head coach. And in 19 meetings against the Eagles, this was only fourth time he had tasted defeat.

“Win or lose, I’m still awake. I can’t sleep,” Goddard said. “As soon as that film loads, I start evaluating.”

So at 2 a.m. Saturday, about four hours after the loss, Goddard sat in bed and watched film on his phone. It was the first step in preparing for a game the following week, this one against Pueblo County.

The Colts and Hornets were scheduled to play on a Thursday night, making it a short week to prepare. Goddard, though, couldn’t get his mind off the loss to East. It weighed on him.

After watching the game again, Goddard did his best Saturday to forget it. He watched ESPN’s College GameDay with his daughter, Collins. He took a nap. He watched a college game. He enjoyed some family time.

When he woke up Sunday, however, it was full steam ahead in preparation for the Hornets.

As he does every Sunday, usually for 4 to 4½ hours, he met with his coaching staff. They put together offensive and defensive game plans. They talked about the Hornets and the challenges they would present. They talked about the good, the bad and the ugly of the Cannon Game. They left with a clear plan for the week ahead.

“My current staff and former staff members mean so much to me as people and coaches,” Goddard said. “They are extraordinary people who sacrifice so much of themselves to do all the things I ask them to do. A significant amount of them are guys who played while I was an assistant coach or played for me as their head coach. There is no greater privilege than to coach with the guys that you coached.”

***

A typical weekday for Goddard begins around 7 a.m. when he arrives at school. He teaches in the APEX program, which allows students who are academically deficient in credits the opportunity to recover those credits needed for graduation. In the afternoons, he teaches a weight lifting class before heading out to practice.

When practice ends, it’s on to family time. He picks up his daughter from the in-laws and meets his wife, Lindsey, at home.

When Lindsey walks in the door Tuesday, questions begin about how the day and practice went. Talk about work is kept to a minimum, however. It’s an agreement the two have.

“This is the most important job,” Goddard said, pointing to his daughter and wife. “Being a dad and husband is the most important thing.”

Before the birth of Collins, who will turn 2 next month, Goddard said he’d eat dinner and immediately watch film. Now the time after dinner is filled with playing blocks with Collins, watching “Moana” or “Super Wings” on television and perhaps sharing ice cream as a family.

On this particular Tuesday, however, Lindsey had a question for Ryan.

“Do we have you back?” she asked, meaning had he moved past the Cannon Game loss. It took Ryan until Tuesday night to feel like he had.

“Last week was difficult,” Lindsey said. “We’ve had some easier Cannon Weeks, but this was tough. It’s nice to have him back.”

The Cannon Game is hard for Lindsey. She graduated from East, one year after Ryan graduated from South.

“I’ve been a Colt for 16 years,” she said.

Lindsey also is a teacher and coach. She teaches at Pueblo Academy of Arts and coaches softball. She’s adapted well through the years to being a football coach’s wife.

“Lindsey is one of a kind,” Ryan said. “She’s a wonderful and loving mother and wife, but as a coach’s wife, she should be up for sainthood. She’s always supportive, caring and compassionate. As well as anyone I have ever seen, she cares about every person in our program.”

The two met through a mutual friend, two weeks before Goddard left for college. He initially went to Western State in Gunnison to play basketball. After a year, he headed back to Pueblo.

Ryan and Lindsey were married in 2007 and Collins was born Nov. 16, 2016, just a few days after South was eliminated in the postseason.

“I think that changed the way I coached,” Goddard said. “I put myself in those types of shoes where you think about what type of teacher or coach I want my daughter to have. I think it’s made me a better coach, a better person.”

***

Coaching football at South never was in the plans for Goddard.

After returning from Western State, Goddard enrolled at Colorado State University-Pueblo. He eventually got his degree in exercise science and health promotion and became a P.E. teacher.

He joined South’s staff as an assistant, coaching under his former coach, Mark Haering. When Haering left for a job at the University of Wisconsin, he encouraged Goddard to apply.

“I didn’t think I was ready. I definitely wasn’t sure I was ready,” Goddard said. “At the same time, I wanted to keep coaching football. But never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be the head coach at South or aspire to be the head coach at South. It just happened.”

The first few years were tough. The Colts went 5-6 his first season in 2010 and 2-8 the following year. In 2012, South went 1-9.

 

Goddard is 57-42 in his nine seasons leading the Colts. His team in 2013 went 11-2 and reached the state semifinals. He was named the state’s coach of the year last season after South won the Class 4A state championship, its first in school history.

“Coach Goddard is an individual with character. He is a role model, both on and off the field,” said Jarrett Sweckard, South’s athletic director. “He is the type of individual you would want coaching your son. He works countless hours to provide our school with a quality program. We are lucky to have him at South High.”

***

Goddard gathered his weight lifting class just before the bell Wednesday and had some final words for them. Almost all his students are part of the football team, so it was a message about the ensuing practice.

“Make sure that your focus, your effort and your attitude are in the right place,” he said. “Get in the right frame of mind before we head out.”

After a brief interruption, Goddard added, “Attack today. Go get better. Remember your purpose. Remember your why.”

On a chilly day and rainy day in the middle of the week, the Colts went through their final practice before facing Pueblo County. It also was the final chance for Goddard to put the finishing touches on preparations for the game, ending another long week as a high school football coach.

Goddard estimates he’s spent more than 30 hours each week at South since the start of practices in August. That includes everything from watching film to practice time to taping ankles to team dinners.

There was a team dinner Wednesday night in the school’s cafeteria. Pizza was served, along with salad and dessert. When the coaches and players walked out, it was time to move on to game day.

“I thought once we got going on Monday … and some realization and some truth hit, we responded,” Goddard said. “At that point, I really felt that I could almost see a different outlook on the week and in our attitude.

“It was nice to have a short week, so we had something to look forward to and prepare for. We knew we were playing a tough, hard-nosed opponent and we had to raise our level of play.”

***

Goddard sat in an office at school a few hours before his team played Pueblo County. He calls it his “alone time.” It amounts to about 15 minutes.

Prior to that, he had taped ankles for those who needed it, fulfilling what he called his “trainer duties.” He had carried equipment down a hall to be loaded on a bus bound for Dutch Clark.

Sitting on a chair in the office, Goddard pulled a change of clothes from a duffle bag and changed into his game-day attire. He put on black pants, a black shirt and had a black jacket ready to go for the chilly night.

He also pulled out of clipboard and went over final notes, changing a couple assignments on special teams. He put the clipboard away, sat back in the chair and took a deep breath. A few minutes later, he boarded the bus.

Once at Dutch Clark, he meets a final time with his assistant coaches. Players get dressed in their uniforms, needing each other to pull jerseys over shoulder pads.

Special teams hit the field. The full team isn’t far behind. Goddard watches it all from a distance and then leads the offense through its final warmups.

The Colts jog off the field, headed to the locker room where they’ll pray and then listen to Goddard’s pregame speech. They’ll hit the field 2½ minutes later and some 2½ hours later walk off with a hard-earned victory.

Goddard delivers a short postgame speech and then accepts congratulations from his players, coaches, players’ parents and his family. He walks back toward the locker room and watches his players head out of Dutch Clark. Soon he’ll do the same, with one thought on his mind.

“Time to reload,” he said, “because here we go again.”

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