As his family and coaching trees continued to add branches, so did Ken Winkler's curiousity for whether or not he could take a break from his own post as a high school football coach.
The timing seemingly right, the West Marshall Community School District's school board accepted Winkler's resignation on Wednesday evening after 29 years as the Trojans' head coach.
The 67-year-old Winkler put his 46-year career as a high school football head coach on hold because of a combination of things, he said Thursday. Most notably: his kids and grandkids.
T-R FILE PHOTO
West Marshall head football coach Ken Winkler stands amongst his players following the Trojans’ playoff victory over North Polk in this Oct. 31, 2011, file photo in State Center. Winkler was honored for winning his 300th career game. On Wednesday, the West Marshall school board accepted Winkler’s resignation after 29 years with the program and 46 as a prep football coach.
"I think everybody has their own opinion about why, but after 46 years you think about it every year after every year for a little bit," Winkler said. "My wife and I talked about it quite a bit. It's a combination of quite a few things. Maybe it's time to take a step back and see what else there is to do in the fall. With kids and grandkids, football is a pretty time-consuming thing.
"I've got quite a few kids who have played for me who are coaching. It'll be nice to just go and watch them play on Friday nights for a year. If I miss (coaching), then we'll think it about maybe if there's an opportunity to jump back in. If I don't miss it, then it was the right decision."
Winkler steps down with a career record of 321-128-3. He coached for four years at Essex, 11 at Treynor, two at Sioux City West and 29 at West Marshall. The Trojans were 219-76 with 18 of their 19 playoff appearances coming under Winkler's helm.
"I like it here obviously or you wouldn't be here 29 years," Winkler said. "When we left Sioux City, my kids were at an age where I think it was going to be best for them to settle in. I went to college at Iowa State so I knew West Marshall and their football tradition.
"There were opportunities to move on, but I was always comfortable here so we just stayed."
Winkler is one of just three coaches in the history of Iowa high school football to win state championships at two schools. He coached Treynor to the state title in 1979, and West Marshall won its only championship in 1999. Fred Wieck captained GMG (1987) and Clear Lake (2000) to state titles, while Gary Swenson got Spencer (1984) and West Des Moines Valley (2002, 2003, 2005) to the top of the heap.
With 321 career wins, Winkler currently stands seventh all-time and third among active coaches in Iowa.
"I think it's just a matter of the amount of time it requires," Winkler said of stepping down. "When you're 25-35 years old, you've got a lot of energy. When you're 67 you probably don't have the energy to do those sort of things. It's pretty much a year-round thing nowadays if you want to be competitive.
"I wasn't tired of football, I think I still enjoy the game, enjoy coaching, enjoy going to practice and watching kids get better. It boiled down to the time was right to take a step back and see if I was going to miss it."
If it is the end of the Ken Winkler coaching era, he trusts that the program is being left in good hands. The school board on Wednesday also named former Trojan standout Cody Hackett as Winkler's replacement, promoting the assistant coach after a trio of seasons on the staff.
Longtime West Marshall assistant coach Jeff Cuvelier, the 2011 Iowa Football Coaches Association's Assistant Coach of the Year, was let go in January after 22 years with the program.
"I'm not sure when they actually offered (Cody) the job but I think the board approved my resignation and announced his hiring on Wednesday," Winkler said. "He'll do a good job. He's knowledgeable, he's a West Marshall guy, and he's been on our staff."
Hackett was Winkler's feature tailback from 2002-05, and he went on to play collegiately at William Penn before graduating in 2009. Hackett was an all-district MVP at running back and a two-time all-state selection with West Marshall before playing primarily on defense at William Penn. He was an all-Midwest League defense first-team selection after accumulating 62 tackles and a team-leading four interceptions while also earning Mid-States Football Association all-academic laurels.
"There are a lot of guys who have played for me or who have coached with me that I've never been able to see coach," Winkler said, citing a list that includes West Marshall alumni Aaron Shipley (Marshalltown) and Zach Pfantz (Ottumwa).
Winkler's son Brian is the junior high football coach at Garner-Hayfield/Ventura, and a pair of former assistants include head varsity coaches Brian Wilken at Newell-Fonda, Eric Bormann of Algona and Bobby Goodvin at Sioux City East.
"That's a pretty good start right there," Winkler said. "A lot of opportunities there."
Not to mention 10 grandkids strewn between central Iowa and Mesa, Ariz.
"It's been a good 46 years and a good 29 years here at West Marshall," Winkler said. "A lot of good memories and been around a lot of good kids and a lot of good assistant coaches.
"West Marshall has been good to me. It's been a good run and we've always tried to do the right thing. I don't know if we always have done things the right way, but for the most part we've built a program that the community can be proud of.
"It's a great feeling to know that's there."