Within days of returning to the Northern Colorado area in 2008, Skylar Brower called then-Windsor High School football coach Chris Jones, willing to help out any way he could.
Jones just happened to have an opening and met with Brower, explained the Wizards’ blocking scheme and, based on that, had Brower diagram a play. And another. And another.
His transition was seamless.
“We clicked pretty well right off the bat,” Brower said.
In a matter of days, he was part of the Wizards’ coaching staff attending an annual coaching clinic.
Now, eight years later, Brower, Wizards players and fans are hoping he can pull off another seamless transition.
Jones resigned in May, five months after leading Windsor to its second Class 4A state championship in five seasons. Brower, 33, was named interim head coach.
Practice started Aug. 15, and the countdown to top-ranked Windsor’s Sept. 2 season opener with No. 6 Vista Ridge is on.
“It’s been pretty smooth,” star linebacker Corte Tapia said. “Nothing has really changed. The defense is going to be the same. The offense is going to be the same. Just slight changes here and there.
“He does things a little differently, but not much. It’s still the same ideas. The big picture is still the same. It’s just a different way of getting there.”
Keeping the program in tact as much as possible after Jones’ departure factored into Athletic Director Mark Kanagy turning the program over to Brower.
Jones, who’d suggested Brower and another assistant as potential successors after taking a teaching job at Rocky Mountain High School — he’s coaching his son’s seventh-grade team at Blevins Middle School — said Brower has demonstrated the necessary commitment to the program and its players.
But, though continuity was key, Kanagy made Brower interim coach rather than elevating him to permanent status.
“We’re not going to just appoint someone,” he said. “It was the middle to end of May and our teaching positions were filled, and you’ve got to believe that most qualified candidates were already ingrained in their programs, their summer programs were getting ready to start.
“For Skylar’s benefit, too, if he winds up being the best person for the job, I want him to know that he got the job based on being the best person for the job based on having a full, open interview process. … By not naming Skylar, it’s no slight to him, it’s a matter of the best person for the job needs to be the one in the job and that needs to be determined from a full and open interview process.”
Kanagy said the position will be opened once the season ends and that, hopefully, the permanent head coach — whether Brower or someone else — will be in place by the start of the second semester.
So what does an interim coach taking over a state championship team with many of its key pieces returning have to do to get the full-time gig?
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First of all, he won’t worry strictly about wins or losses.
“It’s absolutely the goal to stay here,” Brower said. “But I’m not worried or feeling any pressure (to win another championship). The pressure is to produce the same men. The expectation is still to be competitive and make the state playoffs, but I don’t feel that pressure that if we don’t win it again or don’t go far in the playoffs that I won’t have a fair shot at the job.
“We just want to make sure we keep producing quality men who graduate the program and are ultimately good citizens as we send them out into the world for the next phase of life. That has been the goal and it still is.”
It’s not typical to have a new coach inherit a state championship program, but Windsor’s players are doing their best to adjust.
“It definitely put everyone in shock at first,” lineman Zach Watts said. “It was a little bumpy adjusting to it, getting used to him. That’s a big change.”
Consistency is part of maintaining the program. Ten of 13 assistants are back from last year. Six are former Windsor players.
“The program philosophies are still the same,” Brower said. “I think that has helped in the transition — there’s been no drastic changes. They understand it’s still Windsor football.”
Differences between Jones and Brower exist, but the overall affect isn’t drastic.
“I’m a little more vocal,” Jones said. “… He’s calmer, I believe. Well, I know he’s calmer than me. He’s a quieter guy.”
Brower grew up in Wellington and attended Poudre High School for a semester before moving to Klamath Falls, Oregon, and eventually playing tight end at Portland State, a Division I FCS program.
After two years as an assistant at a Portland high school, Brower longed to return to Northern Colorado: “I had to get back to that Colorado sunshine and get out of the traffic of Portland, and the dreariness, the seven long months of overcast and drizzle.”
After searching the Front Range for a job — he’s a civil engineer — he wound up a block away from Windsor High School. He wanted to continue coaching, and making a connection with Jones was his first and only call.
Brower said he’s interviewed for three other head coaching jobs in the past four years, but for now, however temporary it may be, the married father of three has the job he wants.
“This is obviously the ideal situation, the ideal place, the right fit for me,” he said.
The players aren’t sure what’s in store for Brower beyond this season. Some, particularly underclassmen, think about it more than others.
“I love him as a head coach,” Watts said. “I like the things he does. He holds us to a high standard as Coach Jones did, but he’s also making a name for himself. He’s not the interim coach for Chris Jones, he’s Skylar Brower.”