If you drive roughly 800 miles from Rockford in a south/southeasterly direction, you can find a bearded young man who is usually clad in green, happily living in Gaston County, North Carolina. He lives there with his wife, Ashley, and children Taylor (5) and Jaelyn (2).
There was a day in his not-so-distant past when he wore black and orange. Dan Rothwell competed in football and wrestling as a Ram, graduating in 2004 from RHS.
Rothwell is now the head coach for the varsity wrestling team at Ashbrook High School, taking his heavyweight, Antwon McClee all the way to the state finals last year. He is in his third year as a coach for their football program. For his first two years he was the linebacker coach, and now handles the Greenwave’s defensive line. The football team is looking at a 3-1 record for the season, and hungry for more wins.
In the 14 ½ years since he’s graduated from RHS, he has attained a bachelor’s degree in education from Aquinas College, and hit plenty of personal milestones with the passing of time, including landing a job as an American History teacher at Ashbrook High School.
One thing he has shown is a decided passion for is being a coach. He was freshman defensive coordinator at Central Montcalm High School (2007), freshman football head coach at Central Montcalm High School (2008), the JV wide receiver and outside linebacker coach at RHS (2009- 2014), and a volunteer wrestling coach at RHS (2006-2014), prior to moving to North Carolina.
Rothwell continues to be grateful for the foundation his time at Rockford has given him, both as a man and as a coach.
“Rockford was home to me for my whole childhood,” he said. “Being able to coach with all of my high school coaches was a dream come true, and I was lucky enough to do something I was passionate about and enjoyed. The family of Rockford High School opened their arms to me when I was looking for a coaching job, and they helped me get through student teaching with coach Brent Cummings being my Cooperating Teacher. Still, to this day, I can call them and just talk about my experiences in my new home in North Carolina. It is hard to find a community like Rockford and even harder to find a group of coaches like those that are at Rockford High School. it’s a true family and a special place to be a part of.”
When he played as a Ram, he was on the defensive line and head coach Ralph Munger was at the helm. He points to Munger as teaching him some key ingredients to being successful.
“He taught me preparation,” Rothwell shared. “Watching how much time Coach Munger put into the sport was eye-opening. The passion that he brings to practices, and even to film meetings is something I will never forget. I try every day to think about the things he shared with me as a player and as a coach. He has been a legend at Rockford High School and I was lucky enough to play for him and privileged to coach with him.”
But it wasn’t just Munger who taught the young man lessons, it was also all the coaches Munger surrounds his football program with.
“My coaches from Rockford High School, Coach Richardson, Coach Reinhart, Coach Munger, Coach Korytkowski, Coach VanderVeen, Coach Cummings and Coach Carey, all had a huge influence in my life. I love sports and they always made competing fun. They taught me if you put everything you have into something you can achieve anything. They not only talked about what Ram Pride meant to us, but they showed us every day. I hope that I can influence kids the same way they influenced me, and be a proud coach and mentor in young men's lives.”
It’s that core value – that is so important to Rothwell.
“I love the two sports that I coach and I love watching kids grow in those sports,” Rothwell concluded. “I enjoy seeing them start as big-eyed freshman to seniors who lead the younger guys along. Most young men enjoy high school sports and never play again. To be able to help them through tough times, and the struggles of high school, and then see them graduate as young men is enough joy for me. To be there for them through the tough times, and for all the exciting moments in sports is enough to keep me coming back!”
Obviously, valuable lessons can be packed up and safely travel over many miles and won’t be forgotten - even if you are wearing different colors.