Kalen DeBoer was a high school football player in Milbank, South Dakota when he received his first recruiting letter. It has accompanied him on each of his seven coaching stops, including to Seattle about two years ago when he took over as head coach at the University of Washington.
“This letter … sits behind my desk in a drawer usually that I check often and just think about why I do what I do,” DeBoer, 49, said earlier this year.
On Monday, he will lead the Washington Huskies against Michigan Wolverines in the national championship game – not unlike the author of the recruiting letter once led DeBoer.
The man was Bob Young, former football coach at the University of Sioux Falls, the Baptist-affiliated NAIA school in eastern South Dakota. It’s where DeBoer became an All-America wide receiver, a fast-rising coach and a protégé of Young, who shared his love for football, his deep spiritual faith and, as reflected in the handwritten recruiting letter, attention to detail.
“It’s just perfectly handwritten,” DeBoer said. “There’s no blemishes.”
DeBoer’s remarks about the letter were part of his taped comments played in June at a Celebration of Life for Young, who died almost a year ago. After Washington beat Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game last month, he received a congratulatory text from Young’s son, Steve.
Replied DeBoer, “We learned from the best.”
Washington coach Kalen DeBoer visits with running back Cameron Davis (22) during warm ups before a game in 2022 against Oregon at Autzen Stadium.
Difficult times for DeBoer’s family
In her mind’s eye, DeBoer’s mother said, she sees little Kalen mowing the vacant farmland near where they lived. He did it so there was a place to play football with his two younger siblings and cousins.
It’s a warm memory from a difficult time, said Phylis Waterfall.