It is unbelievable how fast a year goes by. One year ago today, I woke up on a Sunday morning. I had a few honey-dos to get finished. My wife and I were expecting our first child in less than a month. We had just moved into our home in Maryville and had been landscaping. That morning I put on some grungy clothes and prepared to go purchase a pick-up bed full of mulch. When I was gathering my things, the phone rang. It was defensive coordinator and assistant football coach Rich Wright. Before I could answer it, the call went to voicemail. I grabbed my phone and wallet and headed for the truck. When I got in the truck, I checked Rich’s voicemail. He simply said “Call me as soon as you can.”
As I made my way out of my neighborhood, I called Rich. That phone call changed my life. That day changed a lot of people’s life. When Rich picked up on the other end, he said Coach Scott Bostwick had a heart attack…and he didn’t make it. I was in disbelief. How? Why? It can’t be. But it was true. In the days and weeks afterward, the Bearcat family would come together like never before to mourn the loss of Coach Bostwick. On the one year anniversary of Scott’s passing, I am taking time to reflect. Reflecting on how precious life is. Reflecting on how much happens in a year. Reflecting on how blessed I am to have my parents, my siblings, my wife and my daughter here with me. Reflecting on how my heart hurts for Sue, Leah and Eric Bostwick and all of the Bostwick family.
But most of all I want to reflect on Scott, the life he lived and what he taught me. I only knew Scott a little over six months. But I felt like we had known each other for years. Scott was special that way. I will start by giving a little history of how I met Scott. I accepted the Northwest AD job Dec. 20, 2010. Within the week, Coach Mel Tjeerdsma would call, letting me know he was retiring. A million thoughts raced through my head. The legend was leaving. How could I make a decision on the future of such a storied program without knowing anyone or anything? I talked at great lengths with Coach T and President Jasinski. I then called every coach on our football staff. Every single coach, some of whom I would have had interest in talking to about being our head coach, recommended Scott. I’ll never forget Adam Dorrel saying, “I want to be a head coach someday, but this is Scott Bostwick’s job.”
While that was impressive, I wasn’t about to sign off on hiring the most visible position in our department without an extensive interview. I called Scott. We set up an interview. Scott, President Jasinski and I would visit for about 3-4 hours one morning. We talked a lot about things other than Northwest football. If you know Scott, you know he could talk. He could talk about life, about family, and about having fun. Scott could talk about anything. When he left, Dr. Jasinski asked me for my thoughts. I told him, “I’ll have to help him with the administering of the program, with tracking the budget, with details in compliance. It will require some work, but beyond a shadow of a doubt he is our guy.” I had no doubts. I knew that Scott would be successful.
That’s how our relationship began and I always felt a strong bond with Scott. We were kind of in it together. Everyone outside the Bearcat faithful wanted Northwest to fail, or at very least have a chink in the armor. That happens when you play in five straight national championship games and go several years without losing a conference game in the nation’s best D2 football conference. Scott and I were determined to keep the success going. After his passing, his wife Sue pulled me aside and said “I want you to know how excited he was about you.” She said he told her I was the “real deal” and that he knew we would work well together. Scott’s friend Greg Wilson told me the same thing, as did Rich Wright. To know he had as much confidence in me as I had in him meant so much. I think about that often and get emotional.
Scott was special. If you knew him, you already know that. If you didn’t, I’m sorry you didn’t have the opportunity to meet one of the most awesome people ever. I want to share with you a few things I learned from Scott in my short time knowing him.
1) Work hard but find time to play hard and live life.
I’ve been guilty of not making time for my wife and family. Being driven in your profession is a good thing, but not taking time for other priorities is a serious flaw. Scott picked up on that with me right away. He would come in and say, “Go home” and I usually did. No one ever accused Scott Bostwick of not working hard. He was a ferocious recruiter, he spent an enormous amount of time studying players and teams, watching film and developing schemes. But he had more stories of good times with friends than anyone I know. He made time to have fun. He made time to live. And he made time to travel with his family. I can honestly say I’ve changed my thinking since last June 5th. I’ve made my family a bigger priority in my life. I have Scott to thank for that.
2) The Big time is where you are at.
I’ve mentioned that Northwest was Scott’s dream job and that he passed on some tremendous opportunities. He was often quoted as saying, “the big time is where you are at.” This philosophy can apply to coaching and athletic administrative positions or any profession really. But it applies to so much more. We live in a society that more and more measures success by the title behind your name, the size of your house, or the brand on your car. How much simpler is life when you can just be satisfied with what you have and do the best you can with it? Scott was simple in that regard. He drove a Kia. He and Sue lived in the same house for almost two decades. And he didn’t chase every job that came around. What an amazing quality to have. What an amazing outlook on life.
3) Be yourself.
One of Scott’s first comments during our interview was, “I can’t be Mel. I won’t try to be Mel.” He then spent 20 minutes talking about how awesome Mel was to work for and all the things he had learned from Coach T. He talked about some things he would have to change on the field, in the office and in his personal time. Things he would do more like Coach T. But he never tried to be something he wasn’t. The Scott you met hanging around on the weekend is the same Scott you would see in the office or at church. Be yourself sounds easy, but in athletics it is difficult. It has become a very political profession. I respect Scott for always being true to himself.
4) Be forgiving.
Scott believed in people. He believed in second chances. Many coaches will give second chances to great players. Scott would give them to any player. He didn’t care what the talent level was. He truly wanted to help young men change, mature and develop into productive citizens. Sometimes the easy thing to do is to walk away from a student-athlete. That wasn’t Scott. He would exhaust all possibilities to help them learn and rehabilitate them. I grew to appreciate Scott for his big heart and compassion for people.
5) Never give up.
- Scott refused to give up. I am sure this was part of the mentality that helped the Bearcats have so many dramatic come-from-behind victories over the years. I still laugh at Jim Svoboda’s assessment of Scott’s recruiting tenacity when Jim spoke at Scott’s memorial service. Jim said Scott absolutely wouldn’t take no for an answer. Specifically, Jim said “If there were a natural disaster, and there were only one school left on earth and the recruit said he still wouldn’t go to Northwest, to Scott that meant put him on hold and call him back in a few days.” Scott’s never give up attitude is still an inspiration to us all.
6) Leaving a Legacy.
- I keep a quote in the top drawer of my desk. It reads, “What we have done for ourselves dies with us, but what we have done for others remains, and is immortal.” It serves as a reminder of why I went into this business. I often give it to donors and supporters who want to establish a legacy at Northwest. Without question, Scott is immortal. He gave his time, his resources, his energy…he gave his life to football and Northwest. His competitive spirit lives throughout this football program and athletic department. There have been many tributes to him this past year. But none were more impressive than last football season. A team that had every reason to collapse, every excuse not to compete, and could have folded at any time fought back time after time. They had a tremendous season and gave our faculty, staff, students and fans something to cheer for. They did it for Scott and his memory. But they also did it because of Scott. Because he taught them how to live, how to compete, and how to fight through adversity. He gave them something that lives on and is immortal.
Honestly, I could fill up a few more pages with my thoughts on Scott and lessons I learned from him. I’ve shed more than a few tears while writing this. It is hard day. It has been a difficult year. But as time passes, we will still have the lessons Scott taught us. The memories of his laugh, of his courage and of his wisdom. We will remember the pure passion of the man in the red hat. Scott is one of those guys you always remember. He is one of those men, you could never forget. God bless Sue, Leah, Eric and the Bostwick family today and every day.
And RIP to Coach Scott Bostwick. Thank you for everything.