Kirtland football program to honor former coach this weekend

Bill Cawood led Broncos from 1986-2007, winning 156 games

Matt Hollinshead,
Football promo.
  • Cawood took his teams to the playoffs 18 times, reaching the semifinals five times.
  • Cawood was inducted into the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor in 2015.
  • He was inducted into the National High School Association Hall of Fame in 2018.

KIRTLAND — Kirtland Central High School will commemorate Broncos football coaching legend Bill Cawood during halftime at Friday's game, renaming Bill Slade Stadium as Bill Cawood Field in his honor.

"It's very humbling. I've never coached for an honor like that," Cawood said. "I wanted football to be fun. Fun for me was being able to knock the snot out of your opponents, to hit them as hard as you can hit them on every single play. In a lot of our games, that wore our opponents down."

Cawood, 70, coached Kirtland from 1986 through 2007. He won 156 games and seven district titles. He also reached the state playoffs 18 times, including five state semifinals appearances.

Cawood was inducted into the New Mexico High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor in 2015. He later made the National High School Association Hall of Fame in 2018.

“I probably heard coach Cawood’s name 50 times within the first month after I got this job. Coach Cawood is an extraordinary human being,” said current Broncos coach Greg Jenks. “His players still to this day would run through a brick wall if he asked them to.”

Cawood's legacy

Cawood stressed hard-nose football, from tackling to running, start to end. He also stressed overcoming challenges on the field, which, in turn, helped teach key life principles.

"We'd still be driving when the quarter ended. We'd still have the ball. That's something a lot of teams had no idea about. We were controlling the game, and we felt that was how we could win ball games," Cawood said.

Jenks, Kirtland’s fourth coach since 2008, said he wanted to carry on Cawood’s philosophy.

Cawood said he's glad to see Kirtland resume being physical on the field, adding he didn't see as much of that in the seven years prior to Jenks' first year.

"I didn't feel like they were trained (right). I didn't think the kids hit very well," Cawood said. "Hitting's not a natural thing. Lining up and knocking the crap out of somebody is not a natural occurrence in our lives. It has to be taught, it has to be drilled, it has to be trained. And eventually, the mentality of being a hitting football player arises."

Aside from building physical strength, Cawood said he taught things like proper body alignment and hand placement to ensure players protect themselves and prevent inadvertently injuring opponents.

Strong influence

Current Bloomfield girls basketball coach Tom Adair served as one of Cawood's assistants from 1986 through 2001, first as the offensive line coach and later as the defensive coordinator.

“He made each phase of football important,” Adair said. “He was always there for us. He’s definitely my mentor. He’s always been there.”

Adair, who also served as the head football coach at Montezuma-Cortez High School in Colorado from 2002 through 2008, said Cawood helped him prepare to be a head coach by stressing preparation, studying opponent matchups and teaching players how to handle hardships.

Adair, who returned to Kirtland in 2009 to be the Broncos' football coach, said Bloomfield's state runner-up campaign in girls basketball last year was a testament of what Cawood taught him.

“I strive for the same thing with my athletes,” Adair said.

Adair was inspired by Cawood transforming Kirtland from a two-win team in 1985 to a playoff team in 1986.

“The way you turn around a program is hard work. You’re going to make sacrifices, especially in the summer. He instilled confidence in coaches and players,” said Adair, who went from four wins his first year at BHS to 26 wins last year.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.