When Tim Walz was elected to serve as the new governor of Minnesota, the state gained a leader with a broad range of experiences and collaborative approaches.
It also gained a high school football coach at the top of the state’s food chain.
While Walz — who was sworn in as the state’s new governor Monday — spent recent years in the U.S. House of Representatives, his time in Minnesota began when he came from Nebraska, where he was the football coach at Alliance (Neb.) High School. In Minnesota, he served as the football coach and teacher at Mankato (Minn.) West High School. Within his first few seasons, Walz built up a program that would capture the school’s first state title.
He’s never lost sight of that experience, and though he remains a Cornhuskers fan, is proud to have incorporated part of his Nebraska roots into his time and life in Minnesota.
“We brought a lot of that Nebraska football here to Minnesota,” Walz told the Omaha World-Herald.
In fact, when asked for a story from his life that exemplifies his calling to serve, Walz told the Minneapolis Star Tribune about something he took on himself while coaching at Mankato West:
Tim Walz was an enlisted soldier in the Minnesota National Guard in 1999 and defensive coordinator of the Mankato West High School football team. A student at the school, where Walz taught geography, wanted to start a gay-straight alliance.
This was three years after the president, a Democrat, signed a law forbidding same-sex marriage. Soldiers suspected of being gay in Walz’s own unit could be discharged from the military. But Walz, now Minnesota’s Democratic candidate for governor, had seen the bullying some students endured and agreed to be the group’s faculty adviser.
“It really needed to be the football coach, who was the soldier and was straight and was married,” Walz said. In other words, he would be a symbol that disparate worlds could coexist peacefully.
Clearly, Walz was a coach who led for the sake of helping student-athletes. Now he’ll try to lead the state of Minnesota as a whole in the same way, something that should bring plenty of comfort for anyone who experienced Walz as a coach.