It was no surprise that the Arizona Cardinals nominated Rick Garretson for national coach of the year.
It would have been more of a surprise if the NFL club had not put the Chandler High School football head coach up for the award. He just wrapped up his second straight unbeaten season.
Garretson took over the Chandler program two years ago and has not lost a game since taking the reins — and led the Wolves to back-to-back Open Division state championships.
The coaching veteran of 25 years is one of 32 high school coaches across the country who have been nominated by local NFL teams for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award. The award recognizes those coaches nominated for their “character and integrity, dedication to the community, and commitment to player health and safety and on-field success.”
Garretson took over a highly-successful Chandler football program that has been ruling the 6A conference, winning three straight state titles under Shaun Aguano, who left after the 2018 season to become Arizona State‘s running backs coach. He left behind a roster filled with D-I recruits.
But, as any coach will tell you, it’s hard to get to the top — but even harder to stay there.
However, Garretson managed to do just that. His 2019 team went undefeated (10-0) and notched a victory in the inaugural season of the new Open Division, which features the top eight teams across all divisions vying for the state title. Last season, the Wolves made it two straight Open Division championships (and five consecutive) by finishing with another unbeaten record, 13-0.
Garretson bided his time and paid his dues, working his way up the coaching staff at Chandler. Over his nine years with the program he served as co-offensive coordinator, passing game coordinator, and quarterbacks coach before being named to succeed Aguano. Prior to being hired at Chandler, Garretson spent 16 years as an offensive coordinator at a California high school.
The Wolves will have seven returning starters from last season’s undefeated squad, one reason they are ranked No. 17 in the nation in the preseason rankings by High School Football America and No. 19 on the MaxPreps Preseason Top 100.
One thing Garretson has going for him in the competition: he is one of just three coaches nominated for this year’s Don Shula Award who led their teams to a national ranking last season.
The two finalists for the national award, and eventual recipient, are scheduled to be announced later this summer.