King had passion for footballDewey King’s passion for football began on vacant lots and grassy yards in his hometown of Cando over 70 years ago. Whether it was playing the game in North Dakota, or through his distinguished coaching career that took him to eight different states, King’s love of football and family defined a life packed full of unique experiences and illustrious achievements.
By: David Selvig, The Jamestown Sun
Dewey King’s passion for football began on vacant lots and grassy yards in his hometown of Cando over 70 years ago.
Whether it was playing the game in North Dakota, or through his distinguished coaching career that took him to eight different states, King’s love of football and family defined a life packed full of unique experiences and illustrious achievements.
On Saturday, the former head coach at San Jose State and Division III power Wheaton College will join Dick Karlgaard of Bismarck and Carrington’s Jim Kleinsasser in the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, capping off a career defined by success.
“I’ve been blessed with a wonderful life,” said King, now living in Waukesha, Wisc., with his wife Peggy. “Not everybody gets to do what they really want to do in life, but I was able to do that. I have a wonderful wife and a great family. I’m very thankful for the life I’ve had.”
It all began back in Cando for King, where he knew early on that football would be a big part of his life forever.
“I remember back in fifth grade, I’d go to varsity practice all by myself and just watch. I loved playing the game, but I also loved to just watch and learn and try to soak up as much as I could,” he said. “I knew right then and there I wanted to be in coaching the rest of my life.”
That passion for knowledge led him to coaching, of course. After a successful career as a player at the University of North Dakota, King’s long and winding road in the profession began as the freshmen team’s coach.
After a brief stint at a high school in Canton, Ohio, King earned a spot on the coaching staff at Michigan State, during the heyday of the Spartans’ program. During his time in East Lansing, MSU won the 1952 national championship and the 1953 Big Ten title before beating UCLA in the 1954 Rose Bowl.
“I just remember walking out onto that field and what a great experience that was,” he said of the Rose Bowl. “The way our team played that day. The way they executed. It was pretty special.”
From there, the road led to the Ivy League and the University of Pennsylvania where he began to establish is reputation as one of the leading defensive minds in college football. Having to try and stop the likes of Army and Navy in the prime of the two proud programs made mastering the art of preparation essential.
“Having to go up against those two teams really forced me into becoming an authority of pass defense,” he said. “What they were doing back then was way ahead of their time.”
After two years at Penn, he was lured to New Jersey’s Rutgers University, where he not only served as the team’s defensive coordinator, but also became an author when he penned, Jericho-A Modern System of Pass Defense, which sold over 40,000 copies and was also a Coaches Book Selection. The success of the book also made him a popular lecturer, giving between 40-50 speeches per year around the country.
“I’d been going around talking about some of my theories to other coaches and when I heard some of those coaches using the exact words I had been using I said to myself, ‘Hey, I better write this stuff down.’”
In 1969, he ventured west to California, where just one year later he became the head coach at San Jose State, leading the team to 10 wins over three seasons, including wins over Pac-10 heavyweights Stanford, California and Oregon — quarterbacked at the time by NFL Hall of Famer Dan Fouts. He also led the Spartans to the Pasadena Bowl in 1971, the school’s first postseason appearance in 22 years, and beat legendary and future NFL head coach Don Coryell’s San Diego State Aztecs.
“I think we were able to get the program back to believing they could win again,” King said.
His final coaching stop came at Wheaton (Ill.). The program had been down for several years, but King quickly had the team competitive again, including a pair 6-3 seasons during his seven-year tenure.
After 30 years of coaching, King was hired as the director of athletics at Carroll College in Waukesha, where he served until retiring in 1985. In 2000, he was twice honored by the All-American Football Foundation.
He is still the only student in UND history to be the recipient of the Sioux Award (the highest honor given to a graduate by the UND Alumni Association). He was also inducted into the school’s hall of fame and was given the Thomas J. Clifford Award for outstanding achievements in coaching.
Entering his home state’s Hall of Fame this weekend is the icing on the cake.
“It’s reaching the summit as professional awards go. It’s truly a great honor,” King said.
A fitting end to a journey that began so long ago in Cando.
“I was born into a home where the teachings of the bible and athletics enjoyed a remarkable coexistence,” he said. “Our parents encouraged us to be involved in athletics and I’m so thankful for that because it provided me with great opportunities and wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.”
Sun sports writer Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460.