A 10-Year Success Story: Denton Guyer Goes from Pursuer to Pursued
By Arden Marie Pullig
For Reporting Texas
For the players and the coaching staff at Denton Guyer High School, the red digital clock in the weight room matters the most.
It tells them how long until the new football season starts. It tells them when they have their next chance to make a name and win another championship.
Head coach and athletic director John Walsh started the Guyer program when the school opened in 2005 in Denton, 40 miles north of Dallas. He hired 51 coaches and started with a new freshman class. The team won one game in the first three years. Walsh remembers looking into the stands and seeing maybe 40 people. He wondered why he had left his previous job in Brownwood.
But people started coming when the team started winning.
In 2008, with a full four-grade class, Guyer made it to the Class 4A state semifinals after a 12-3 season. Since then, the high school has won 80 percent of its games, with 27 playoff victories.
The 10-year-old program has sent 31 players to play Division I college football, including potential University of Texas starting quarterback Jerrod Heard, a redshirt who completed 20 of 29 passes for 177 yards and rushed for a touchdown in the spring Orange-White scrimmage.
In 2010, Guyer ended Southlake Carroll’s 47-game home winning streak. The Wildcats beat the Carroll Dragons again to advance to the 5A state semifinals. In 2012 and 2013, Guyer won back-to-back Class 4A Division I state championships, making it two-for-three in state championship appearances after its loss to Cibolo Steele in the 2010 Class 5A Division II game.
Players credit Walsh and his staff with building a powerhouse.
“They dedicate themselves year round to shape and mold their players into great men on and off the field,” said Cody Henessee, 21-year-old former Guyer player who now is at Rice University on a scholarship.
Walsh said he wants Denton Guyer to become one of the best programs in the state. Football powerhouses such as Southlake Carroll and Celina are tied for the most state championships with eight. Odessa Permian has six titles. Brownwood, where Walsh got his start as an assistant coach, has seven.
Walsh said the secret to success is respecting the players and building relationships with them. He knows his players’ families. He knows if things are troublesome at home, and players never go hungry due to the abundance of peanut butter and jelly stashed in the field house.
Denton Guyer is nestled between subdivisions and a mansion with longhorns grazing on the front lawn. It is a large, diverse district. The student body is 51.6 percent white, 30.8 percent Hispanic and 12 percent African American. The district also has 42.3 percent of students classified as economically disadvantaged.
“Bringing all these people together from different backgrounds makes up Denton. It’s an American melting pot that comes together and feeds off of each other, and the combination is magical,” Walsh said.
Football success starts in the seventh grade, when players are exposed to the multidimensional offense and its preference for a dual-threat quarterback.The future Guyer Wildcats learn agility exercises and the Olympic-style lifts they will use in high school.
The team takes off-field training very seriously to avoid injuries. Brian Kegans, the 32-year-old strength and conditioning coach, has built a network with the middle school coaches to ensure the players are using proper form.
“That’s five years of training by their senior season. That’s a huge foundation for them entering college,” Kegans said.
The coaching staff requires more of the players than just impressive lifts. From day one, players are required to attend team meetings and summer workouts and to be consistent.
Consistency has led Walsh to have a Division I quarter back every year but two in his 22-year career. For example, he sent his own son, J.W. Walsh, to play at Oklahoma State University and Heard to Texas.
Walsh said he now has the best quarterback he’s ever coached, a player who combines intelligence and pure athletic ability. Shawn Robinson, who will graduate in 2017, already has offers from Texas, Louisiana State, Baylor, Nebraska, Arizona State and Oklahoma, among others. In his sophomore season, the 6-3, 195-pound quarterback threw for 2,800 yards and rushed for 1,416.
The program has come a long way from its humble beginnings. That clock continues to count down to the season opener versus three-time state champion Allen Eagles. Last season, Denton Guyer lost to Allen, 55-47, after turning the ball over late in the game. For now, the players push hard and wait for the day when Robinson will lead them onto the field.