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Jeffco Hero Awards: Ron Woitalewicz

Jeffco Hero Awards: Ron Woitalewicz
Posted on 11/30/2018
Dakota Ridge High School Head Football Coach Ron Woitalewicz watches his players take the field during a game at Trailblazer Stadium in Lakewood.It was weight room training time for some of the youngest Eagles football players at Dakota Ridge High School. As usual, head football coach Ron Woitalewicz, Coach Woj for short, was giving his athletes encouragement and support.

He still carries the frame of his football -playing former self. This year marks his 34th year as a coach, his 23rd at Dakota Ridge. In fact, he was there when the school first opened. During all that time, he’s racked up an impressive 100-plus wins and multiple playoff appearances.

"All the accolades that Coach Woj has had, local, regional, national, as a coach, he will never point to that or the wins as his barometer for success," said Paul Sheehy, the defensive line and special teams coach.

"For Coach Woj, it’s so much more than the ‘Xs’ and ‘Os,’" added Principal Dr. Jim Jelinek."He will tell you, ‘You want to know if I’m a success? Look at the kids that have come through this program. Are they good husbands, good fathers, and good people in the community? That’s how I know if I’m a good coach or not.' He lives it.”

"If I can accomplish those goals, no matter how many games you end up winning, I think you have a positive impact on kids’ lives," said Coach Woj.

His community work is widely known, including his yearly support of The Step Up Walk for Down Syndrome in honor of Dakota Ridge assistant football coach, Mark Leon, who has Down Syndrome. His players always take part.

"They come out on a Sunday morning at City Park at eight o’clock in the morning and they walk and throw the football with him and have fun,” explained Coach Woj. “It’s a really cool experience to see the kids go through that and how much they respect Mark."

"It’s always important to be there, and to support Mark,” added defensive end Jackson Barlett. “That means a lot to us, and it means a lot to Mark too. It’s a big deal that he does that."

Last season, Coach Woj’s world, and that of the entire Dakota Ridge community was shattered when Eagles player Christian Friedrichsen, was diagnosed with cancer. The coach was one of the first people he told.

"I stood up. I gave him a hug. Said, ‘I’m sorry.’ He said ‘don’t be sorry coach, because I’m going to kick cancer’s ass.’ That’s how he fought it from the get-go,” explained Coach Woj. “He would text me at night when he was getting chemo. He texted me one night at 10:45. 'Can we talk?' This kid went down fighting. He had such an infectious smile."

"A lot of us were kind of lost, and it didn’t feel fair,” said running back Jared Garcia. “This whole season we’ve dedicated to Christian and we just want to give our all on the field because we know if he was still here, he’d want to give his all too."

“That was Christian. He didn’t flinch in the face of adversity here,” added Coach Woj. “No matter how hard, how tired, how sore you think you are in that game, think about what Christian went through.”

At Dakota Ridge, Coach Woj is seen as someone who exemplifies the school’s founding principles. Living, loving, learning, leaving a legacy.

"You can find any one of those in an excellent staff member here, but to find all four in one is a unique thing,” said Jelinek. “Woj continues to bring those out into life both within his classrooms, within the community, and most definitely with his student-athletes."

"Even off the field, he’s always checking up on us,” said quarterback Ben Biffinger. “Texting us, calling us. It’s not all just football. He wants all of us to stay together and support one another."

"Woj has been to so many different weddings and been notified of children being born and things like that because he’s made such an impact on kids and their lives," Athletic Director Matt Heckel said.

"He’s not only focused on making us better athletes, but just better men for the future after high school, and making sure we’re ready for the future even if that doesn’t involve football or sports or anything. He wants us to succeed in life," added wide receiver Riley Fisher.

"Coach, you’re a hero to us and we can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for us," Barlett said to Coach Woj.

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.

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