Max Hawk still knows his football

Former Yankton football coach Max Hawk watches the action at Saturday's University of South Dakota football game at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Jeremy Hoeck/P&D)
Former Yankton football coach Max Hawk watches the action at Saturday’s University of South Dakota football game at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Jeremy Hoeck/P&D)

BY JEREMY HOECK
jeremy.hoeck@yankton.net

Max Hawk still knows his football.

And he still likes to talk about the game that made him a legend in the South Dakota football coaching world.

Hawk, now 82 and still living in Yankton, has not coached a high school football game in 21 years. Yet, his name is back in the news as his all-time wins record is about to fall.

Sioux Falls O’Gorman coach Steve Kueter tied Hawk’s record at 284 — oddly enough, in Yankton on Friday night — and will likely break the record next week in Rapid City.

When I ran into Max on Saturday at the University of South Dakota football game at the DakotaDome — where he won all those state titles with the Bucks — I naturally brought up the record.

A smile came across his face when I asked if we could set up an interview for next week.

“I thought all that was over,” he said.

Almost, Max, almost, I replied.

Though I’ve been working for the Press & Dakotan for nine years, I’ve never had more than a casual chat with Hawk. And I really don’t know why. I certainly see him enough around Yankton and at USD games.

That’s why I relished the opportunity to sit and talk with him Saturday in Vermillion.

He ventured up to the press box and sat between me and another reporter during the first half. There were no shortage of great one-liners.

“They’re going behind right guard on this one,” he said at one point in the first quarter.

Sure enough, Youngstown State’s Martin Ruiz followed the right guard for a short gain.

Hawk looked over and smiled.

“You know how I knew that?” he asks me. No, I said.

“The quarterback tapped the right guard on the butt,” he says.

Those are things only a coach would notice. Sure, it wasn’t something he guessed would happen. Nostradomus, he’s not.

But that quick observation proved that while he’s getting up there in age — he jokes that if he ever fell down, he may never get up — he still knows his football.

It’s still in his blood.

He likes to remind people, even those like me who have heard it before, that he coached the first-ever football game in the DakotaDome.

“I still remember the first touchdown and what the play was,” he says, before describing a 63-yard running play by a kid named Fred Boyles — a Yankton High School Hall of Famer.

See, he’s as sharp as ever.

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