Starting a new job can be exciting for anyone, even for someone like Rick Luetjen, who spent the last decade on the sidelines at Hennessey — three as an assistant and the last seven as the Eagles' head football coach.
Luetjen was hired to take over as the head coach of Woodward’s program on April 11. Even in his 27th year in coaching football, Luetjen finds his excitement at a high level.
“I think any time a coach leaves and goes to a new program, it kind of sparks that new energy,” he said last week while driving back from a coaches clinic. “Whether you’re at a program for one year or 10 years, I don’t think that really plays a big factor in it. But the longer you’re at one place, I think that excitement level goes a little higher when you go to the new place.”
Luetjen will be taking over a Class 5A program that’s three classes higher than that of Class 2A Hennessey, which means he will be coaching his Boomers in front of a larger crowd and community. There’s no added pressure in that respect, though. It just adds to the new energy of coming to Woodward.
“You just feel like you’re going to have more eyes on you,” he said. “More people excited about what's going on and how things are going.”
A new program. Larger crowds. What else could a coach ask for to make his job more exciting?
For Luetjen, it’s coaching alongside his son, Derrick.
“Getting to coach my boys all the way through (high school), I thought, was about the greatest thing in the world,” Luetjen said. “The success they had (at Hennessey) was really special.”
Derrick Luetjen spent the 2018 season as a graduate assistant for the football team at his alma mater, Tulsa. When Rick Luetjen took over the Woodward job in the spring, he called his son, who also played at the University of Tulsa, to join him and help install a new culture.
“I needed some guys that have the experience to know what that means,” the older Luetjen said.
Derrick Luetjen jumped on board as the defensive coordinator.
“Its a pretty special deal to be able to coach with him now,” his father said
No introduction needed at Laverne
Tanner Woods holds an undeniable advantage over his fellow new head football coaches: he’s coached nearly all of his players for the last five years. Which means Woods did not have to go through the introductory phase of taking over a football program.
“I’ve coached a lot of these guys in all three sports - football, basketball and baseball - since they were in fifth grade,” Woods said. “As far as getting to know kids, that really wasn't a big factor. The biggest difference, I guess, would be the relationships in this capacity and in this job.”
This will be Woods’ sixth year at Laverne. In the last five years, Woods served as an assistant football coach, the head basketball coach, and the head baseball coach. Last season was the only year in which Woods didn’t work with the football team.
Woods' familiarity with the program made it easy for his players to understand what his expectations were for the team and how they would play football. Woods said players “probably knew what my expectations were before I even said anything.”
But Woods explained the program won’t see many changes, especially when it comes to X's and O's. Laverne won three Class B state championships in 2012, 2013, and 2016. The first two were won under former head coach Tim Allen. The 2016 title was won under former head coach Chris Cayot, who is now the head coach at OBA. Woods’ doesn’t plan to deviate from what was so successful in the past: a physical run-game and a solid defense.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, type of thing,” Woods’ said.
Allen will be joining Woods on the sidelines as the Tigers' offensive coordinator this season.
“Which is a huge blessing for me,” Woods said. “He’s awesome. That helps a ton.”
Woods will focus on the defense, which was his emphasis as an assistant.
Since he’s relinquished his head coaching spot with the baseball program, Woods will also get time to focus on family, now that he has time off in the spring.