Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Fri, Sept. 18

As Sam Sees It

An email came in last week from Mike Madeo, one of the finest athletes ever to graduate from Winslow High School. Madeo was a stalwart on both offense and defense on Winslow's undefeated Arizona State Champion football team in 1964 and a key member of the basketball team that finished second in the state. He was also a top notch track athlete and a rare combination of sprinter, shot put and discus performer. In addition, Madeo participated in drama and was a vocalist in the WHS chorus.

Madeo is a school administrator in Utah today, but he has never forgotten his days at Winslow High School and the email he sent was largely a tribute to the man he will always know as "Coach." Emil Nasser was the head coach of the 1964 Arizona State Champion Winslow Bulldogs and remains the man who commands the utmost respect from the many fine young men who made up that memorable team.

One of the activities of the recent reunion that coincided with Winslow High School's Homecoming celebration was a "chalk talk" by Coach Nasser for the 1964 team and their friends. Madeo writes of that experience:

"I wish all could experience what that group of boys/men, girls/ladies felt at that chalk talk. The looks on our faces as Coach described his offensive scheme. It took me back to that time of practices, games, wins, losses, championships, sacrifices and coaches that, from our present adult perspectives literally made a difference in our lives. The quarterback of that group stood up and said that Coach had made us believe that we were better than we were! Coach did confide that he had no reason to believe that 1964 would be a championship year or that we would go undefeated to win the state championship, but that he did think there was something special about us. There he went again, making us feel that we were better than we were and you know what, when I got home, the stories to my family were somewhat more embellished than before. The Coach still had his magic."

"I remember standing and trying to explain my feelings for this man we all called Coach. My feelings were of the great man behind the Coach, maybe the man that many did not know the way my family knew him. This is a man who was bigger than life to me during my career at Winslow High. This is the man who took care of my little brother during a time when he really needed another home. This is the man who said the opening Catholic prayer in an LDS Chapel for my father's funeral. This is the man I have maintained a communication with for the last 40 years. This is the man I love because he made me and my family better because he cared about us."

"When I reflect back on Coach Nasser and his coaching strategies, I see much of him in what I did when I was the head coach for a school that was in the largest classification for a Utah high school. During this time as a head coach before going into administration, I would make the decisions that a head coach must make, and later wonder why I had the foresight to make that decision. My first year as head coach, I kicked 15 starters and four other players or a total of 19 players off the team for breaking training rules after our third game. It broke my heart to do this, but as I've reflected about this issue, I remember learning from the Coach that there were things more important than football and one was to honor your word and that if you break a rule then you must pay the consequences."

Madeo went on to say that he learned "modern" coaching techniques; but that those did not make him a better coach than the man he calls Coach. He said that Coach had taught him and all his players correct principles which they would use to govern themselves and others. He said that Nasser had made them (his players and students) better and they had in turn made others better.

He said that not everyone can be blessed with a great coach like Emil Nasser, but that they might be blessed by a great English teacher, a great band director, a fantastic drama director, a caring counselor or just a wise staff member who was there for them.

Madeo had much more to say about the value of sports and other after school or extra curricular activities. He is preaching to the choir when he writes this to me, but it is likely that the next "As Sam Sees It" column will have more to pass on from the sage advice of one of WHS's many successful alumni.

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