It was an August day in 1955 and the Lakewood Tigers had gathered around their head football coach Tom Hancock. A sophomore, Joe Romig, remembers the coach explaining the training rules, but then Hancock said something that stuck with Romig his entire life. “There was a time when Lakewood went on the field and other teams feared them,” the coach said. That was it. The coach said nothing else.
And, neither did the team. But, the message was clear. The masterful coach had clearly imparted his message. “We all felt a will to power awaken within us, individually and as a team, and we were determined to dominate whatever lay before us.”
Each year, Lakewood advanced a bit further in the playoffs until, by the late 1950s and into the 1960s, Lakewood was a force in Colorado schoolboy football. Other teams did, indeed, fear the Tigers.
The architect of that football powerhouse served 34 years as a teacher, coach and, ultimately, director of physical education for Jefferson County Public Schools. He retired from coaching in 1968, but not from impacting the lives of the district’s students until 1988. It’s a story of a man, who told the Lakewood/Jefferson Sentinel in 1989 that “he has an aversion to losing.” His record is reflective of that minor character flaw.
From 1954-1968, Hancock’s teams certainly put a stamp on the state’s high school football history but, more importantly, they became a rallying point for a community that had so long looked for something to set that community apart in a sport that was dominated by the bigger cities in the state. Over those 15 seasons, the Tigers went 137-30-3, winning 78.7% of their games. They won three state championships (1960, 1964, 1968), were runnersup three times and won 10 league titles. Hancock also coached wrestling and a state-championship track team.
A Greeley native, Hancock was named the state’s outstanding wrestler in 1946 after winning the State 154-pound Championship for Greeley High. His success on the mat came as no surprise since his father, John Hancock, was Colorado’s father of prep wrestling. After a brief stint at the University of Iowa, Hancock moved on to play football and wrestle at the University of Colorado, where he started at linebacker in 1948 and 1949. He then served three years in the United States Marine Corps before commencing his teaching career.
Hancock’s coaching career certainly had an impact on the hundreds of students who played for him and learned from him in the classroom, but perhaps one of the little known facts about him is how Lakewood became the first high school to add weight training as a regular part of its team’s regimen, thanks to Hancock and assistant coach John Hoskins.
More than 50 years have passed since that August afternoon in 1955, yet you just know that Hancock’s former players still hear those words, “There was a time. . .” and you know they still serve to motivate those men to excel.
There was a time when Lakewood went on the field and other teams feared them.