Remembering the beloved Blue Valley football and track coach
It all happened in almost an instant.
Blue Valley head football and track coach, Eric Driskell, was attending a meeting of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association on Feb. 12, when he suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. He was rushed to a hospital and transferred to Research Medical Center where doctors said he had irreversible neurological damage.
He died at the age of 43 on Feb. 15, and his organs were donated.
The reaction of the Blue Valley, Johnson County and greater Kansas City communities is still being felt months later.
Driskell graduated from Blue Valley in 1992 and played on the 1991 Tigers team that won the Class 5A state football title. He was an assistant coach starting in 1996 and became the head coach in 2010. His teams won two state titles and posted a record of 71-18, finishing second in 6A the past two seasons.
There were 3,000 people at a Feb. 18 celebration of life for Driskell with more watching a livestream online.
What made Driskell so important to so many people?
“Eric was a transformational and intentional coach,” Blue Valley Athletic Director Matt Ortman says. “He made a lasting impact on students, athletes, teachers and myself.”
Pastor Doug Karst of Covenant Chapel in Leawood says, “My son Alan is a junior at Blue Valley this year, and he has been processing this along with every other student. It’s not just the football team that has been affected. Eric, it seems had a positive impact on every person he knew. Alan only interacted with him once, but Eric remembered his name when he saw him in the hallway.”
Karst’s older son Stephen was a senior in high school when the family moved to Kansas City in 2010.
“It was Eric’s first year as head coach,” Karst says. “He welcomed Stephen right away onto to the team that year, which made that transition year so much easier. They won state that year as well. That was a special memory.”
Kansas City Star sportswriter Blair Kerkhoff has three children who went to Blue Valley High School—27-year-old Nate, 25-year-old Ben and 22-year old Anna.
“They got in touch to express their grief and share memories, not because they were asked, but because they wanted to tell somebody, anybody how much Coach D meant to them,” Kerkhoff says. “Eric Driskell touched the lives of all three of our kids in different ways. He coached some, taught some and treated everyone with respect and dignity. He treated everyone in school the same way. He brought out the best in people.”
The revered teacher, coach and role model had a great effect on his football and track athletes.
“He was like a second father to me,” senior running back and sprinter William Evans says. “He was always there through the good and the bad. He always said its more important to be a better person than athlete.”
Junior Owen Olson is a linebacker and a jumper in track.
“I really miss him,” he says. “He was a great coach and a father figure to all of us. He brought high energy to football, and I really looked up to him.”
Driskell also impacted the life of Blake Brown, a junior wide receiver and long jumper.
“I think he is about the greatest man I’ll ever know,” Brown says. “He taught me so much through the years. Everyone says that he was big in their lives. He always said to be the best you can possibly be.”
Junior track long sprinter Matt Morris says, “He told us to live in the moment. I think about that every day.”
Driskell is survived by his wife Kari and two daughters, Rachel and Laurel.