Darryl Gorham is looking forward to the “break” that’s coming in his football coaching career.
The former Rifle High School football coach who had spent close to a decade as the head coach at Highlands Ranch in South Denver has taken a job as the tight ends coach at Colorado State University-Pueblo, following a 30-year coaching career at the prep level. It gives him an opportunity to focus on football rather than the all-inclusive package that comes with most high school football coaching jobs.
“A lot of people don’t realize what goes into it,” said Gorham, who served as a coach at Chaparral, Rifle and Highlands Ranch. “A lot of coaches put in a 40-hour work week just coaching football, but that doesn’t include all of the time that they put in just doing their regular teaching jobs. It’ll be good to be able to focus on one thing.”
Gorham did a pretty decent job of coaching, even when he had a full plate. His career record as a high school head coach is 180-112, which included a Class 3A state championship at Rifle in 2004. Gorham’s 2004 team went into the 3A state playoffs as the No. 16 seed in the 16-team field on its way to winning the title.
He continued that success when he went to Highlands Ranch, a Class 5A school. Gorham’s teams reached the Class 5A state playoffs six times in his nine-years at the helm, which included a pair of Continental League championships.
Gorham, 52, decided to retire from teaching following the Falcons’ 2-8 campaign in the 2013 season. The decision to step down, Gorham said, was entirely his decision, despite speculation to the contrary based on Twitter posts.
“It was kind of a deal you run into a lot of times in coaching,” Gorham said.
He spoke of the common parallel in coaching high school sports, noting the parents of the athletes in his football program at Highlands Ranch who grew upset due to issues such as playing time and play selection, with playing time serving as the predominant complaint.
Then Gorham added: “The Rifle parents were way better. There was a common understanding of what we were trying to accomplish.”
The new gig for Gorham still involves long hours. It does, however, give him an opportunity to focus on coaching football without the added aspect of grading papers.
Gorham joins a CSU-Pueblo program which has grown into what is arguably the top NCAA Division II football team in the nation. The Thunderwolves of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference have not only won three consecutive conference titles, but have finished the regular season undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Division II for three consecutive seasons. CSU-Pueblo hasn’t lost a regular-season game since a home loss to Nebraska-Kearney on Oct. 16, 2010.
CSU-Pueblo didn’t have a tight ends coach last season. The Thunderwolves’ season begins Sept. 4 in Pueblo against West Texas A&M.
Gorham, who will coach under seventh-year head coach John Wristen, will also be assigned a recruiting territory. He’ll be in charge of Colorado’s Western Slope, which will play to his advantage, since he’s had good, long-standing relationships with football coaches not only in the immediate area of Rifle, but in the Grand Junction and Montrose area as well.
Rifle’s football program has continued to be a contending program since Gorham began coaching Highlands Ranch nine years ago, finishing with only one sub-.500 season since then. Most of the coaches who were assistants while Gorham was Rifle’s head coach have remained, including current head coach Damon Wells, whose team finished with a 13-1 record in reaching the 2012 Class 3A state championship game. Wells also led the Bears to the 2005 state title game the year after Gorham’s departure for Highlands Ranch.
Gorham also said although he’s thrilled for the opportunity to coach for the first time at the collegiate level, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to the prep sideline down the road. He admitted, however, that he wouldn’t have this opportunity had it not been for the coaches he worked with over the years, especially the guys who still reside in the Colorado River Valley.
“The people in Rifle were very important in helping me over the years. Any one of them could coach at the next level very easily because they’re that good,” Gorham said. “I would not have been this successful as a coach if I had not had those people around me. I’ll always be appreciative of that.”