A football team reunion and homecoming festivities helped bring Manteca High teacher and coach Brian Rohles back to North Dakota for a weekend in late September last year.
It just so happened to fall on the bye week for Manteca’s football team for which he serves as junior varsity head coach.
“I wasn’t sure when I’d have the chance to come back,” Rohles said Thursday during a phone interview from a hotel in North Dakota.
Yes, he has returned to visit Minot State University, where he is an honored guest the next two days. A star offensive lineman for the Beavers’ 2006-09 football teams, Rohles set to be enshrined in the Minot State Athletics Hall of Fame.
Joining him are former three-sport standout Carla Clark, accomplished golfer Jordan Kelly and the 1965 baseball team. They will be inducted tonight in a banquet held at Clarion Hotel and Convention Center. They’ll also be recognized during the university’s homecoming parade Saturday and at halftime of the football game against Southwest Minnesota State University.
The Hall of Fame inductees were unveiled in June.
“Getting this award solidifies the hard work I put in,” Rohles said. “I played football 13 years and not once in high school was I named first-team All-VOL (Valley Oak League). It kind of shows that as long as you keep playing and working hard, good things are going to happen.”
Rohles was a two-year varsity starter at Sierra before transferring to Manteca before his senior year, when he helped the Buffaloes capture a Sac-Joaquin Section championship.
It was at Minot State where he began to realize his potential. He was named to the All-Dakota Athletic Conference first team three times, as the Beavers garnered championships in 2007 and 2009.
Also in 2009, when Minot State qualified for the National Association of Interscholastic Athletics Tournament, Rohles was recognized as the DAC-10 Most Valuable Senior as well as American Football Coaches Association first-team All-American. Minot State now competes in the NAIA Division II Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Rohles graduated in 2012, earning a bachelor’s in physical education. While finishing his studies, he coached nine-man football for Mohall Lansford Sherwood High near the Canadian border.
Rohles was hesitant to accept a coaching position at MLS, which is in a city with less than 1,000 people. Then Minot State head coach Paul Rudolph encouraged him take it.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to live in a town of 800, but ‘Rudy’ said the best thing is for me to live in a community that is completely different from what I am used to,” Rohles said. “When I tell them I’m from a small town of like 60,000 they laugh. I got to see how people live in another part of the country.
“Minot State football helped me grow as a human and a leader,” Rohles added. “When I came out here I was a 19-year-old who never left California. I had to grow up. It helped put me in a position I’m at now, teaching and coaching at Manteca High.”
The only downer of visiting his home away from home is the timing — it’s Oakdale week. Manteca travels to Oakdale tonight for the 100th meeting between the longtime VOL rivals, and the JV squads are both undefeated.
Assistant coach and defensive coordinator Daniel Johnson takes over as head coach tonight, while Joey Rohles — Brian’s older brother who also played at Minot State — will call plays for the offense.
“Unfortunately, this had to come against Oakdale,” Rohles said. “But this is pretty special, and all the players understand and are happy for me.”