COOLIDGE — Bill Morgan may have gone on to lead multiple football teams to the state championships, but he got his start in Coolidge and that is something he proudly touts.
On Sept. 20, Morgan will be inducted into the Coolidge High School Hall of Fame, along with four others.
“Coolidge, in and of itself, was a good place to grow up,” Morgan said. “I think a lot of that is because of the diversity — it was real world. I think that’s what really helped me when I left Coolidge to be able to go to bigger cities and play on college teams.”
Morgan and his family moved to Coolidge when he was in second grade. His father, Donald Morgan, had accepted a job as an art teacher at Coolidge High School.
Initially, the family from Missouri had only planned to stay in Arizona for about a year. However, more than 50 years later, Morgan still has roots in Coolidge with his mother living in the area.
Morgan graduated from CHS in 1977 and went on to lead several high school teams to state championships throughout his coaching career.
Growing up, he remembers spending most of his time outdoors — playing games with neighborhood kids his age. He attributes the amount of time he and other children spent outdoors as one of the factors that made them better athletes as they got older.
“I think it made for really good sports teams. We had lots of good athletes in Coolidge,” he said.
When he entered high school, Morgan excelled at sports — primarily participating in football, wrestling and track. As a freshman he made the varsity football team, and even managed to get to the state finals in wrestling.
In his junior and senior years, he was a pole vault medalist at state. In 1977 — his senior year — the CHS track team finished second at state, one point behind Bisbee High School.
Football was the sport in which he truly shined. While attending CHS, Morgan served as the team captain for the football team and was named first team all-state linebacker in the 3A conference by the Arizona Republic.
He learned the most during his last two years of high school, when he played under coach Larry Delbridge.
“He really taught me a lot about playing linebacker,” Morgan said. “I wanted to be just like him.”
Morgan received a college football scholarship and attended Mesa Community College and Arizona State University. He studied physical education and shortly afterwards became a physical education teacher at Tempe High School.
Taking his cue from Delbridge, who was inducted in to the CHS Hall of Fame in 2015, Morgan started coaching not long after his college graduation.
“Of course being a physical ed teacher, coaching became a part of what you did,” he said.
Over the course of his career, Morgan served as a coach in a number of different sports, including football, track and strength training. In 1984, he took a job as the PE instructor and head football and track coach at Sanders Valley High School.
In his second year on the job, Morgan was named the “Southwestern U.S. Coach of the Year” by Dateline USA Magazine for his work with the football team. In addition, under his direction, the high school, in its 66th year, took home its first ever football title and its first ever track and field championship.
He then went on coach at Snowflake High School and Show Low High School before retiring from coaching in 2010 at Valley Christian High School in Chandler. Throughout his career, he led nine Arizona high school teams to state football championships, helping schools like Show Low and Valley Christian win their first championships in more than two decades.
However, the most rewarding part of his coaching career was the relationships he forged with the athletes that played for him, Morgan said. Years later, he still keeps in contact with many of his former players.
“It was the relationships with my students and players (that) motivated me to try to do my very best as a coach for them, and to try to help them develop in areas of character and worth ethic,” he said.