Sport Spotlight: St. Mary’s Dan Spruce

BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) — For six decades, Dan Smrekar led St. Mary’s football program as head coach. That means dozens of season previews and plenty of stories about the kids he’s coached, but this week it’s his turn.

Coach Smrekar enters this week’s Sports Spotlight.

When you think of the word ‘legend’, Dan Smrekar is one of the first names in football that comes to mind.

“I guess I just started coaching, and I decided that I wanted to coach and teach, and from there it all progressed,” Smrekar said.

While playing for the NDSU in the early 1970s, his earliest days of practice were on the basketball court during the offseason.

“When I went to school I was like a lot of kids. I had no idea what I was going to do or what I wanted to do, where I was going. One of the jobs The part-time job I got over the winter was coaching college basketball and things like that while I was going to school,” Smrekar said.

After coaching with Kindred and Fargo Shanley, Smrekar was back in central North Dakota looking for opportunities. That’s when a position at St. Mary’s came along.

“The head coach at the time here at St. Mary’s was a teammate of mine. He called me and asked if I was interested in a job. It comes from the old saying, “It’s about who you know.” I started here in 1974 as a 9th grade science teacher. I coached three sports and drove the bus,” Smrekar said.

You could say the rest is history. In 1978, he was promoted to head football coach. More than 44 seasons later, there is still that passion for pigskin.

“I really like the game of high school football because more kids could play, and it’s not just about talent or speed or size. All of those things help, but someone with courage and determination will help under the lights on Friday night,” Smrekar said.

More than a third of the teams coached by Smrekar at St. Mary’s have made it to the Dakota Bowl. Over 280 wins with standards that haven’t changed.

“We talk about hard work, but what does that mean? In life, things are going to be difficult. We try to teach them that. I’ll tell you, along the way, the years I’ve been here, I’ve gotten way more than I think they’ve gotten from me,” Smrekar said.

Years of victories and defeats. Thousands of players. All culminating in decades of memories.

“The pleasure we get from coaching is seeing the players improve. See the players where the light goes out and say “Oh yeah”. Alright, coach, I get it. Any coach will tell you that when seniors come out, your program has helped them become better men,” Smrekar said.

Smrekar is a month into season 45 and says he will continue coaching as long as he still enjoys it.

Smrekar and the Saints are one week into their 2022 season and host BHS this Friday at Smrekar Field.

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