By Ian Echlin
No coach in America had a college football afternoon like Eric Driskell last December.
After driving through blizzard conditions to Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan., Blue Valley HS football coach Eric Driskell shared a warm smile with the Blue Valley community walking into the stadium to watch the NCAA Division II Football Championship.
In the stadium lobby, groups stopped by and said “Hey, Coach Driskell.” Covered in multi-layered clothing, Driskell worked to get himself warmed up from the frosty conditions outside while waiting for the rest of his group to arrive. Driskell had plans, rain or shine or on that day snow, to watch his former quarterback, Kyle Zimmerman, start his last game as a senior at Northwest Missouri State for the national title.
With his ticket Driskell was prepared to brave the blizzard conditions. By luck, someone from a dinner party the night before the game had extra suite tickets and invited Driskell to watch the game in their suite. On that day, who wouldn’t accept?
Meanwhile in sunny Florida, Logan Bretell, another former quarterback under Driskell, started for Baker University in the NAIA championship game. Two of his former quarterbacks playing for separate college football national titles on the same day.
From his suite seat, Driskell watched Bretell from his smartphone on the ESPN3 telecast. He ended the Children’s Mercy portion of the day celebrating as Kyle Zimmerman directed the Bearcats to the national championship, a decisive 29-3 win over North Alabama.
While Baker clung to its final chance on a fourth quarter comeback attempt, Driskell headed home. The extreme cold shut down his phone, so he had to hurry to his warm car and get the phone back on to see if a second former Blue Valley quarterback would win a championship that night.
Unfortunately for Driskell, he didn’t see the double-win he hoped for as Saint Francis (Ind.) pulled away 38-17, over Baker.
While the Baker game was wrapping up, Zimmerman was addressing the media beneath the stands at Children’s Mercy Park. Zimmerman said it was awesome that his high school coach could be in the stands.
“I’m just so glad for everything he’s done for me in my life. He’s shaped me into the man I’ve become today. He’s taught me how to win and compete at a high level,” Zimmerman said after the Championship game.
Both teams didn’t win, but Driskell lived a high school coach’s dream that day.