Where Football Is More Than a Game: UVA Wise Alumnus Nominated for National Coaching Award

Graphic design: Jonathan Gosney ‘00

Brad Lutz, a 2000 alumnus of UVA Wise and head coach of the William Byrd High School football team in Vinton, Va., says he is a culmination of all the coaches he has played under and worked alongside.

With 25 years of coaching under his belt, he has worked to demonstrate outstanding leadership and integrity with each player that has walked onto his field. Lutz, who recently concluded his fifth season in Vinton, helped orchestrate a 12-2 finish this past fall, which resulted in the program’s first-ever regional championship. His efforts did not go unnoticed, especially by the Washington Commanders, who nominated him for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year award earlier this month.

Every year, each of the 32 NFL organizations nominates a high school coach for the award, named after Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL History. The award recognizes high school coaches who exemplify Shula’s values – character, integrity, leadership, dedication to the community, commitment to player health and safety, and on-field success. Lutz recently sat down with UVA Wise to talk about his award nomination and all things coaching.

What brought you to UVA Wise?

I came to Wise to get a great education and play football. Being from Richmond, I knew very little about Southwest Virginia and even less about the College, but coaches Bill Ramseyer and Bruce Wasem brought me in for a visit and I fell in love with the area, the school and more importantly, the people. The people truly sold me on coming to Clinch Valley College. It truly created a sense of home for me. 

Coach Ramseyer and Coach Wasem were extremely impactful and created one of the best experiences of my life during my time there. I am very thankful that they not only molded my life as a young man but have continued to shape me as a coach now. They are both two big pieces of the puzzle of who I am today. I also have some really great former UVA Wise teammates that are currently in the coaching profession that I look up to.

Are there any faculty and staff members from the College that left an impact you?

There are so many people that made an impact that I am not sure I can name them all. I was in the second graduating class of art majors at the College. The former department chair and professor of art, Suzanne Adams-Ramsey, was phenomenal to work with. My advisor at the time, Marcia Mitchell, was also extremely helpful. Like I said previously, the people at UVA Wise were what made the experience so great for me. That facet has really carried over into every aspect of my life.

What was your career like after graduating from UVA Wise?

After graduating, I returned to Richmond, Va., as a graphic designer and assistant football coach. While balancing the two professions for a couple years, I came to realize that coaching had reignited my desire to teach. After gaining my license, I began teaching at my alma mater, Varina High School, in Henrico, Va., shortly thereafter. After several years of different coaching and teaching positions at wonderful institutions, I ended up at my current location, William Byrd High School in Vinton, Va., where I teach special education and serve as head coach for the past five years. 

Tell me a little bit about where the football program was when you arrived at William Byrd High School.

When I got here, there was no JV football team and a total of 17 students left in the football program. This year, we finished the season with 78 kids, an undefeated JV team and won the first regional championship in the history of the school. I learned a lot about the recruiting process from Coach Ramseyer and Coach Wasem, which has been a big help for me. I am also incredibly lucky to say that former UVA Wise quarterback, Ron Hicks ’98, is a part of my current coaching staff. Being able to tap into fellow UVA Wise alumni has been super important to me. Ron does an excellent job with our quarterbacks.

In your current tenure as head coach, you have managed to turn around a 0-9 campaign two years ago to a 12-2 season this past fall. What are some of the ways you have developed your players to achieve that record?

The administration I work for supports everything we do, and I am very thankful for that. The biggest piece, however, is the overall investment that we make in our kids. Our kids understand that they are students first, and we are heavily invested as a coaching staff in what our players are doing academically. When they realize how devoted we are to them outside of the game of football, that really gets the ball rolling and is truly where the passion comes in. The group of coaches I work with are incredible role models and mentors to our players, which has led to strong relationships and an enthusiastic culture. The resilience my players have shown have gotten us where we are today.

The Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award is presented to coaches who display "integrity, achievement and leadership"…What are some ways you work to instill some of these values in your team?

First, it’s important for us to run a community-based program, which is something I learned a lot about living in Wise County. Our team does a lot of community-based service projects. Whether we are giving back to an organization or giving back to our youth football program, we are always involved in some way. To have our players be visible in and give back to a community that shows so much support for us is everything.

Second, we have a very strong military presence in our football program. One of my former teammates and good friends in high school, Army Spc. Clarence Adams III, was killed in Iraq when I was 26. At that point in my life, his passing was one of the most impactful things that had ever happened to me. I had never dealt with a sacrifice of that magnitude, and it changed my course as a coach. When I was coaching at Varina, which was the high school he and I attended together, we made it a point to do special tributes to Clarence to keep his memory alive. When I became the head coach at Broadway High School, we dedicated a game to a different soldier that was killed in action. It became something that we were all very proud of, it was an opportunity to teach the kids about the true meaning of sacrifice while honoring great Americans. 

In 2010, a former Broadway two-time wrestling state champion and all-district football star, Army Spc. Brian “Bucky” Anderson, was also killed in action in Afghanistan. He meant so much to the community, so we knew that we needed to do something in his honor. In a sense, we were using football as a mechanism to heal. We reserved the last week of the season to honor Bucky. The team wore special military style uniforms, with one senior had the opportunity to wear Bucky’s number during the game. It was something that meant a lot to all of us, especially to Bucky’s mother, Margaret. Members of his platoon, along with platoon leader, Capt. John Baer, came from across the country to be there. It ended up becoming a standing tradition that happened every year we were there. It was singlehandedly one of the neatest things I have ever been a part of as a coach. The lessons taught through that week each year are unlike anything I have ever witnessed.

We carried a lot of those elements with me to William Byrd. To have the ability to teach players about things outside of football, through the game of football is very important to me. It allows players to leave the field with a lot more than just wins and losses.

What would you consider the most rewarding part of your role as a coach?

Knowing that the people who taught me how to coach and how to teach are proud of how far I and my students have come. Coach Ramseyer and Coach Wasem did such a good job of showing me what it is to be a coach, and also how to be a strong mentor to men and women alike. This story started with those two men and what they have done for my life. My high school football coach, Gary Chilcoat, also left a massive impact on me as a coach and as a person, as well. I really want to pay that back to the students that I encounter. 

What did receiving this nomination mean to you?

It means a lot to be able to bring recognition to William Byrd High School, the players, the administration and the town overall. Not only them, but UVA Wise, Varina High School, and Broadway High School deserve credit as well. Those schools and the people involved have as much to do with this award as I do, simply because of the way they have all left an impact on me as a coach. I am a culmination of all the coaches I have played under and worked alongside. Also, coaches work really hard, and families often have to pick up the slack. My wife Christy Trent Lutz ’00, who is also a UVA Wise alumna, has been an incredible supporter of my coaching career, and she deserves so much recognition for all that she does. 

Out of the nominees for the award, a winner from the AFC and from the NFC will be chosen and announced the week prior to the Pro Bowl Games, which take place February 1-4.