By Max Goodwin
On New Year’s Day, while the Kansas City Chiefs hosted the Denver Broncos, Center football head coach Bryan DeLong was honored on the field by the Chiefs as the Eric Driskill High School Coach of the Year for the Kansas City metro-area.
In DeLong’s 14 years as head coach of Center High School, the team has a 111-44 record, with four district championships and four appearances at state quarterfinals.
Center finished this season 11-1, losing its final game in the state quarterfinals against defending state champion Smithville. Center went 6-0 against conference opponents and won its first Missouri River Valley Conference title after joining the league in 2019.
“It’s pretty special, especially with the group of coaches and what they’ve done with their programs and the success they’ve had and just the level of coaching we have in the Kansas City Metro,” DeLong said.
Now, Coach DeLong has been nominated by the Chiefs for a national high school football coach of the year award named after winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula. Each NFL team nominated one local high school coach for the 2022 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award.
The NFL will recognize two winners, one representing each NFL conference. The two winners will be invited to the Pro Bowl Games in Las Vegas on February 5 and recognized by the NFL.
The final award winners will be chosen by a panel of NFL-related individuals like Peyton Manning, Tony Dungy, and former-Chiefs GM Scott Pioli.
Each award winner receives a $15,000 award for their high school football programs and a $10,000 cash award. Each team nominee will receive a $1,000 cash reward and attend Super Bowl LVII in Arizona.
“I’m very humbled,” DeLong said. “This is a credit to Center, the kids here and our assistant coaches.”
Coach DeLong began his coaching career as a middle school football coach after playing at Dodge City Community College and Fort Hays State. DeLong was an assistant coach at Blue Valley North and Shawnee Mission North before taking over at Center in 2009.
The award by the Chiefs held added significance for DeLong because of its namesake, Eric Driskell, a former football coach at Blue Valley High School.
“It also touches me that this is the Eric Kriskell award,” DeLong said. “I had a chance to spend time personally and professionally with Coach Driskell and what a special man and to be honored in his name – I’m very humbled by that. To even have my name echoed with Eric Driskell and what he did at Blue Valley High and what he did for kids. He gave everything he had for this game of ours and that is very special to me.”