Photo courtesy CHS Football
Being the son of a football coach, Rhett Magner grew up on the gridiron.
Being the son of Randy, he grew up in the halls of Colony.
His dad taught and coached at the high school when it opened in 1991. Magner and his five siblings were just kids at that time and they spent almost as much time at the school as they did at home.
“Our weekends were literally spent with us playing games in the hallways, playing basketball in the gym and playing out on the field,” Magner told me. “I didn’t really realize what I had. It was second nature. It was kind of weird if one of my friend’s dads wasn’t coaching.”
Now 28, Magner is in his third season coaching Colony football.
This year he guided the Knights to a 6-2 record, the Railbelt Conference championship and a large-school berth in the First National Bowl state playoffs.
This is how the fairytale is supposed to go – the coach’s son following in his father’s footsteps and returning the hometown team to its glory days. It sounds too good to be true.
And it almost was after the Knights started 0-2.
That’s when the players called a team meeting. It caught Magner by surprise.
“I went into it a little nervous,” he said.
They met to reiterate their support for Magner.
“They said, ‘We’re not done fighting. We know how much this program means to you,’” he said. “And they brought up my dad, me playing and my brother playing.”
The meeting touched his heart.
“That’s one of the reasons my dad coached for so long because the kids that came through Colony would do anything form him,” Magner said. “It’s a humbling experience to be able to come back and tried to emulate that same type of environment for current players. It’s been a really cool experience. I didn’t realize how quickly and how strong bonds you can build with kids. It’s a cool thing.”
The Magner name has been synonymous with Colony football since the start.
In nine years as head coach Randy compiled a 50-28 record and guided the Knights to seven playoff berths. In 2000, he led the Knights to its first playoff win and a spot in the Class 4A state championship game.
He earned state coach of the year honors in 2000 and 2004.
Older brother Cole was an exceptional wide receiver at Colony and was named state player of the year in 2001. He went on to star at Bowling Green University, where as a junior he set the single-season school record with 99 catches.
In 2005, he participated in the NFL Combine and posted the fastest times in the 3-cone and short shuttle drills. Cole later played in the Arena Football League and was invited to NFL tryouts.
Rhett was also a football star at Colony and was named first-team all-state at quarterback, defensive back and return specialist during his career.
Football remains the centerpiece among the Magner men.
“It’s a daily conversation with my dad. I’m always talking to him about practice plans, about game scheming, about how he was successful, what he did to motivate,” Magner said.
He also talks two or three times a week with Cole, who is coaching as an offensive coordinator for a high school in New York.
“The schools are similar in size and stature, and the kind of kids we get,” Magner said. “We’re always bouncing ideas off each other.”
Being back at Colony, surrounded by memories, Magner is reminded at every turn of his roots and the impact his dad had on his life.
“As I got older I realized how lucky I was,” he said. “To have that figure in my life, that mentor in my life, and just that positive role model that other players and friends looked up to … I didn’t realize it until I got to college. It kind of hit me. I had it made. I have it made. I’ve had one of the best coaches in Alaska in my corner my whole life.
“Trying to replicate that is difficult.”
Van Williams is a freelance writer in Anchorage and a correspondent with the Alaska School Activities Association.