Happenings -December 2006
Grand County High School
GCHS Class of 1972,
looks back on coaching career
by Jeff Richards
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
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
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