Dave Redden counted June 30 as his final day at Metro East Lutheran High School in Edwardsville. He retired after serving 18 years as a coach, 17 as the Knights’ director of athletics and 16 as a physical education teacher. So he said farewell to plenty of good friends.
However, Redden, 64, a 1968 Roxana High School graduate, isn’t set to call it quits on a long and winding road that has led to a gratifying career. He maintains a burning desire to coach.
“I still have the bug and the urge to do it,” Redden said. “I’m not ready to hang it up yet, go to Hardee’s in the morning and drink coffee with the old guys.
“I’m still young at heart and I feel like I have something to offer.”
The Edwardsville resident, a capable track and cross country runner at SIUE, always has had something to give back in his own way. And that has kept him young. He learned to give it all from his dad, Bill, a coach at Roxana for 30 years. Bill, who retired as a teacher and coach in 1986, died in 2012.
“He taught me a lot, and I was able to compete for him in both track and cross country,” Dave said. “Then John Flamer (cross country) and Jack Whited (track) at SIUE were also two important people in my life.”
MELHS proved to be a good fit for him, though he never has lost his love for Roxana.
“It’s strange because they say once a Shell, always a Shell. I still have a strong allegiance to Roxana,” Redden said. “But I enjoyed my time at Metro East Lutheran.”
He has seen plenty of changes at MELHS and Redden was right in the middle of them. Most important, he pushed the Knights to align with a conference after they wandered in the independent wilderness for many years.
The parochial school is part of the Prairie State Conference that includes Marquette Catholic and East Alton-Wood River. It features eight teams for football, and that’s a sport the Knights are attempting to boost. They had to forfeit five games last season and finished 0-9.
Their numbers have been low for football. Thus, Redden suggested a co-op with public school Madison High School this fall. It might be considered risky business in some circles, but Redden figures it can work. The Trojans, without varsity football since 1989, intend to combine forces with the Knights and forge a sustainable program.
Granted, it’s a work in progress. Metro East Lutheran hasn’t had a winning season since 2008 and only four in its grid history, dating to 1995.
If the Knights continue to struggle in fielding a football team, their days in the Prairie State could be numbered. The sport drives the conference and the Knights realize they are in need of a major upgrade. That’s why they are encouraged by Madison’s participation.
“I noticed there were 30 kids at a scrimmage the other day,” Redden said. “So I think it’s definitely going to be an interesting football season this year.”
His career has been just as intriguing. Redden built competitive track and cross country programs at MELHS and saw sprinter Jessica Jump, a Godfrey native, win the Class 1A IHSA girls’ 200-meters in 2011. The past spring, the girls’ track team shared the small-school Madison County title with Roxana. Redden has taken multiple Metro East teams to state.
Redden also established the Metro East Lutheran Cross Country Invitational and expanded the Turkey Tip-Off Boys Basketball Classic.
“We’ve gone from five teams to 20 in the season-opening boys’ basketball tournament,” Redden said. “We have about 85 teams overall in the cross country invitational.”
Rob Stock has replaced him as the Knights’ AD, but Redden will be remembered as the guy who got MELHS going.
“When I came in here, I knew a lot of people and that helped me,” he said.
He still knows a lot of people, more than the guys drinking coffee, pounding down doughnuts and making small talk every morning at a local eatery.
No doubt, he’s just a phone call away from rejoining the coaching ranks and putting those retirement plans on hold. If so, Hardee’s will have to wait.