HUTCHINSON – Old-timers in town can recall when the football coach at Hutchinson High School was not named Rostberg, but they have to go back through their memory banks. All the way back to before 1969, when young Grady Rostberg became coach of the Tigers.
Forty-four years later, Grady and his son Andy – who took over when his dad retired in 1999 – have combined to win exactly 400 games. How’s that for family history and a nice round number? Or this: The Rostbergs are the only father and son coaching combo in Minnesota to win football state championships.
Grady took the Tigers to the state tournament 11 times between 1973 and 1998, winning state championships in 1983, 1984 and 1998. He had coached at nearby Brownton before coming to Hutchinson and his 34-year career record is 277-89-1. He was inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1999.
Andy, who played quarterback on the 1983 and 1984 state championship teams, was an assistant coach when the Tigers won the title in 1998. As a head coach he has taken five teams to state and last year’s Tigers won the Class 4A championship. His career record over 14 years is 123-34-0.
“I kept telling him before last year, ‘You haven’t won the big one yet,’ ” Grady said with a smile. “It was really exciting. He’s been kind of knocking at the door with some teams and never been able to quite finish it off. It was really fun.”
Grady grew up in Gilby, N.D., and was a three-sport athlete at Mayville State in North Dakota. After college he taught and coached basketball for one year in Hatton, N.D, then went to graduate school at the University of North Dakota.
He may have never left North Dakota – much less ended up in Hutchinson – without a touch of serendipity. The principal in Hatton had taken a job at Brownton … and in 1963 Grady was also in Brownton. A few years later, it was a short hop of 12 miles when he moved to Hutchinson.
Grady and his wife Sharon raised their son and two daughters in Hutchinson, and last year’s Prep Bowl was a real treat for everybody. With three generations gathered in a hotel near the Metrodome, Sharon took care of Thanksgiving dinner and Andy took care of winning his first state title as a head coach.
“Having it happen, but being able to have your dad with you, it was pretty cool, it really was,” Andy said. "The longer you go, you understand just how hard it is to do it. Even when your team is really, really good you still might not win it; you’ve got to get lucky, a lot of things have to fall into place.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to say my dad won one and so did I and to have been able to go through that with him. Some of the greatest times aren’t at practice or games, it’s on a Saturday morning or when you’re hunting pheasant or fishing or whatever and we visit about the last game or the upcoming game and things like that.”
Grady’s first team in Hutchinson was winless in eight games, and the Tigers had a losing record a year later. But for the next 39 years – spanning two generations of Rostbergs -- every Hutchinson football team had a winning record until the 2010 squad finished 4-5. A year later the Tigers were 9-1 and last year they won it all.
“We learned that you’re only as good as your last season,” Andy said. “I guess another thing we learned is there’s a fine line between 9-1 and 4-5. You just have to work hard and get your kids working hard. I learned that they do not like to lose in Hutchinson. There probably aren’t a whole lot of towns that take football more seriously then people in Hutch do. It’s pretty serious here.”
Grady stays involved as a volunteer assistant coach, or as he puts it, “I get a free ticket in the press box every Friday night.” He wore a 1998 Hutchinson state championship sweatshirt for last year’s Prep Bowl, in which the Tigers defeated Holy Family Catholic 67-7 to complete a 13-0 season.
Asked about what he learned from his father, Andy said, “Probably the biggest thing I learned was to be able to deal with adversity, to not let a negative affect the next play. And try to have a calm demeanor. I am calmer than he was but he had the ability to -- when the situation was really dire or really tense or it was the last play of a game or a thing like that -- he had great focus. He could shut everything else out.”
Grady agrees that Andy is a quieter, calmer coach than his father was.
“I was a little more fiery and he’s pretty laid back. I think it’s inside him, he has passion inside but he doesn’t let it out too much. Things have changed over the years, but kids are still kids.”
Both Rostbergs also coached basketball; Andy’s most famous former player is Hutchinson graduate and Minnesota Lynx star Lindsay Whalen. “It was pretty easy to coach her,” he said.
Grady, who also coached baseball for a few years, remembers the one season in which he coached basketball at Hatton. “We had a good team and we lost in the district finals by one point,” he said. “The other team made something like 25 of 26 free throws and I thought you had to be nuts to coach this sport.”
After playing football and baseball at North Dakota State, Andy Rostberg began his coaching career at Redwood Falls in 1992. A year later he was on his father’s coaching staff in Hutchinson.
Andy served as head coach of the South team for this summer’s high school all-star football game at St. Cloud State. He first participated in the all-star game as a player in 1985, making him the second individual to play and serve as a head coach in the game. The other was Dick Lawrence of Eveleth, who played in 1945 and coached in 1974.The all-star assistant coaches come from all over the state, and this year’s group included Andy’s dad along with Hutchinson assistant coach David Larson.
Expectations for this year’s Hutchinson team are high, with lots of experience returning from the state title team. If the Tigers repeat as Class 4A champions, the back-to-back titles would equal the 1983 and 1984 teams.
“We don’t beat around the bush a whole lot,” Andy said. “I told the kids, ‘Guess what everyone expects this year? They expect you to win it. Everybody’s shooting for you.’
“We told the kids you have to be better than last year, and our kids take it very seriously. They’ve worked extremely hard in the offseason. They’re not resting on 2012.”
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 5
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 572
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
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