Wyoming — Coach Jack VerDuin was a role model and mentor to Wyoming High School psychology teacher and varsity basketball coach Thom VanderKlay long before they worked side by side.
“We go back a long way,” VanderKlay said of the legendary Wyoming Park varsity football coach, who led many champion teams over a 38-year span until 2002. VanderKlay quarterbacked VerDuin’s team from 1978-1981 and coached football with him from 1986-1996. VerDuin died at age 73 in 2007.
“He was a really special person who changed lives for the better,” said VanderKlay. “As a coach he was way ahead of his time.”
VerDuin’s moniker now graces the press box of the newly renovated and artificially turfed Wyoming High School football stadium. The name is a flashback to Wyoming’s past when the district had two high schools, Wyoming Park and Rogers, and rival football teams. The schools combined into Wyoming High School in 2012, and the district recently invested about $3 million into renovating the athletic complex.
According to information provided by the district, VerDuin guided the Wyoming Park Vikings to 19 conference, two district and two regional championships. The team was the 1985 state runner-up and the 1984 state champion.
‘Football was his life. We are so honored and thrilled that his legacy will live on.’— VerDuin’s daughter Jami McNees
Wyoming Park High School alumni and family members gathered for the official dedication ceremony Oct. 15 during the Wyoming High School varsity football game. (The Wolves beat Union High School, 33-7).
“He would not want this. He was very against anything about him,” VerDuin’s daughter Jami McNees. “ It was about the players in the field. For us, it’s an honor to know he will forever be in this stadium because that was his life. Football was his life. We are so honored and thrilled that his legacy will live on.”
Beyond wins and titles, VerDuin was the kind of coach who nurtured players as they developed as athletes. He weaved life lessons into his coaching and was meticulous in planning. VanderKlay said he models his own coaching after that, along with his priority of helping students realize how good they can be and to treat others with respect. VerDuin always emphasized: “While winning games is a goal, it’s not the end goal,” VanderKlay said.
“You can really help people grow. That was something Jack was well aware of.”
Wyoming High School Athletic Director Ted Hollern served as Rogers High School football coach from 1997-2000 and remembers VerDuin as someone coaches and players alike respected immensely. “He was always available as a mentor to younger coaches.”
Ed Steenbergen played football for VerDuin in 1972 and 1973. He later coached with VerDuin as a varsity assistant. “He really was a mentor to me – so organized and he could communicate so well. He was a great speaker, and he knew how to relate with people, especially young people.”