Tom Smart, Deseret News
HERRIMAN — After 40 years on the sideline, Herriman head football coach Larry Wilson is retiring.
It was not in his plans to step down from the program he built at Herriman after just three years, but after state officials told him that either he or his son would have to transfer schools because of the state's nepotism laws it was an eventual reality. Wilson teaches and was the head coach, while his son Jeff Wilson, teaches at the school and is the team's offensive coordinator.
After researching the law, Wilson said it was clear one of them had to transfer schools before the deadlines of June 2014.
"He's been with me since day one," said Wilson a day after making the announcement to his players, their parents and the Herriman community. "He's been so instrumental in building the program, probably more than anyone else besides me. His heart his here and he has a brilliant future ahead of him. I don't think there was much choice. He's in the prime of his career, and it just made perfect sense."
Interestingly, Wilson said once he started looking at retirement, "the stars kind of aligned."
"It's kind of funny in life how a variety of things come together," said the coach who finishes at Herriman with a 20-14 record. "Retiring in life completely is a daunting task. It's certainly much different than you envision it. There are some things you have to put in place to make sure you can retire and not have to go back to work."
Wilson said he chose to retire now for several reasons. Several of his coaches left or retired, including Danny Dupaix, who took the head coaching job at West Jordan last month. He felt that it was important that the school's new head coach, Dustin Pearce, have the opportunity to hire his own assistants. So rather than hire new assistants for a single year, he chose to step aside and let Pearce take over at what he sees as a critical juncture.
"I could do it now or do it in November," he said. "I felt it was best for the program and everyone to make the decision to do it now."
Wilson said that despite his passion for coaching and pride in what the community has built at Herriman, the situation involving ineligible players at East and Timpview that mean the Mustangs hosted the top-ranked Leopards certainly took it's emotional toll.
"THe East High situation did take a bit of the wind out of our sails," he admitted. "It was different for us. Being a new program in uncharted territory (top seeded), and having our goals in mind, that's what we'd worked for, that's what motivated the kids and the coaches. But we learned that there is adversity in life, and you have to stand up for what you believe it. But life isn't always fair, and you deal with it and move on."
Wilson will teach for one more year, and as luck would have it, his wife retires from teaching in June 2014 as well. Wilson said Pearce was a finalist for the Herriman job when Wilson was hired.
"Having coach Pearce take over at this time should help ensure the continual growth and striving for excellence in our program," Wilson wrote in a letter posted on the team's Facebook page. "Coach Pearce will have a full off-season to work with the boys and, just as important, be able to fill in his staff with his coaches. I felt that it would not be fair to him nor the program for me to continue for one more year."
Jeff Wilson will remain on staff, according to Wilson's letter, as the offensive coordinator.
"I've been very blessed and fortunate," Wilson said Friday morning.
He joked when asked about being lured back into coaching, a profession that has fed his soul for four decades in a variety of capacities and at different schools. "I don't foresee anything that would keep me out of retirement," he laughed. "Of the seven NFL jobs that are open, no one's called me."
In his letter, he thanked the community and players for their support and promised to be available to them in the future.
"Words cannot express my gratitude and thanks to all of you, as well as those who went before you, for helping me accomplish some great things in three short years," he said. "Working together — anything is possible." The Herriman football Facebook page where the letter and announcement were posted Thursday included dozens of comments from players and parents thanking Wilson for his efforts on their behalf.
"Sad day," wrote David Christensen. The man taught me more in one year being in his program than any other (of) my high school years."
One mother, Shellie Terry Perry, wrote, "Thank you again for all you brought to our community, boys and school athletics! My son is a better young man because of you and will continue to honor you in all he does."