Mike Riley’s fingerprints can be found all over the Corvallis High football program.
Five of Riley’s former players — Dwight Roberson, Tim Euhus, Jovan Stevenson, Jon Strowbridge and Larry Bumpus — have transitioned from the field at Oregon State to the Corvallis sideline.
“It’s been wonderful, absolutely wonderful, to have all of those guys involved,” Spartans coach Chris McGowan said. “It’s just been a boost to us and to a T they are all very good with kids, very knowledgeable and passionate, and I think a lot of that spreads to the kids.”
Bumpus and Euhus are both in their first season on staff while Stevenson joined the program in 2016. Roberson (fourth year) and Strowbridge (11th year) have been around a little longer.
Bob Johnson, who suited up for the Beavers in the early 1980s, has been one of McGowan’s assistants for a decade and a half. Though he didn’t play college football, McGowan is also an Oregon State alumnus and wrestled for the Beavers.
“It’s instant camaraderie,” Strowbridge said. “You are immediately bonded with those guys and it’s a brotherhood of Beavers.”
A 2003 Corvallis High graduate, Strowbridge was a senior during McGowan’s first season at the helm. McGowan also coached his freshman squad.
Strowbridge, now the dean of students at Crescent Valley, was a punter and holder for the Beavers from 2003-06. He joined McGowan’s staff the following year.
“Obviously it’s a different relationship when you are two coaches versus a player and a coach,” said Strowbridge, who works with the defensive line and special teams. “So that was really fun to kind of be on the other side of the ball in that sense.”
Roberson, the Spartans’ defensive coordinator, redshirted during Strowbridge’s final season with the Beavers. The Ventura, California, native developed into a standout linebacker, collecting a team-leading 88 tackles as a senior in 2010.
A few years later, Roberson approached McGowan about a position on his staff.
“I had just come off coaching my little brother’s eighth-grade Pop Warner team and I really wanted to keep coaching,” Roberson said. “So I went over to the front office at Corvallis and asked if I could volunteer.”
Roberson initially coached the junior varsity linebackers before working his way up to varsity defensive coordinator. The Spartans were stout in Week 1, capturing a 41-18 victory at North Eugene.
Corvallis (1-0) welcomes Bend (0-1) Friday night for its home opener.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Roberson, who is nearly done with his undergrad degree at OSU. “I enjoy helping the kids get a better understanding of football, making it a little bit simpler for them. That’s the whole point of the game is to make it simple and have fun.”
Stevenson was a running back, defensive back and kick returner during his OSU career, which lasted from 2009-13.
Roberson, who played with Stevenson for two years at OSU, put the Tucson, Arizona, native in touch with McGowan.
“I had been serving in the community with some of the kids through church,” Stevenson said. “I just thought that I maybe wanted to get into coaching, and Corvallis High was the place to be.”
Stevenson worked with the freshmen/JV team last year, helping lead the squad to a 7-2 record. He is tutoring the varsity defensive backs and running backs this fall.
A passion for helping kids sparked Stevenson’s interest in coaching.
“I always knew I could coach because whenever I played football, I was a better team player than an actual individual player,” he said. “I would deal with getting the guys motivated. Just seeing these kids out here, there’s so much talent. They just need to understand that they’ve got it in them and believe in themselves.”
A graduate of Churchill High in Eugene, Euhus played tight end for Dennis Erickson and Riley during his OSU career. He was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft.
Following his time in the NFL, Euhus was a graduate assistant for the Beavers and spent six seasons as an offensive assistant at CV. Euhus hadn’t coached in three years when McGowan asked if he’d be open to switching sides.
“I talked with (CV coach Scott Sanders) about doing this,” said Euhus, who is coaching the tight ends and receivers. “And he seemed fine with it. I just wanted to get out and start working with the kids again, and my boys are going to be in the (Corvallis) district so why not start teaching them the Spartan offense in flag football this year while I’m coaching these kids right now.”
Originally recruited as a quarterback out of Oxnard High in California, Bumpus played defensive back for the Beavers. He was a senior in 1997, Riley’s first season at the helm.
Bumpus has coached youth football, basketball and baseball for more than a decade.
“I’ve had a couple of kids come through here, so it was one of those things where I really wanted to be involved and help the kids get better,” said Bumpus, who is working with the receivers, defensive backs and special teams.
“For me, the most enjoyable part of coaching is the maturation process of the kids. Just watching them grow as a person and wanting to become a better athlete or a better human being.”
But the Riley connections run even deeper.
Tom Ramsay, who was OSU’s team chaplain from 2005-14, is currently a life coach for the Spartans. Ramsay mentored many players during his time with the Beavers, including Brandin Cooks, Sean Mannion and Stevenson.
“I was the guy they could talk to that wouldn’t affect their playing time,” said Ramsey, a youth pastor at Northwest Hills Community Church. “If they have issues with their girlfriend, they can come and talk to me. If they are having issues at home, they can come talk to me.
“I just try to come alongside them and encourage them in whatever they are doing to keep going.”
Riley, a Corvallis High grad who led the Beavers from 1997-98 and 2003-14, is returning to his home state this week. Oregon is hosting Riley’s Nebraska Cornhuskers at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in a highly anticipated matchup.
Forty-five miles north of Autzen Stadium, a slew of Riley disciples will also be hard at work this weekend.
“I think it reflects well on coach Riley’s program how these guys carry themselves,” McGowan said. “With the kids, their credibility is really good because they played college football. But more importantly, the guys I have on my staff are just really good people. They understand kids, they have high expectations, they are consistent, they are putting in the time and they are just doing everything right.”