Coaching is lifelong passion

From high school to professional, Darvin Wallis '78 has always been a coach. He started coaching high school football in Arizona in the early 70s. Later, he joined the college ranks, first working at Adams State, then Tulane University, and finally the University of Mississippi, before he turned pro. When he made the switch to the National Football League, he landed a job with the Cleveland Browns. With seven years as a professional assistant coach under his belt, he accepted a position with the Kansas City Chiefs.

After 26 consecutive years of NFL coaching, Wallis set a record with one of the longest stints as a coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. While Wallis was a coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, the team was one of only three NFL teams to win over 100 games in the 1990s. He remained there throughout the entire 100-win decade - very unusual in NFL coaching. He was also a member of 15 playoff teams.

"Coaching gives you the opportunity to build a team of individual athletes through recruiting, organization, and teaching; to evaluate individual and team performances shown in contests and games; and then teach again and make adjustments," Wallis said. "This cycle of feedback and teaching in an intensely competitive environment is unique to coaching. Also unique to coaching are the relationships and interactions among many different kinds of people - coaches, athletes, support staff, parents, alumni, media, and so many others."

As a master's student at Adams State, Wallis coached the ASC Indians as a graduate assistant coach for the offensive line. "I enjoyed working with the players and other coaches on the team," Wallis said.

"We had a young football team when I was at Adams State," Wallis said. "We had a lot of desire and a large team with many walk-on players. I enjoyed coaching all the players; we had so many players who practiced hard in-season and worked hard in the weight room in the off-season."

"I played for Adams State from 1977 to 80," said Larry Joe Hunt, associate athletic director. "I remember Darvin Wallis as a coach with lots of energy. He took a lot of time to work with players to improve their game and prepare for the games. He truly cared for his players."

Wallis was active with the youth sports camps at Adams State College. "For the youth sports camps, I worked on and off campus as an instructor, coach, and leader," Wallis said.

"Darvin was very detail oriented," said Jim Paronto, head football coach from 1977-80. "He was always prepared and took pride in his coaching. If he had a responsibility, it was always done to the best of his ability. He had a tremendous drive from within both professionally and personally. Darvin was a tremendous asset to the program."

In addition to attending Adams State for his MA in 1978, Wallis received his BA at the University of Arizona in 1972 and his PhD in sports administration at the University of Kansas in 1999 with dissertation honors.

Dr. Jack Cotton, a basketball coach at Adams State College for many years, is among the professors Wallis admired. "Dr. Cotton was so honest, transparent, and unpretentious. He was personal and trusting with students," Wallis said.

"I taught a research course for the master students," said Cotton, emeritus professor for EPLS. "Wallis was a very good student; he was very pragmatic in everything and practical. I expected he would go on to great things because he was a goal achiever."

According to coach rosters on NFL.com, it is rather rare for coaches to have doctorates. But Wallis values higher education. "I chose to get my earned doctorate in order to teach in college after I finished my coaching career," said Wallis. "This seemed only natural for me as I've always thought skillful coaching was good teaching. Both include knowledge, goals, organization, passion, technology, relationships and many other commonalities."

It would be logical that Dr. Joe Vigil '59 would be one of Wallis' influential professors because Coach Vigil has a long-standing record of excellence in athletics and values higher education.

"Dr. Vigil was so passionate about physiology and fitness and their impact on our lives," Wallis said. "He had relationships with his students and athletes outside the classroom and sport world."

The legendary coach Joe Vigil had words of his own about Wallis. "Darvin was in my exercise and physiology class," Vigil said. "I got him interested in running and he started running marathons. Every time I traveled to Kansas City for an indoor track meet with Adams State, Darvin would come and meet me. He would show me his blood profile and his progress with running. He was very interested in exercise fitness. Darvin was a delightful person, an outstanding lineman, athlete, coach, and student. I knew he would get ahead in life."

"Since I retired in January of 2008, I plan on a second career in teaching at a college, and perhaps running for the board of education," Wallis said.

Wallis currently lives in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, with his wife, Vicky. The Wallis' have three grown boys, Darvin Jr., Tyson and Austin. Darvin Jr. and Tyson are preparing for the ministry. Austin is on a full football scholarship at Syracuse University.

Article By: Marni Zabel