A community icon.
On Friday night the community and high school he helped mold into a small-school football powerhouse in Illinois will recognize Dick Duval.
St. Joseph-Ogden High School will officially dedicate the field Duval coached on for more than three decades with a ceremony at 7 p.m. to rename the venue Dick Duval Field. Duval, who is battling pancreatic cancer, will also be inducted into the SJO Hall of Fame on Friday night.
The honor comes more six years after Duval coached his last game with the Spartans, where he compiled a 251-75 record from 1988 to 2015. He guided SJO to five state championship games and an unprecedented run of 25 straight playoff appearances from 1991 until he retired in 2015. Even in his final season, the Spartans finished 12-1 before losing in the state semifinals.
Bob Glazier, who coached with Duval at SJO and is also a close friend, described Duval as a winner and a leader on the field.
“He took a program that had made the playoffs one time before him and was struggling because of a coaching shakeup,” Glazier said. “He came in and righted the ship.”
Glazier said Duval — who also coached the SJO baseball program from 1989 to 2004 and won 234 games in the dugout — is a great coach. But an even better person and friend.
“Coach Duval would do anything for you,” Glazier said. “He was always there to help.”
Glazier would know. The Glazier family and the Duval family went on vacations together and routinely went out to eat or visited each other’s house. When Glazier’s father died in May, Duval and his wife, Lynda, drove three hours to attend the visitation.
“He didn’t have to do that,” Glazier said. “He was not feeling well, but that’s the kind of person Dick is. The best.”
Ben Gorman was an assistant coach under Duval and agreed that Duval is one of a kind. He is close friends with Duval’s son, Kiel, after rooming with Kiel in college and serving as best men in each other’s weddings.
“Coach Duval has always been there to give his advice,” Gorman said. “Coach Duval has helped me with so many things in life, from simple advice to home remodels. And he’s done it all out of the kindness of his heart.”
Monticello football coach Cully Welter knows what it’s like to coach a successful program. He guided the Sages to a state title in 2018, but developed respect for Duval during their time coaching against one another. Even if Duval’s SJO teams would routinely get the upper hand against Welter and Monticello.
“His teams were well-disciplined in all facets of the game and he was detail-oriented across the board. He was going to find an advantage in some area, whether that came on special teams or by tweaking a formation or blocking assignment,” Welter said. “His players were always technique sound and they executed very well. He was always well-balanced on offense but was not afraid to pound the ball if they were having success. In general, he is one of the all-time greatest high school football coaches in the history of Illinois.”
Once Duval’s coaching days ended at SJO, Welter said he developed an even closer relationship with Duval. That’s because Duval worked at Monticello High School as a long-term substitute teacher.
“He taught every other day and I found myself looking forward to the days when he was going to be there,” Welter said. “He was an early bird and was always there before me, even though he had a much longer commute. I would almost always walk down the hall prior to our first class and shoot the bull with him. I just enjoyed talking with him and learning from him, and I am grateful I got to know him because he is a really good person.”
Louis Acklin, who played for Duval and graduated from SJO in 2013, agreed.
“Obviously he is the greatest football coach in school history,” Acklin said. “But he also made a big mark on our school outside of the football field.”
Acklin also had Duval as a math teacher. He remembers classes with Duval as enjoyable and lighthearted. Even if it was the opposite of what Duval looked like on a football field underneath the Friday night lights in the fall.
“His overall jovial personality within the school building is something that he’ll definitely be remembered for as well as all of his coaching success on the football field,” Acklin said. “He is much more laid-back and relaxed as a person and teacher than he was as a football coach. On the sidelines, Coach Duval was known for being stoic and intense. This was the image that I had in my head of him as I was growing up, because that’s all that I knew him as.”
But once Acklin arrived at SJO, his viewpoint of Duval changed.
“He had a much different personality as a teacher,” Acklin said. “He was much more relaxed and casual, always goofing around and making jokes in class. He never played favorites in his classes either. He always made sure to include everyone so that they felt involved. I enjoyed being in classes with him almost as much as I enjoyed being on his football team.”
Dalton Walsh, who played graduated from SJO in 2014 and was the starting quarterback on the 2013 SJO team that reached the Class 3A state championship game, said playing for Duval was something he cherishes now.
“He’s someone who would do anything for his players,” Walsh said. “It was very special to have played for him.”
Walsh said his fondest memory of Duval isn’t from a football game or practice.
“It’s getting to know him outside of football and outside of him being my coach,” Walsh said. “It was cool to see a different side of him once I graduated and got older. He’s a great coach, a Hall of Famer, but he’s an even better person.”
New SJO girls’ basketball coach Drew Arteaga graduated from SJO in 2011 and also played for Duval. The tough persona Duval built up when he was roaming the sidelines during a game or coaching up the Spartans in practice did not translate to the classroom.
“I joke, but Coach Duval and Mr. Duval were two different people,” Arteaga said. “Coach Duval wasn’t afraid to give you a stern talking to and jump you when you made mistakes. Mr. Duval was one of the kindest and most passionate teachers I ever had. Teaching, to him, was a piece of artwork that he crafted and developed over his years, and you could tell he took so much pride in his teaching ability. He also took an incredible amount of pride in the success of his students. He truly cared and you see the soft spot in his heart for his students. Turns out he actually really funny, too. Well, when he was Mr. Duval anyway.”
Ryan Koss, who graduated from SJO in 2014 and was a captain on the 2013 state runner-up team, said Duval is one of the best people he has ever met.
“I was honored to have him as my coach and wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Koss said. “He’s a true champion in the coaching world but also just as a person.”
Koss and his brothers, Aaron, Mitch and Dylan, all played for Duval. A Koss was coached by Duval in a state championship game featuring the Spartans in 1999, 2006 and 2013.
“It’s something all of us talk about with Coach Duval to this day,” Koss said. “He’s the greatest of all-time. He loves football but also loves seeing his players turn into great individuals, and that started with the way he coached us on the field and just in life.”
Jake Pence played on the last SJO football team Duval coached in 2015 and was a key cog in helping the Spartans finish 12-1 during Duval’s final season. The 2016 SJO graduate said he believes Duval’s legacy rests in the hundreds, if not thousands of young men he coached, mentored and influenced during his time at SJO.
“The culture that he built within the football program positively impacted how his players performed in the classroom, in sports other than football, and in life after high school,” Pence said. “It’s easy to quantify his success as a football coach, but I genuinely believe that some of his biggest wins took place off the field.”
Current SJO football coach Shawn Skinner echoed those sentiments. Skinner played on the 1989 SJO team that was the first one in school history to play in the state championship game and served as an assistant coach under Duval before succeeding him as the program’s head coach.
“He really used the football program as a whole to demand that we become the best we can be in everything,” Skinner said. “Not just athletics, but academics, too. Up until that time, SJO was really kind of looking for an identity. He helped establish a culture of not accepting anything less than our best — that was in the classroom, hallways, weight room and athletic fields. That legacy has endured because of him.”