The East Eagles have gone nearly 55 years without a shot at a state championship and a transition of coaches would prove to be the key to doing what every other coach couldn’t do. Bring a state title home to East High School.
“I have been blessed to have had such great coaches and my life has been made better, because I was able to be a part of such great teams and organizations,” East Eagles Coach David Ramirez explained. “I have a debt to pay it forward and I’m trying to do that by being the best mentor I can be for these kids.”
Coach Ramirez has had a long road to winning the state championship with the East High School Eagles football team. From once being a player himself, and almost grabbing a state title at Centennial High School, to now coaching a team that had never competed in a state title match, it would be unfair to say he had it easy.
At a very young age, Ramirez expressed that he had a passion for football and a hunger for competition. That’s what started his path, which eventually landed him the job as head coach for the Eagles.
Though most of the teams that Ramirez has played for have been competitive, it was at Centennial High School that his coaches really started to push him like never before. This was the team and coaching staff that changed his perspective of the sport.
The coach that had the biggest impact on him at this time was Tom Brockman, the head coach for Centennial High School. Ramirez played under the Brockman system for his first three years of high school.
“At Centennial, we had a history of success. It was tradition to play hard and that’s what I’ve strived to do at East,” Ramirez said. “The cultural change that the coaches brought to the team was something I’ve strived to do.”
In 1999, Ramirez’s junior year, the team went undefeated before losing in the semifinals. This was also Brockman’s final year coaching. So, the team would be going through a transition period as Troy Niccoli took over as a first-year head coach.
The passionate young Ramirez would graduate in 2001 and go on to play football at Colorado College, where he majored in history. Though football had played a huge part in his life, he knew the importance of education. This is also something he would later on instill in his young players.
“I have a relentless pursuit and that has helped carry me through a lot of things in my life,” Ramirez said. “That’s what helped me transition from a player to a coach.”
After graduating in 2005, he volunteered at Colorado College for a year and then did some assistant coaching for Coronado High School before taking a job at Pueblo East as the head coach.
“In 2007, I was a young coach and I was looking to come back to Pueblo; then an opportunity presented itself,” Ramirez said. “I applied for the job and it was the perfect job for a young coach.”
When Ramirez took over, the East Eagles had only won one game in the previous four seasons, so it allowed him to start from scratch. From the ground up, he was able to build an Eagle empire that would go on to have seven straight winning seasons and win a state championship.
Not only did he win a state title, CHSAA named him the Coach of the Year.
“When I came in, there was some butting of heads, because the team was used to doing things their way,” Ramirez said. “I was very intense and I had to change the culture, because that was a major component in building a relationship.”
Just like how the Centennial coaches taught him, he knew he had to change things around and form a family in order to reach success.
“We’ve evolved a lot the last three years. We’re a family, we’re brothers,” Bruno DeRose, junior, linebacker and tight end for the East Eagles, said. “He’s done a good job of keeping us close. He keeps us going the right way and he’s helped a lot in developing us.”
Ramirez’s job, however, extends further than the field. He has focused on the overall experience for the young men on his team. While creating a competitive atmosphere among the players, Ramirez’s mission has developed into a mentoring venture. In an area that is known to have difficulties, he has done a great job of getting his players to follow his vision.
“He has been good at creating competition within the team and he has done a lot to gel with us, which has really contributed to our success,” Marco Perez, Senior, linebacker for the East Eagles, said. “He’s hands down the best coach I’ve ever had.”
As the years went on with the team, their success reflected the hard work that they were putting in on the practice field. The records got better each year and then their year finally came–2014 would be a year to remember.
Early on, the team started out 3-3 and then went on a winning streak for the rest of the season. It was a great effort by the team in order to win seven straight games and then pull out a decisive win over Rifle in the State Championship match up.
Because of the phenomenal season, five of the East players made it to the All-State first team and snagged honorable mentions. If that wasn’t enough, CHSAA named quarterback Danny Martin the Player of the Year.
“I’ve always wanted to be the best and that’s what drives me, but now I understand the bigger picture. It’s all about the kids,” Ramirez said. “If a player became a better man because of something they’ve learned from my program, then my plan was a success. That’s my job.”