Teaching the Herder Way: Coach Stewart receives Career Achievement Award

File photo
Longtime Glenrock football coach Donnie Stewart (right) was presented with a Football Coaching Career Achievement Award last Saturday at the Wyoming Chapter of the National Football Foundation Awards in Laramie. 

Eddie Poe eddie@glenrockind.com

Donnie Stewart still vividly remembers his first varsity football game to this day. Former Glenrock head coach, Mick Lehner, made Stewart a linebacker and a fullback as just a freshman.
If there was one thing that Stewart knew best on the gridiron and from an early point in his playing career, it was toughness. It was the Herder mentality. This was football in the ‘70s, an era long before safety measures were added to the game in order to prevent long-term injuries. As Stewart ran down the field toward the offensive ball carrier, he stuck his head in, braced for impact and according to the former Herder, “gave the opposing player a good one.”
“I got kicked out of the game and I looked up at the referee and said, ‘What?!’” Stewart recalled about the violent tackle. “It was my first game ever.”
The Stewart name carries significant weight with it in Glenrock, where decades of football excellence helped transform a small program into one of the longest running traditions in the state.
Stewart’s uncle Jack Johnson quarterbacked the Herders before later embarking on a 41-year journey to become the all-time winningest coach in Montana history. Another uncle scored 36 touchdowns as a player for the Herders and over the years, either Stewart or one of his uncles played a part in each one of Glenrock’s 12 state championships.
It wasn’t long before Stewart found himself back on the sidelines, starting his own career as a coach. As he continued to establish his passion for football, starting as a coach under Lehner, and became a true study of the game, he became the heart and soul of a program that had already taught him so much.
“When I was a kid all of my uncles played Herder football,” Stewart said. “It was always important to be Herder tough, especially knowing the guys who played before me.”
Stewart’s coaching achievements over the past 17 years, including three state championships, seven conference championships and 117 wins as an assistant coach, were honored last Saturday at the Wyoming Chapter of the National Football Foundation Awards in Laramie.
The longtime Glenrock coach was presented with the Football Coach Career Achievement Award, an honor that took Stewart by surprise. That wasn’t the case for those who know him best. 
“There’s not a guy that’s more deserving,” Glenrock Director of Activities/Athletics Julie Kuhlman said. “Donnie has always personified the Herder tough mentality and he’s been the heart and soul of Glenrock football.”
“It was truly an honor to play for a man that could inspire real passion into young men,” former Herder Drew Nielsen said. “I credit him for helping me develop the mental toughness and attitude I played the game with.”
For Stewart, receiving the award was an incredible honor simply based on the people who received the award before him. He didn’t feel that he rightfully belonged.
But as the outpouring of congratulations made their way to Stewart, he took a moment to reflect on the award and its true meaning.
“It really shows you that you do play and work for everybody,” Stewart said. “It’s a reminder that you don’t do anything by yourself.”
That’s the true character of Stewart. He studied the game, poured his heart and soul into becoming the best coach he could be, all to teach the true meaning of playing Herder football. After all, Herder football helped mold him. And over the years he showed his players what leading character looked like off the field.
They’ve often returned to the sidelines in Glenrock, eager to pay their respects to Stewart and remain a small part of the Herder tradition that he helped construct. 
Not only has Stewart dedicated much of his life to the game of football, but he’s always been looking for ways to motivate his players to push them out of their comfort zones. His impact on the program may stand out to most through the wins and state championships, but to him it’s all about what he helped create.
“I thought about all of the outpouring from people as an accumulation of a bunch of great things,” Stewart said. “It shows that we’ve made an impact in Wyoming with Glenrock football.
“It’s a testament to what the kids built. We helped guide them, but (they) built it.”


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