Brooks Bollinger and Todd Bouman have much in common, even if they have met only briefly. Both are former NFL quarterbacks and both spent time with the Vikings. And both are Minnesota high school football coaches.
Bollinger, 36, is in his first year as the head coach at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul. He was the head coach at Hill-Murray in Maplewood in 2011, leading the Pioneers to the state semifinals before joining the University of Pittsburgh as an assistant coach. He came to Cretin-Derham Hall as the quarterbacks coach last year and was named head coach when Mike Scanlan stepped down this winter.
Bouman, 44, is in his third year as the head coach at Buffalo High School. He was an assistant with the Bison for part of the 2007 season, leaving in October when he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The two coaches made plenty of stops during their NFL careers. Bollinger played with the New York Jets, Vikings, Dallas and Detroit between 2003 and 2009, and Bowman was with the Vikings, New Orleans, Green Bay, Jacksonville, St. Louis and Baltimore between 1997 and 2010.
Bollinger, who told me “I maybe met Todd once,” had a memorable debut with the Raiders on Thursday night at Lakeville South. Cretin-Derham Hall trailed 14-0 in the third quarter before rallying for a 19-14 victory. The final two touchdowns came on desperation passes of 43 and 48 yards, the second in the final minute.
Bouman’s team also won its season opener, beating Willmar 47-20 on Friday night in the first game played at Buffalo’s spectacular new stadium. Among the stars for the Bison was Bouman’s son Aidan, a lefthanded-throwing freshman quarterback who completed 13 of 27 passes for 209 yards and five touchdowns.
Both coaches saw their share of high points as players. Bollinger, a North Dakota prep star at Grand Forks Central, was a four-year college starter at Wisconsin and was part of the Badgers’ 2000 Rose Bowl victory over Stanford. Bouman was an all-state athlete in football and basketball and went to state in track at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in southwest Minnesota. In three years as the starting quarterback at St. Cloud State he passed for 4,354 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Players sometimes ask the coaches about their time in the NFL, and the two don’t mind telling an occasional story.
“It’s harder to impress kids anymore,” Bollinger said. “They care for about 10 minutes and then they just want to know if you’re a good coach. They’ll get a story here and there: ‘What about this guy? What about that guy?’ But most of the time they’re looking at you like, ‘Oh, stop with these stories.’ ”
Rather than talk about the old days, the coaches love working with their players and teaching lessons about football as well as life off the field.
“I enjoy watching kids, from the time they’re freshmen until they’re seniors and they graduate,” Bouman said. “I always say I was lucky enough to do what I did for many years, but I had absolutely wonderful, great high school coaches and it was just a dream of mine to give back to high school kids what I got.”
Family ties also are important to Bollinger and Bouman. One of Bollinger’s assistant coaches is his father, Rob, a former assistant coach at the University of North Dakota. For Bouman, coaching his son is just the latest chapter in a family tradition.
Prior to becoming head coach of the Bison, he spent four years as an assistant coach to his brother Troy at Pipestone High School. Troy’s son Boyer was the Arrows’ starting quarterback for three of those seasons, “so I got to be around that situation and experience that, which was a lot of fun,” Todd Bouman said.
The 2016 season will continue this week with Buffalo playing at Monticello and Cretin-Derham Hall meeting Woodbury at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. The coaches will continue working with their players, knowing what’s important.
“I’m a high school coach because I was fortunate to have an unbelievable high school coach who made a huge impact on my life,” Bollinger said. “I obviously have a passion for this game, but more importantly a passion for passing that on and trying to use this game to impact kids in a positive way and help them become better men. That’s what we’re focused on.”
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 26
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 1,253