MONUMENT - John Pounder has been a major contributor to high school and college football in Colorado for more than 50 years. His willingness to help young people achieve their dreams and desires is a genuine part of who he is as a coach and mentor.
Earlier this month, his Lewis-Palmer High School freshman team wrapped up an 8-0 season with a dramatic 28-26 victory over Woodland Park. Quarterback Paul Tillitson and receiver Jonathan Scott led the way for the Rangers.
“You could feel the tension,” said Rangers freshman assistant coach Doug Warner. “You could see the pressure on the kids, but John stayed composed. He had been in a lot of these types of situations.”
It wasn’t so long ago that Pounder was a fixture on the sidelines in late November. The head coach at Hinkley High School in Aurora, he led the Thunderbirds to the Class 4A state title in 1997 - a 62-42 victory over Central of Grand Junction. Pounder was the named the CHSAA coach of the year in 1997, as well as Denver Broncos’ coach of the year.
Pounder molded Hinkley into a state power. The Thunderbirds also made the state finals in 1993, and advanced to the semifinals in 1996.
“I just enjoy the moment,” Pounder said. “Not all of the boys go on playing, so you have to make sure the moment is special.”
Pounder, 73, intentionally keeps himself out of the spotlight, but he is still a vital part of the game. As the head freshman football coach at Lewis-Palmer, Pounder has the opportunity to teach young schoolboys the proper mechanics and equip them with the necessary tools to be successful - in football and life.
“Paul (Tillitson) is the best freshman I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” Pounder said of the youngster. “All these boys have a lot of talent. They also have a really good attitude.”
Pounder is an old-school coach. An offensive guard at Western State, he later went on to work as an assistant at the school under Kay Dalton.
Pounder knew early on that he wanted to be a football coach. He landed the head job at Gateway in the 1970s and moved to Hinkley a few years later. Following his retirement, he and his wife moved to Monument and soon Pounder was knocking on Tony Ramunno’s door asking if he could help out. The Lewis-Palmer coach didn’t hesitate.
“He’s got a sickness to coach football,” Ramunno said of Pounder. “He needs to be coaching football.”
Pounder worked as an assistant under Ramunno for two years when Lewis-Palmer played at the 5A level. One of those seasons the Rangers were 6-4.
“I absorb what he says,” Ramunno said. “We look so identical to all those teams he coached in Denver.”
After a short stint as Montbello’s head coach, Pounder moved over to Eaglecrest in 2008, where he served as the offensive coordinator for two seasons - all the while commuting from his Monument home. Weary of the travel, Pounder approached Ramunno again and asked if he could be of assistance.
Pounder is enjoying retirement now more than ever. But he doesn’t plan to stop coaching anytime soon.
“I’m going to coach until somebody pries the keys loose from my hands,” he said. “Coaching is a disease. It’s kind of hard to quit.”