Even as a retired head coach, Gary Klatt got into a fall routine that didn’t budge for 10 years — one that successfully combined family time with football.
On Tuesday afternoon, he, along with his wife, would drive up to his son Jason’s house for an overnight visit. From there, he went over to Mead High School in Longmont, where he served as a volunteer assistant coach working with Jason on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. After practice, the Klatts might go out to dinner, but the next morning he always made sure to drive his grandchildren to school.
On Friday nights he’d be back at MHS, diligently inspecting the Mavericks’ execution of that week’s game plan.
The patriarch of the Klatt football family watched admirably as Jason instituted values similar to those he held in high regard during his own legendary career at Pomona — values that have now created a Class 3A juggernaut in Boulder County.
“(Jason) really made a commitment,” Gary, 77, told The Post. “The program has been built around the theme of helping kids become better individuals and contributors in society because of the lessons they learned at Mead. It wasn’t about winning, it was about developing a culture of excellence that would lead to wins.”
Jason, now a decade into the job, guided Mead to the brink of a state championship last fall, falling 21-17 to Fort Morgan in the title game. He believes that if the Mavs are to take the next step, it will be shaped by doing the small things well.
“When you do all of these details right, going to class, the weight room and doing the things you’re supposed to do, then success happens,” Jason said at CHSAA Media Day last week. “The success that happened (last year) is a direct result of the people in the program that have put work in with the process. … We don’t talk about the end result, and while they’re great, they are a direct result of what you’ve done to get there.”
Mead, picked as the No. 1 team in the 3A CHSAANow.com preseason poll, figures to be in the thick of things again this fall. With a rugged schedule that includes 4A Windsor and three 3A teams in the preseason rankings (No. 4 Lutheran, No. 5 Durango and No. 8 Frederick) the Mavs are certain to be tested.
Across the board, coaches view 3A as the biggest toss-up for a state title favorite, as Johnstown Roosevelt, returning state champion Fort Morgan and others all have a realistic shot at the crown.
In order to reach the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season, the Mavericks will rely on a new group of seniors to fill the leadership void. Among them are 6-foot-5, 275-pound senior guard/tackle Zach Dibella, running back Sean Medlock, quarterback Taylor Adler, plus linebackers Danny Brewington and Christian Ayers.
“You have to develop a culture of excellence where you expect the kids to perform at a high level, so, you coach ‘em at a high level,” Gary said. “… Practice at Mead is designed to be fun, yet the expectation level of the kids is that you work hard and give your best effort every day.”
The team still has plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball and schemes to best fit the program.
Back when Jason took over in 2012, he worked in tandem with his brother, Joel, to develop a formidable 4-3 defensive plan — a scheme similar to what Joel saw during his days as the CU Buffs quarterback. The defense has a variety of cover options, while the offense is based on Wing-T principles. The goal is to build on both sides week-by-week so by the time the postseason rolls around, there are plays being made in every facet of the game.
The philosophy on and off the field has resonated at every level. What was once a 35-player program in Jason’s first season now has 130 athletes and a high-level coaching staff. The Mavericks have become “a town treasure” in the process, with cars lining County Road 7 as the team regularly plays in front of 3,000 fans on Friday nights.
With the program on solid footing, Gary is at last ready to watch as a fan. His routine will adjust. The plan is still to check in at practice occasionally to talk shop, but he’ll be a regular at his granddaughter Riley’s volleyball games, now a freshman at Mead. He beamed with pride when reflecting on how his four children have positively impacted people’s lives and is eager to see how his son keeps building Mead up.
Jason, though, is hoping for something similar out of his football team this season. Make a mark and build character.
“What I’ve seen from these guys is an incredible amount of passion to be good and to write their own story,” Jason said. “I think they’ve been raising their hands a little bit going, ‘Hey, look over here, we’ve got something to say too.’ Last year was great. This year it’s a new story, new guys and a new journey.”