Trojan Football 


Randy Roden insists he isn’t crazy.

It was announced on social media last month that the longtime boys’ head basketballvcoach at Kelly Walsh would be doubling as the Trojans’ head football coach. This will be the first time Roden, who spent the last two years as an assistant coach on Aaron Makelky’s staff, has been a head football coach.

“The sheer inventory worries me, but the time doesn’t really worry me,” Roden said recently. “I was coaching (football) anyway. I like it; it’s my hobby. I know it’s going to be more, and I know it’s going to be a lot, but I also know it’s what I enjoy doing.

“I’m excited to get started. It’s going to be a challenge for everyone … for me, for my coaches and for the kids. But I have a vision and I’m going to try and make it happen.”

Roden is taking over a program that is coming off a 2-8 campaign and hasn’t had a winning season since 2017, when the Trojans finished 7-4 and advanced to the Class 4A semifinals. He replaces Makelky, who went 13-37 in five years (2019-23).

Roden wasn’t necessarily looking to become KW’s head football coach, but decided to throw his hat in the ring after Makelky was let go. “I was afraid we wouldn’t have that many applicants so I just put my name in, with the full intention if we had some better applicants I would pull out,” Roden said. “I talked with a couple of the applicants and at the end of the day I just thought my plan was better than theirs, so I kept my name in.”

Roden’s plan is an ambitious one.

“I have a two-year plan, not a five-year plan,” he explained. “I think five is too patient, because then you’re going to get a process and in five years, we’re going to be switching coaches again. “If I can’t make an impact in two years … and I’m not saying anything about wins, I’m talking about impact in a lot of areas that we need to change. If I can’t affect those areas in a positive way I will walk in and resign. I think I can make those changes. "When I presented my two-year plan, I think the (hiring) committee understood that the time is now. We can’t build anything until we change everything. And the change has to happen immediately.

Roden takes over a team that struggled on both sides of the ball – the Trojans finished eighth in both total offense and defense in 4A – but is expected to return three of its top four rushers, starting quarterback Carter Alvar and leading receiver Landon Walker.

It’s a good starting point, but Roden knows that’s all it is. “We’ve got a decent group of kids coming through,” he said. “We don’t have any size with them, but we have some good skill kids that could help us in various spots if they’re willing to sacrifice and play some spots that they haven’t played before. That is going to be key “Obviously I’ve got an idea of what I’d like to do offensively and defensively,” Roden added. “But our scheme is not going to matter until we get a buy-in from moms and dads and kids that

weights are important. Then we’re going to have to work on our physicality because we aren’t very physical.” 

Now that the basketball season is over – the Trojans lost in the West Regionals – Roden will focus on putting together his coaching staff and figuring out the best way to make Kelly Walsh football competitive. “We’re not trying to develop our kids into the system, we’re trying to find a system that fits our kids,” he said. “I think my limited football knowledge actually works in our favor because I

don’t know enough to be too fancy. "You can make it as complicated as you want or as simple as you want. I don’t need to know all

the complicated stuff. I’m not going to sit around and talk with the other coaches. I need to know what my kids need to know. I need to teach them well and we need to select the things that will help us try to shorten games. We can’t go three and out. We have to take care of the ball and extend drives and try to flip the field with our special teams.”

Roden will continue to be the Trojans’ basketball coach.

“If they would have offered me the job but told me I had to give up basketball I would have pulled my name,” he said. “Basketball is my passion, but I’m excited about football.” Besides, coaching two sports at one school isn’t new to Roden. From 2001-06 he coached both volleyball and boys’ basketball at Natrona County. He led the Fillies to back-to-back state championships in 1998-99 and later won four state titles with the Mustangs (2001, ’05, ’07 and '09) His Kelly Walsh teams also won state championships in 2017 and ’19.

Roden has been “shocked and humbled” by the support he’s received from the community, both “the green side and the orange side.”

And he’s going to need the full support of “the green side” parents and kids to help him turn around the Kelly Walsh football program.

“The first thing is they have to buy in to the fact that we have to get kids in the weight room,” he acknowledged. “And there are no excuses for not being there. That’s going to be the No. 1 thing. And the problem with the weight room thing is you’re not going to see it overnight, but it will help us mentally and physically overnight. We won’t be as strong as we need to be but at least

we’ll be on the road there. “It’s a process but I don’t have a lot of patience. And nobody else should either.”

The Trojans open the 2024 season on Aug. 30 at Gillette.

Head Coach Randy Roden Takes the Reins for Kelly Walsh Football

Nick Paniagua: So, Coach Roden, I was surprised to see this all your name like pop up for a head football coach. I was like, wow, trying to juggle even being a head coach for one sport, I feel like that’s a lot to ask for, especially for even one season, and now you’ll head coaching back-to-back season. So, before we get into that, my first question for you is I’m kind of curious what your background like in football is.

Randy Roden: Well, in the 90s when I started student teaching and teaching at Wind River High School, I got involved with football with the high school program, and then they made me the middle school program and then I helped a little bit. I was there for seven years, but I coached volleyball a couple years, so you know, it was limited in scope at that time, and things have changed quite a bit. The last two years I’ve been doing the freshman here at Kelly Walsh and working with some really, smart guys that have taught me a lot, but your question is warranted. Yeah, I am not the most qualified or experienced candidate, but the scope of what we have to take on and change is far beyond schemes in football. I’ve been telling everyone that we have to change everything just so we have a chance to build something, and those things are all the fundamental parts of a football program, starting with the commitment of the kids in the weight room. Our administration has given us a year-long weight program, but we can’t afford to have those kids not lift in the summer and that will be the first thing the parents have to commit to that too, because that’s their kids that need to be there. We have to get a lot more physical and some of that is the weights, but the weights are not going to kick in soon enough for our physicality to improve. We’ve got to change our mindset in practice and games and become a lot more physical, and quite honestly, we’ve got to start looking for the kids that love football. We’ve got a lot of kids that they love the football part of it until Friday night. You know, they like to wear that jersey and but part of the team and they like all the things that are outside of the actual competitive environment, so we’ve got to change that. High school athletics isn’t for everyone. It’s highly competitive, it’s highly commitment oriented and some of those kids are not going to enjoy what we’re going to do going forward, because it’s going to be so different than what they’ve done in the past and but those are the changes we have to make, and we’re not talking about changes is going to help us win immediately. We’re still out manned, we’re outsized, and our schemes are going to have to be sound to try to use our talents the best of our ability and try to shrink the competitive gap that we see. Last year, if you take away the two wins, we got beat by an average of 46 points a game and we’ve got to shrink that gap, but I don’t know if we could have beat anybody else that we did last year and that’ll be probably the case for a year or two. So we’ve got to attack the things that we can change, and then hopefully that equates to some success on the field later.

NP: You brought like you definitely want to, change such as the physicality, which watching last year’s games, I completely agree with, but, that definitely starts with those summer two days going from the physicality standpoint, especially when you finally put on full pads after all that you know helmet practices and helps and shoulder pads, I wonder how do you approach that then?

RR: Well, we’re going to have to train physicality and the problem you have with that is the head injuries and the regular injuries because if you’re going to knock each other around, there’s going to be bumps and bruises, and our kids are going to have to learn the difference between an injury and being hurt. That’s going to take some training and some teaching. We’ve got a great training staff, but our kids are going to have to understand, when do we use the trainer and when do we call it football? We go back out there and we do it again and part of that you just got to do it in practice, but you worry about having a limited number of football players anyway. Are we going to hurt some of those? And that’s a risk we’re going to have to take because we’ve got to train that physicality piece and there’s going to be some kids that are going to get injured and bumps and bruises and we got to try to keep the minimum of true injuries and try to get our kids through the part of being bumps and bruises in the in the hurt part. So, it’s got to be trained, it’s not going to happen any other way.

NP: Talking about last year with again. The whole change for a program takes a lot of time. I’m curious to see what are some other aspects that you want to try to focus on, especially with this first year coming up.

RR: Well, I think that the big thing is we have a limited number of kids that actually love the game. Blocking, tackling, lifting, the grind and we’ve got to take those limited number and we’ve got to put them on the field in competitive spots and that’s going to mean some kids that may have been running backs for three years, we’ve got to convince them that we need you to be a guard and that’s going to be hard because those kids have come through and they’re thinking that this is their year and you’ve got to see what they want. Do I want an unsuccessful year and I get to play my position, or can we change positions and maybe have a chance to be competitive? That’ll be the first thing, the sacrifice of the kids and the commitment to each other and try to change our schemes to help our talent level, but we’re going to have to get some kids to change, to fit those schemes. Then obviously we’ve got to get the kids in the weights, they got to understand how important that is and we have far too many kids that we don’t see all summer and then we show up for two days in the fall and here they are and they’re ready to play. That’s not competitive high school athletics, it can’t happen here and we have to draw a line in the sand and you’re either in or you’re out. If you don’t want to commit with each other and for each other and toward the improvement of the program, then maybe high school football isn’t for you. I mean, that’s a choice everyone has to make. But right now, I think we’ve got a lot of kids that think it is for them, but they’re not putting in what it takes to be part of it, and they’re going to have to understand that they’re going to have to get on board. This is also a community thing, you know? With the parents, it’s easy to sit in the stands and see all the things we’re doing wrong, but it goes back and it starts with what’s the commitment level of the kids. I’ve got the numbers, I’ve got the data from every 4A school in the state, how many kids they have during this the winter lifting and how many they have in the summer lifting and we’re far cry below them and our results show that and until we get that fixed, and that takes time, it’s not going to happen. You know one or two years even but, the lifting part of it, the mental toughness, the physicality, toughness. We may not be any stronger right away, but the mind part of it in and the commitment to each other and the fact they think they can go out there and put body on body and feel good about it and those things will take those. Those will happen immediately if we commit to that.

NP: As I mentioned before, being the head coach of like two different sports, especially when it feels like. Football feels like it’s more like you kind of have to commit to it year-round, even though you know it’s a long way away from even now. What do you think will be the difficulty between juggling 2 sports being a head coach?

RR: Well, I know this isn’t real relevant, but I was doing 2 sports before I was a head volleyball coach and head basketball coach and the Natrona volleyball is a little different game, but  the sheer numbers and the sheer amount of equipment, the number of kids, I mean, there’s a lot that goes into football and the weight thing that in the summer and stuff, but basketball is a year round thing too. You know we’re in the gym and everyone says how you going to do that and not going to have a summer and I’m not good at idle time. I like to be busy and, I’m sure there’s going to be times when I’m like, ‘wow, I didn’t see this coming.’ But, you know, I asked for it. It’s here, and I’m not going to stress about it. I’m just going to do what I can, and I’ve got good assistants. They’re going to help and spread that around a little bit. I’m sure there’s going to be some things that pop up that I just am not aware of right now, and yeah, that’s it. That’s makes me a little apprehensive, but we’ll adjust and move forward.

NP: When you first heard about the head coach opening, was that something you immediately thought that it’s a thing ‘I definitely want to do’?

RR: It was more of a thing with our teaching situation in in Natrona County School District and the one year positions and not knowing who is going to be able to apply, I put my name in the hat, thinking I’m kind of a stopgap. Then when they called and we’re going to interview and they asked for a five-year plan, I’m like, well, I feel better about giving them a plan than going in and answering generic interview questions and getting the job on that because I’m old and experienced and I’ve got all the buzzwords. I wouldn’t have felt good about that, but they wanted a five-year plan, and all the candidates came in with their plan, and by the way, my plan is a two year plan. I said 5 is too patient it, it breeds complacency and patience and time, none of which we have, and we’ve got a couple of good groups right now coming through and we’ve got to capitalize on that. I’m not even talking about wins on capitalizing. I’m talking about commitment and getting better and finding some sort of competitive balance where we can actually compete with some of those teams that we haven’t been able to. We gave the plan, and you know, at the end of the day, they chose my plan, which I felt was, it was pretty radical. I mean, just what I think we need, where we’re headed, what we’ve got to do and but when they asked me if I wanted the job and when I won the interview process from the committee, I felt good. I didn’t feel bad that other people didn’t get the job. If my plan was the best plan out there, I felt good about that and I felt supported by the administration, and you know, because I laid it out, I didn’t sugarcoat, I didn’t try to get the job on telling them what they wanted to hear, I told them what I thought I needed to do. So, it felt kind of prolonged, I put my name in as kind of a helping thinking ‘Well if no one else will take it,’ and then I heard some other names and I’m like, well, those are good people and we’ll be OK and at the end of the day, the committee liked my plan and so here I am.

NP: Now I guess my final question for you is. Honestly, it kind of blows my mind that they give you 5 years, but you immediately want to cut it down to two because you need results now. I wonder what is it going to look like after year one, you think?

Well, hopefully we’ve honed in on what can help our kids be successful scheme wise, because we do have some of those kids coming back and then make some adjustments in that area, but the big thing is it’s evident that we’re more physical on the field. It has to be evident that we have way more commitment level year-round in the weights, It’s evident that we’ve got kids that like to play football, not just wear the jersey type of kids that like to play football.  We have football type players that lifts, they tackle, they block, they love the grind. That’s what I want to see at the end of year one and hopefully we’ve shrunk that competitive gap, where some of those better teams. I’ll know more when some of these kids that I ask to play on the line instead of running the ball. If they’ll agree to that our process will speed up a little bit, but I think year one we’re still going to be a little bit too young, but we’ll see. Year two. I would hope that we’re starting to make progress and we have a chance to win games. You know, I’m not going to say how many, but more than we have and we have a commit commitment level by the kids in the weight room. We’re playing for each other. We’re way more physical than we’ve been, and if not, I’ll walk in to resign. I told him that I’m not going to sit around. You’re not going to give me five years and then year five and say we got to make a change. I’ll make the change for you and I’m not talking about wins, losses. I’m talking about the things that we can control and if we’re not more physical, if we’re not more committed and we’re not a better football team in many aspects and we’re not sacrificing for one another and playing out of positions. Then I’m not the guy and I’m fine with that. You know, they asked me what do I want my legacy to be? At Kelly Walsh. I quit worrying about my legacy a long time ago. This is about trying to help the kids, and my plan was selected as the best plan to help the kids and we’re going to move forward with it and try to help the kids feel good about playing football and get better at it. 

NP: Thanks for your time Coach Roden.