Last year, Maj. Kenneth Quimby, an ROTC officer at East Stroudsburg University, went into the school’s football office looking for veteran head coach Denny Douds.
Quimby was hoping to enlist Douds, then 69 years old, to parachute with the famous Golden Knights, the United States Army Parachute Team.
Douds was out of the office, but assistants Mike Terwilliger and Mike Santellaquickly spoke up on behalf of the coach.
They volunteered their boss without his knowing.
Douds eventually found out about the offer and didn’t chicken out.
“It was a special day; he had his game face on,” Terwilliger said. “To see him come down through the sky and see what he did is what he’s all about. He steps up for challenges. Every day is a new day in the life of Denny Douds.”
Douds, in his 38th season as head coach with the Warriors, will see his myriad of accomplishments topped with a cherry on Saturday afternoon as he becomes the Division II all-time leader in games coached with 394 as East Stroudsburg hosts Millersville.
The 70-year-old Indiana, Pa. native will surpass Jim Malosky’s record of 393 games at Minnesota-Duluth (1958-97).
“All it means is I’ve listened to a lot of different versions of The Star Spangled Banner,” Douds said downplaying the record. “It also means I’ve been associated with a lot of great kids and had the opportunity to coach with some fine coaches and got to compete against some fine coaches.
“If it wasn’t for the kids, we wouldn’t have any opportunity to be involved in anything like this.”
Douds, the Pennsylvania Conference’s all-time wins leader with 230, admitted the Golden Knights’ jump came as a surprise, especially when Quimby returned to the office a few days later to go over some of the finer details. The coach said Terwilliger, the offensive coordinator, and Santella, the offensive line/recruiting coordinator, were cracking up in the other room when Douds first became aware of what he was in for.
“When my family vacations in Florida and we go to Walt Disney World, I don’t go on the Tower of Terror, I hold the purses,” Douds said. “I don’t even go on the teacups with my grandkids. But I thought, ‘Hey it’s something I’ve never done.’
“I wasn’t going to let anyone tell some 69-year-old guy he couldn’t jump out of an airplane.”
Terwilliger, who was recruited by Douds in 1974 to play at ESU and has been with him ever since, said Douds is always open to new ideas football-related or not — whether it’s jumping out of planes or creating Twitter accounts — and is always there to lend a hand through the school or the community.
“I’ve spent more time with Denny Douds than with my father,”Terwilliger said. “I’ve been a fortunate man to be in that position because of the type of person Coach Douds is. It’s really special.”
Douds, who graduated from Slipper Rock University in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, joined the Warriors’ staff in 1966 as an assistant coach after completing his master’s degree at West Virginia. After two years at that position, he was named defensive coordinator (1968-73) before taking over as head coach in ’74.
He still remembers his first game in charge as if it were yesterday.
“We played Slippery Rock, my alma mater,” Douds recalled. “After warming up, we went back into the locker room which was in the old gym. On the way down the stairs there was a beehive and somebody stepped on it and 15 kids got stung. That wasn’t the worst thing that happened to us because they (Slippery Rock) went on to destroy us.”
That season, the Warriors went 5-5 but proceeded to win back-to-back titles in 1975 (10-0) and ’76 (9-0-1 co-champs) with Terwilliger at quarterback.
Over the course of his tenure, Douds and his program have evolved and at times have been in the forefront of how the game of football has changed. Douds said in his early years at ESU, he had his quarterbacks throwing the ball more than other programs.
“In the 80s we went to the spread offense and everyone thought we were nuts because they were using tight ends,” he said. “Now the spread offense is a national offense and we still throw it as much.”
Despite having been on a football staff since 1963 when he was an assistant coach at McDowell High School (Erie, Pa.), there seems to be no immediate desire to stop doing what he loves.
But the question needs and needed to be asked, just in case.
Any thoughts of retirement?
“If I don’t get asked that once a week, I think it’s a bad week,”Douds said. “I’m ready to make CDs and hand them out (with my answer). I’ve never given it a second thought right now. I thoroughly enjoy coaching and all aspects of it.”
Not only does he value his daily and weekly football routine, Douds said the best part of coaching is developing relationships with his student-athletes. He said his job is to prepare his players for life after school and hopes each of them make a positive impact in their communities.
Douds said he cherishes that more than winning a football game, though a victory Saturday would be nice addition since East Stroudsburg has struggled this year, sitting at 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the conference.
Win or lose, though, Douds still will receive his honor, a testament to his character and dedication to his players, staff, university and community.
“Time has evaluated him as a person and time has evaluated this program,” Terwilliger said. “He’s second to nobody on Saturday when he breaks the record. He’s done it longer than anybody in the history of the game in Division II.”