Bill Diedrick laughs. It’s a good laugh, the kind that bursts forth of its own accord and fills a room with mirth.
“Am I having fun?” he says, repeating the question between peals. “I think that’s pretty obvious.”
A football coaching vagabond for the past 30 years, the North Central High School and Eastern Washington University graduate is happy to be back home and happy to be coaching football again, this time as head coach at University High School. From 1976 through 1981 he was head coach at John Rogers.
“It’s been a football camp whirlwind,” Diedrick explained. “We’ve had camp after camp. We had a camp for freshmen and we had a quarterback-and-receiver camp.
“Once I got here, I tried to sit down and talk to every one of our football players. I think I managed to sit down and have a half-hour-to-40-minute conversation with just about everyone.”
Diedrick is in that place where it seems like the start of the season will never get here and at the same time the Sept. 4 opener against Shadle Park at Joe Albi Stadium is tomorrow and there’s not enough time to get ready.
“I’m hoping that we will be able to get in all the things that I want to get in,” he said. “Sometimes it feels like there’s never enough time.”
He’s starting to remember his players by name, but to be on the safe side, he said, he still asks them to start every conversation by introducing themselves.
Not that Diedrick’s players have problems remembering exactly who their coach is – not when he’s been a high-profile quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Washington State, Washington and Stanford in the Pac-10, at Notre Dame and in Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto in the Canadian Football League. It’s not every high school coach who’s won a Division I-AA national championship, a Grey Cup and taken teams to eight college bowl games, including the Rose Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Sun Bowl, Aloha Bowl and Gator Bowl.
And not when the coach has a well-deserved reputation for developing high-powered offenses that sent a dozen quarterbacks on to play in the National Football League – including Idaho’s John Friesz, Washington State’s Drew Bledsoe and both Huard brothers, Damon and Brock, at Washington. While wearing purple and gold, he lobbied the Husky staff to keep a recruit from Woodinville at quarterback and not shift him to defensive back. The recruit was Marques Tuiasosopo.
And he was an accomplished quarterback at NC and Eastern, He earned All-America honors in 1967 leading the then-Savages to an 11-1 record – the only loss a 28-21 defeat against Fairmount State in the 1967 NAIA national championship game.
Diedrick doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about his resume to his players, he said.
“I think it helps when I talk about things like fundamentals,” he said. “When I explain to a kid how solid fundamentals are the framework that allows him to display his God-given talent. Or how you can have the greatest scheme in the world, but if you can’t do the basic things properly, it’s not going to work.”
The players have been making good progress over the summer, the new coach said.
“This is such a busy time for these kids,” Diedrick said. “We’re competing with the baseball season and with wrestling camps and all the other things that kids are involved during the summer.
“Our numbers are good. We’re going to have a good-sized freshman class and the numbers look good for our varsity kids. We had one class where we lost quite a few kids, but it looks like we’re going to get a few of those kids back out and we have a few other kids who didn’t play last year back out, too. And I still think we can add a few more players once practice officially starts on August 19.”
The first step after being hired, he said, was to get the coaching staff in place.
“I have nine assistant coaches and the good thing is that seven of them will be in-building,” he explained. “I think that’s crucial. As coaches you need to be available to your players during the day.”
Still, he said, there are a few things he has to remember in his second stint in the Greater Spokane League.
That thought prompted another laugh.
The coaches gathered after a player evaluation practice and began talking about different players. When one player was mentioned, a coach commented about how big his legs were.
“I said ‘now wait a minute – you want to talk about a guy’s legs, you have to talk about Joe Bellino,’ ” Diedrick said. “Everyone gave me a blank look. I said ‘You know Joe Bellino – the running back from Navy? Won the Heisman Trophy?’ ”
Don Ressa started to laugh.
“He said ‘Coach, you have to remember – most of these guys weren’t even born then.’ We all had a good laugh.”
His coaches may not recognize the “pocket battleship” who beat out, among others, Mike Ditka and Tom Matte to win college football’s highest honor in 1960, but they do recognize talent when they see it.
“I like what I’ve seen so far,” Diedrick said. “I’m happy with what we have.”