Ea­gles guided by class act

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Neil H. Devlin Neil H. Devlin: nde­vlin@den­ver­post.com or @neilde­vlin

Rod Sher­man’s month of De­cem­ber couldn’t have been much bet­ter.

His Valor Chris­tian Ea­gles ral­lied to down Pomona 29-26 for the Class 5A state cham­pi­onship at Sports Author­ity Field at Mile High.

His pro­gram’s best and most-cel­e­brated player, Chris­tian McCaf­frey, now a sopho­more at Stan­ford, fin­ished sec­ond in Heis­man Tro­phy vot­ing— and Sher­man was on hand in New York to share the mo­ment.

“Be­ing in the theater was just sur­real,” he said.

And the Bron­cos re­cently hosted the Oak­land Raiders, who are led by coach Jack Del Rio— whose son, Luke, starred at Valor— and also have Brent Vieselmeyer, Sher­man’s best friend, as an as­sis­tant. The two left Cal­i­for­nia in 2007 to help open Valor Chris­tian.

“It was ex­cit­ing,” said Sher­man, the 2015 Bron­cos high school coach of the year.

The Ea­gles are 35-7 over Sher­man’s three years in com­mand, in­clud­ing 2-1 in state ti­tle games.

“This cham­pi­onship was spe­cial for our pro­gram, es­pe­cially with the post-Chris­tian (McCaf­frey) era and ev­ery­thing,” Sher­man said. “It’s definitely spe­cial.”

Main­tain­ing the Ea­gles’ suc­cess is not un­like the re­spon­si­bil­ity of a CEO of a large com­pany, and Sher­man has han­dled it deftly. He re­peat­edly has taken the high road and knows how to deal with the pub­lic and me- dia. He speaks freely af­ter wins and losses, and never bad-mouths his play­ers or oth­ers.

It’s a big job. When of­fi­cials an­nounced plans for the parochial school in the mid­dle of the past decade, dom­i­nance in ath­let­ics was part of the prom­ise along with the out­stand­ing fa­cil­i­ties (the Cincin­nati Ben­gals prac­ticed at Valor be­foreMon­day’s game against the Bron­cos).

The 40-year-old Sher­man has been at the front of prac­ti­cally all of it, serv­ing as the school’s ath­letic di­rec­tor, an as­sis­tant to Vieselmeyer— he left three years ago to join the col­lege ranks be­fore join­ing the Raiders this sea­son— and now is Valor’s di­rec­tor of in­sti­tu­tional ad­vance­ment.

A graduate of Cal­i­for­nia’s Or­ange Lutheran High School and Con­cor­dia Col­lege, Sher­man re­turned to his high school as a coach while still in col­lege, then came to Colorado in 2007.

So he has wit­nessed the Ea­gles’ ups and downs, such as open­ing in 2008 with a 4-6 record, then ad­vanc­ing to seven con­sec­u­tive fi­nals over three clas­si­fi­ca­tions and win­ning six state ti­tles.

He sees and hears the good and bad that comes with be­ing at Valor and isn’t afraid to com­ment. For ex­am­ple: • On scru­tiny the Ea­gles get from peo­ple who re­main skep­ti­cal about parochial and pri­vate schools ver­sus pub­lic coun­ter­parts: “We try to be a pretty open book. We are who we are. And we take pride in it.”

• On be­ing re­moved from league par­tic­i­pa­tion a few years ago be­cause of charges of bla­tant re­cruit­ing: “We’ve worked hard to im­prove our re­la­tion­ship in the state. I do think we’ve come a long way.”

• On the pub­lic notic­ing how many play­ers with ties to the Bron­cos walk through the Valor halls and are priv­i­leged: “It min­i­mizes how hard our kids work.”

• And on meet­ing with boost­ers in the press box at half­time of home games and con­duct­ing postgame meet­ings on the field rather than in the locker room: “It started with me be­cause some of our donors in the box are pas­sion­ate about our school and be­cause I used to be in the press box and give an in­jury re­port. When you watch a col­lege foot­ball game, they’re al­ways shar­ing 30 to 60 sec­onds with the coach (at half­time). It’s kind of the same thing ... and we don’t meet the kids in the locker room, we want the par­ents to hear it.

“As a coach, you take re­spon­si­bil­ity and it’s good for the par­ents to hear it.”

Sher­man said he is blessed all the way around. For him, Valor’s tal­ent, op­por­tu­ni­ties and aca­demics are un­matched. He said he loves ev­ery­thing from off­sea­son work­outs and re­treats to non­league games and ti­tle matchups. And there’s no other place he’d rather be. “We have great kids and great fam­i­lies,” Sher­man said. “It’s so much fun here.”

AAron On­tiveroz, The Den­ver Post

Rod Sher­man con­tin­ues to have a lot to shout about as Valor Chris­tian’s head foot­ball coach.

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