It was an emotional night for longtime Granada coach Manuel Gonzales.
A special ceremony was held to honor him following the home football game between the Granada Bobcats and Walsh Eagles on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.
The football field at the school was officially named “Manuel Gonzales Field” in honor of the legendary coach.
It was an accolade that was well deserved as ‘Coach G’ influenced a culture built on hard work, dedication, and respect that carried through the school as well as the community. During the ceremony, ‘Coach G’ was surrounded by a host of family members and friends along with past and present athletes who played for him.
Dee Melgosa, a Granada graduate and a good friend of the family, was the person who spearheaded the dedication. “Manuel was an inspiration to me,” said Melgosa. “I didn’t realize that he had already been coaching for 45 years. The history he has accomplished as a coach is amazing. He is very deserving of this honor.”
Classmate Clark Tuck and Craig Kennedy, a 1965 Granada graduate, spoke at the ceremony and recalled their memories of Manuel during their school days. “I had the honor of playing with Manuel while I was in high school back in the 60’s,” said Kennedy. “At the time, students from Bristol attended grades 1-8 in Bristol and started in Granada as freshman.”
“Back in those days, the boys either went to shop or played sports,” Kennedy explained. “Manuel was in sports and made a name for himself in all the sports in high school. Several years in high school he was voted ‘Best Athlete’ by his fellow students.”
“In football, he was a star fullback and in 1965 led the team to the Class 1A football state tournament,” said Kennedy. “In basketball, he was left guard and led many a fast break. He had an exceptional jump shot from the perimeter. In 1966, Manuel and the team led the Bobcats to the state basketball tournament and claimed third place. In baseball, he was the pitcher and recorded one strike out after another. His ability to hit the ball was exceptional.”
Kennedy added, “One thing I recall is that Manuel always gave 120 percent and always strived to make the rest of his teammates better. I am proud to call him my teammate and friend.”
“In the years since high school and watching the hometown guy come back to his roots to coach and give it his all. Manuel put Granada on the Class A sports map in Colorado,” continued Kennedy. “His teams have achieved many league, regional, and state championships and not to mention him being inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.”
“Manuel has dedicated his life to the community and to Granada School,” Kennedy said. “He always has been a role model for younger kids to get started in sports, but always made sure they excelled in the classroom. Manuel, we thank you for the memories and generations of families that you have touched in Bristol and Granada over the years.”
‘Coach G’ was presented a plaque by Craig’s mother Marie Kennedy. Marie and her late husband Clyde were avid and faithful fans of Granada sports for many, many years.
“I was working at Granada Schools as the secretary when Manuel came to teach and coach in 1973,” she recalled. “We worked together for 16 years. He always gave me a wave when he passed by the office. My husband Clyde and I attended nearly every game he coached even after I retired. I am pleased to call Manuel a dear friend and very proud of his achievements.”
Also during the ceremony, Daniel Silva, a former player, presented ‘Coach G’ a scrapbook featuring articles and photos of the 1979 state football championship season.
The big moment came when ‘Coach G’ stood in front of the press box where the sign was unveiled to his delight. In near tears, ‘Coach G’ said, “I can still see the kids running back and forth on this field who played for me. It’s been an honor coaching these gentlemen. I see some of them made it here and some didn’t. I just want to say, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you’.”
“It’s an honor for me to accept this dedication,” he said. “I want to thank everyone especially my friend Ian DeBono. We started together in 1973 and for over 20 years, we kind of ruled the school. We did our job of trying to get the kids to walk a straight line. Ian took care of me a lot of times.”
“I also want to thank my high school coach Bill Harmon,” Gonzales said. “Another coach I want to mention is George Durham. He was my Little League coach and he took me everywhere. He bought me my first baseball glove and my dad was supposed to pay him but he never did (chuckle). Another person that really got me going was my seventh grade teacher John Martin. He gave me a call a couple of weeks ago and I asked him where he was. He’s in a nursing home in Kingman, Arizona and he’s 98 years old. I asked him for his address and he said, ‘Why? Are you going to come and see me?’ I said, ‘Yes, I will.’’’
Another person that ‘Coach G’ said was influential in his life was his third grade teacher Lacey Walters.
Randy Holmen, a former coach for several of the area schools and now a school administrator, had nothing but praise for ‘Coach G’. “Manuel is a good friend of mine,” said Holmen, who attended Friday’s dedication. “He has always been considered a great coach and he’s done a lot of good things for the school and the town of Granada. But the most important thing - he’s a good person. He cares about kids and he cares about the kids who played for him all these years.”
“He’s been a good husband and his kids were raised right,” he added. “That to me says more about Manuel than just about anything.”
Like most coaches there’s been the good times and then there’s been times of struggle. “Manuel always hung in there,” Holmen said. “Even when people thought he wasn’t doing his job, he was a fighter. He did what was best for the kids and turned some kids into very outstanding players.”
“This school and community means a lot to him and he means a lot to the school and the community as well,” said Holmen. “He’s put in a lot of time because he loves the kids and loves sports. He taught kids discipline and respect. As kids came up through the programs they knew what to expect from Manuel and the expectations were always set high. That’s one the reasons that Granada has been good for so long.”
Nearing the end of his 45-year career at Granada, ‘Coach G’ served as the head coach for football, boys basketball, and baseball. Besides coaching, he taught junior high and high school social studies, physical education, and also serves as the athletic director.
‘Coach G’ stepped down as the head coach of the football program this year but he remains on the sideline as an assistant coach under his oldest son and new head coach Junior Gonzales.
Blessed with some outstanding athletes throughout the years, ‘Coach G’ directed his teams to 24 state championship appearances including eight state championships during an illustrious career.
His teams captured three football state titles (1979, 1988, 2006) and were state runners-up nine times.
His all-time coaching record in football stands at 325 victories and 135 losses.
Granada won two boys basketball titles (1989, 1991) and were state runners-up on two occasions.
In baseball, the Bobcats claimed three baseball crowns (1991, 1995, 2009) and finished second in the state four times.
‘Coach G’ was inducted into Colorado HS Coaches Hall of Fame in 2002; National HS Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2006; Colorado Dugout Club Hall of Fame in 2009; and the Colorado High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2014.
He was named the Coach of the Year on seven occasions.
Former athlete Tyndan Marquez said that ‘Coach G’ demanded the best out of his players. “He taught us discipline and a good work ethic,” said Marquez, who was the starting QB when the Bobcats won the 8-man state championship in 2006 with a thrilling 47-46 triumph over Stratton. “He was like a second father figure. He’s touched a lot of lives and I enjoyed my time with him very, very much. It was the best!”
One person that probably knew ‘Coach G’ the best was his assistant coach John Hopper, who stood by his side for 28 ½ years. “It’s been a wonderful friendship,” said Hopper, who also served as an assistant in basketball and baseball. “It’s been fun and it’s hard to quit when you’re having fun. We’ve had some outstanding players throughout the years. With the success that we’ve had it’s been too hard to quit. All good things must come to an end and it’s getting to that time. Manuel spent countless hours behind the scene. If people only knew how much he would prepare for every game was amazing. He’s going to be missed.”
Junior Gonzales said it was a special occasion for his father. “I’m speechless,” he said. “My dad is deserving of this honor and his biggest fan was my mom Ida. This field is his venue and passion. A lot of memories played out on this field. He’s been blessed with a lot of good people and family around him. He’s had a lot of talented athletes who played their hearts out. There’s been a lot of good games played on this field and a lot of memories. One thing that’s been a constant is that our players play hard and play the Bobcat way. The dedication of this field was icing on the cake.”
Thanks for the memories ‘Coach G’!
John Contreras writes for the Kiowa County Independent, as well as the free Colorado Preps magazine that comes out monthly. You can find the October edition for FREE at the Hometown Gas and Grill, Kiowa County Independent (on our website as well on the home screen to the right), as well as several places in Southeast Colorado!