MOUNT AYR — Mount Ayr Raider football is literally a family affair, but the patriarch is stepping aside.
Delwyn Showalter announced earlier this month that he will retire from his duties as alternative education director, co-head football coach and athletic director at the conclusion of next summer’s activities. Showalter, 58, has worked for the school district since the fall of 1984, after graduating from the University of Northern Iowa.
The Mount Pleasant native’s first duties were high school social studies teacher, assistant boys basketball coach for coach Brad Rumple, middle school track coach and middle school football coach. At that time, he also assisted head football coach Dave Still, who one year later made him his defensive coordinator, a position he has held every season since.
The past 19 seasons he and physical education teacher Derek Lambert, a former Graceland University player, have served as co-coaches of the football program. It has been one of the most consistently successful programs in southwest Iowa, including a playoff appearance last fall against South Central Calhoun.
Showalter is in his ninth year as athletic director and has been alternative education director during that same time period, succeeding current Wayne of Corydon superintendent Mike Still in those positions.
The partnership with Lambert, who also served as Showalter’s assistant in the boys basketball program for many years, has achieved unparalleled success in the football program. Last fall they passed Joe McNeill’s 131 wins to become the winningest coaches in program history with 135 victories and 58 losses in 19 seasons.
Showalter was head basketball coach 17 seasons, winning 176 games and three conference championships.
Early in his teaching career, students John Ford and Troy Ford arranged an introduction of Showalter to their cousin, Marcia Ford, a Mount Ayr native who at the time was Ringgold County Public Health nurse. They were married in 1986 and are the parents of two sons, Daniel and David, born in 1990 and 1992, respectively.
Both sons became involved in education and coaching, with Daniel serving as an assistant coach in Mount Ayr in recent years and the likely successor to Delwyn Showalter as defensive coordinator. He was former defensive coordinator at Northwest Webster in Manson before returning to Mount Ayr as a middle school social studies teacher two years ago. David Showalter is a teacher and coach in Ackley for the AGWSR school district.
Marcia’s local family roots, along with a fondness for the community and school system, kept Delwyn Showalter from seriously considering a position elsewhere. He said after much contemplation following the 2019 football season, he felt the time was right to step down.
Among the contributing factors in his decision were the sudden death from cancer last fall of former SWCC basketball coach and vice president Bill Taylor, a Ringgold County native, and the health scare of Mount Ayr principal Bill Huntington, who underwent heart surgery last year.
“The Bill Taylor thing bothered me a lot,” Showalter said. “Here’s somebody my age, seemingly very healthy, and in a blink of an eye he was gone. Bill Huntington was at a routine doctor’s visit, on a treadmill, and suddenly he’s told to see a cardiologist and he’s undergoing quadruple bypass surgery. These are guys my age. I felt the football program and the athletics here were in a good place. It just seemed like time. Daniel had been back working with me and he had as much responsibility for the defense last year as I did.”
Showalter’s departure from the football staff breaks up a longtime core of coaches in that program. Line coach James Smith began with head coach Dave Still in 1979. Lambert and Showalter have coached in the system together for 23 seasons, serving as assistants for Still and Randy Athay. When Athay resigned to take a job in Arizona after the 2000 season, Showalter and Lambert felt consistency was needed and they agreed to share the head coaching duties. Lambert was in charge of the offense and Showalter the defense, with other duties divided up among themselves or the other assistants.
“Football lends itself to that type of arrangement, and we’d seen it done successfully in Bedford with Max Dougherty and Bob McCoy,” Showalter said. “We were always talking to each other on the headset and making decisions together during the game.”
Showalter said working in Mount Ayr in the early days with colleagues like Still, wrestling coach Ron Scott, basketball and softball coach Mark Larsen, track and cross country coach Ron Landphair and girls basketball coach Doug McKern was like “a daily coaches clinic.”
Lambert admits it will be strange next fall not having his longtime partner speaking through that headset.
“A lot of what we learned together came from coach Still, and his ability to lead young men in life skills as much as football,” Lambert said. “When you’ve coached with someone that long, that will really be a big change. Daniel and I will sit down and talk about the direction of the program, I’m sure. James is still with us and his son Lucas is a volunteer coach. Brad Elliott, who played for us and is the head track coach, has coached with us several years and is now a volunteer as his local business (Podium Ink) has grown. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to fill that fourth paid coaching position, because with the number of kids we typically have out, that’s important.”
Showalter and Lambert have been more than co-coaches. Just as Still and wife Marie took a young Showalter under their wings, Delwyn and Marcia have been friends and mentors for Lambert in his early days in Mount Ayr.
“I will miss just being able to visit with him each and every day,” Lambert said. “He’s my brother, really. A guy I can confide in about athletics or anything else in life. I credit everything I’ve been able to do to Delwyn. He molded me from day one. I really think the continuity we’ve had here has allowed us to be successful over the years.”
There was only one losing record in football in the 19 years they served as co-coaches, with 12 postseason appearances, with four state quarterfinal appearances and back-to-back semifinal games in the UNI-Dome in 2014 and 2015. Last fall the Raiders finished 7-3 after a third-place district finish behind Van Meter and Panorama.
Elliott, who guided the Raider track team to a state championship in 2014, said he learned values from Showalter and Lambert that apply both as a track coach and business owner. That was one reason he joined their coaching staff after working several years in Kansas City, after he started Podium Ink in late 2006.
“I wanted to learn more from them,” Elliott said. “A lot of area schools aren’t as consistently pulling plus-.500 seasons year after year. I knew there were more chapters to the story then when I finished there as an athlete in 2000.”
“From a business standpoint, I saw the organization of the program and how they treat people,” Elliott said. “Delwyn and Marcia were the host couple for the pre-marriage classes that Abby and I went through together. The guy just really cares about you as a person. And he has great attention to detail. As athletic director, I see the amount of support he gives to all activities. The guy is not a native of Mount Ayr, but he has promoted Mount Ayr in more ways than anyone can imagine.”
Elliott said Showalter has a self-deprecating sense of humor that connects with students in the classroom as well as in athletics, while at the same time having high standards and expectations for them.
Loyal former players
Jacob Sobotka was an all-state player for Showalter and Lambert before playing at the University of Iowa as an invited walk-on. Injuries cut short his career there, but Sobotka said he will never forget the lessons learned from coaches Showalter and Lambert.
“The quality I most admire in coach Showalter is his work ethic,” Sobotka said, “and his integrity. There are many great memories, but I think my favorite was simply the time we spent on the practice field as a team. It was times like those that built the bonds that made us such a close team.”
Jacob Taylor was quarterback of Mount Ayr’s state semifinal teams in the UNI-Dome in 2014 and 2015. He said Showalter gave him confidence, serving as a mentor in life to this day. A memory that stands out occurred after the semifinal loss his senior year, together in the media room of the UNI-Dome after the press interviews had concluded.
“He thanked me for my contributions to Raider football and said that my class did a lot to write history for the program,” Taylor said. “What stuck out was that he also said that he was confident in the man I had become in four years, and would continue to become in the future as my life played out. That meant a ton coming from a man I looked up to as a mentor.”
Jeremy Burmeister’s father, Phil, is the retired Mount Ayr superintendent who hired Showalter in 1984. Jeremy was an all-conference basketball player for Showalter on a conference championship team his senior year, and is now director of business services for the Platte County School District in Kersey, Colorado. He said Showalter influenced his career direction. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Northern Colorado for school finance, school law and management and leadership in education classes. For three years he was a coach and athletic director in Colorado.
“Coach Showalter has always worked to be a positive influence and worked to do the right thing,” Burmeister said. “Looking back as a player, he always showed that he genuinely cared about you. Coach will leave a significant void to fill at Mount Ayr Community Schools.”
Showalter said the relationships with fellow coaches, the players, officials and media members will be missed. Taylor said there was nothing like the locker room after a big victory, with the music blaring, when coach Showalter would make an unforgettable entrance.
“Almost every time he would wait until ‘Drift Away’ came on and then he’d slide in that locker room door and start dancing,” Taylor said. “There wasn’t anything better than winning a big game and anticipating that coach Show dance.”
Mount Ayr Community High School Principal Bill Huntington said the district is losing a “consumate professional” in Showalter’s departure.
“In my 23 years in education I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the great educators and coaches, and coach Showalter is easily at the top of that list,” Huntington said. “He has been a great asset to the district and he will be truly missed. I’m very fortunate to call him a friend.”
With son David recently married to his wife Taryn, and Daniel and his wife Jess being the parents of a 2-year-old boy, Gus, with another child expected in March, Showalter said he will have time to be a husband parent and grandparent without so many time commitments to high school athletics. But, he’s grateful for the experiences he had while holding those school positions.
“I wouldn’t trade my 36 years here for anything,” Showalter said. “I’m proud to have been here my whole career. The pride in the community and the support our teams have had are off the charts. It’s been so much fun seeing the success the kids have had after they left our program. As coaches, we hope we’ve done our part to help prepare them for that success.”