INDEPENDENCE — After a total of 23 years as head football coach at Central High School, Shane Hedrick is stepping down.
“I think it was a time in my life right now that the change was needed,” Hedrick said. “I have been here a long time. I can’t think of anything else other than being a Panther. It’s just that time. And now I get the opportunity to reinvent myself as a better person, a better coach, a better mentor, better husband, better father.”
The decision to step down was not an easy one.
“I’m going to miss it terribly,” he said. “It’s been a difficult year in transitioning to this point, knowing that it was time for me to look at a different direction. I’m not ready to stop coaching. I’m hoping and praying that something down the road will open up for me, and I’ll have the opportunity to be a mentor and lead kids in a program and ... have fun with it.”
Hedrick’s long career as a head football coach started when he attended CHS, where he graduated in 1982.
“I’ve had deep roots here,” he said. “It was the people who had nurtured me and helped me become the man I am today asking me to come back home and be a mentor to the next generation. So to me, having that responsibility and privilege was a big part of coming back to Central, and it was a big reward to come back.”
In between his years at CHS, Hedrick also coached at Western Oregon University for the 2003 season.
“It kept you sharp,” Hedrick said, “because you would go from high school to collegiate, and you pick up things here and there, and I was able to come back and sometimes put that into your program, and it made it better.”
Along the way, Hedrick had the opportunity to coach eventual NFL players Jeff Charleston, who went on to win a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints, and Jordan Pratt, who played seven years with the Dodgers. Pratt also played three years of football for Stanford, starting out as a walk-on after returning from his time with the Dodgers.
Hedrick also coached his own son, Grant Hedrick, who is now a police officer for the city of Independence and played quarterback at Boise State University.
“I have been so fortunate not only to have coached a lot of great football players, but I’ve had a lot of great parents to work for and a lot of great leaders to work for, whether they were principals or superintendents, while I’ve been in this district,” Hedrick said. “It’s been a very good ride to go through Central High School and be the football coach of the school and lead this community in the direction we’ve led it. It’s been a lot of fun and very rewarding.”
Ben Finnegan, who coached under Hedrick last year, also played football for him while in high school.
“He was great,” Finnegan said, recalling his time being coached by Hedrick. “I remember he was always there for me. I went through some stuff, like some sickness in my family, and he really took on the father-figure role for me, so it really meant a lot to me, and we’ve always had a really good relationship. And now, being able to coach under him is pretty special.”
Finnegan said it will be weird seeing Hedrick go.
“I’m a little sad. ... He’s been here for as long as I can remember,” he said. “It will be different, because he’s been a consistency at the school and in the community for a long time as the head coach.”
The question everyone has been asking Hedrick is, what’s next?
He said he doesn’t know quite yet how he’s going to fill his free time.
“I’m not a free-time person,” he said. “It scares me to death. I think things will come around; I reached out to the youth program and said I would be more available to them. ... I will definitely find ways to help make this a better community and help where I can. I’ve got a ton of energy, and we will just see what comes around.”
It’s going to be the relationships he had with his football kids that he said he’ll miss the most.
“Some of them I’ve known since kindergarten, and I’m gonna miss that terribly,” Hedrick said. “But I know when I started coaching there would be an end one day ... so we just have to take it one day at a time.”
All he wants for the next head football coach is good things.
“I’m a Panther, and I want nothing but success for the next coach and the next staff and the future Panthers that put the gear on and play football,” he said.
As he steps down from his long career, Hedrick said he looks back on a myriad of memories, with a few that stick out.
“Coaching my son and watching him come through the program and become the player that he became, that’s a really hard one to manage,” Hedrick said. “Coaching your own child, it’s tough. Your expectations for any player are high ... and sometimes, with your own son, your expectations were higher, and sometimes you had to bite your lip and you had to shut up, and that was a tough thing, and we made it through that really well.
“My daughter was homecoming queen her senior year, and when you’re the head coach and you’re out there, and your daughter’s becoming the homecoming queen for your homecoming game, it’s like wow, I don’t know if the story could be written any better.”