For 32 years, Jim Oberweiser hasn’t been working as a coach, he’s been learning. Learning from guys like his father, Jack, a former head football coach for Anaconda Central and Anaconda High, and John Cheek, legendary coach of Kalispell and Anaconda high schools, along with other influential people he’s met along the way.
All the while, he’s deflected praise and accolades akin to one of his defensive backs knocking down passes.
After Aug. 2 however, that’s no longer the case.
Oberweiser, with his wife, Jodi, by his side, was inducted into the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame, recognizing his 32 years of coaching football, basketball and girls’ softball in Montana.
Being the humble man he is, the most telling memory of the induction ceremony was that they included his wife in the event.
“The nice thing about the awards ceremony is that they announced the spouses as well,” Jim said about his wife of 23 years. “It was nice because there’s a special spot in heaven for coaches’ wives.”
The 1972 ACHS graduate has coaching in his blood. He enjoyed playing athletics, but soon realized teaching the game was his true calling.
“The secret to my success is to teach the way you were taught. I would guess I can take that a step further and say coach the way you were coached,” Jim said, referring to his father, who coached football in one capacity or another at Central from 1956-73 and at AHS until 1988. “He had a tremendous football mind. He was an innovater, running the Run and Shoot before anyone else in the state.”
After attending Montana Tech for a few years, Jim finished his degree at University of Montana in ‘77.
Soon after, he became a basketball and track and field head coach at Harrison High School before moving to Drummond to take over the football program in 1981.
His arrival in Drummond still brings back memories, especially ones that bring him back to the day he was lucky enough to find such a wonderful place.
“It’s awfully hard to say how I wound up here,” Jim recollected. “When I first started teaching and coaching, I know I wanted to be in western Montana.
“Being from this area, I liked the small town atmosphere. Drummond was a real good fit for me. Seemed like a real good place to raise a family.”
Friday night lights
It’s too bad the MCA doesn’t nominate coaches based on the impact to a school district and region — Jim’s picture would’ve been on the walls at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse long ago. He built a program that has dominated the Class C power polls for the past 10 years, piling up at 200-80 overall record for the Trojans. He has led Drummond to five Class C titles (2003-05, ‘07, ‘09), a testament to the program he’s been allowed to instill in the small farming and ranching community located just off I-90 between Missoula and Deer Lodge.
He has won five MCA Coach of the Year awards, coached in the Bob Cleverly 8-man All-Star game 12 times, four times in the East-West Montana Shrine game and twice in the Badlands Bowl. And in 2006, he was inducted into the National Football Federation Hall of Fame Montana Chapter. Not too bad for a kid from little old Anaconda.
“It’s been a tremendous luxury for me as a coach to establish a system and stick with it all these years,” he said. “The kids know what you are going to be doing — they don’t have to learn a new coach and system every other year. Stability is huge in a football program.”
Although the program was close to breaking through for years, it was the stretch from 2003-06 that put Drummond on the state and nationwide football map.
They piled up a 45-game winning streak through that span — the longest winning streak in Montana history — losing for the first time in four years to Wibaux, 28-24, in the Class C semifinals on Nov. 12, 2006.
All the humble former Anacondan can say is that his players were the ones winning all those games.
“We’ve been blessed with some unbelievable talent, and the talent we’ve had contained both speed and size,” Jim said, pointing out the likes of Chase Reynolds and Alex Verlanic, both of whom are decorated former University of Montana football players. “Chase was playing just the other night on T.V. for the Rams and Alex was the Gatorade Player of the Year in all classifications.”
The coach also said it wasn’t one or two guys that put Drummond on top.
“Overall I’ve just really had good kids and all were pleasure to coach,” Coach “O” said.
Friday nights are crazy in Drummond, even if Coach “O” doesn’t see it.
“I’m pretty busy,” he laughed. “But when I look up in the stands and on the hill in the second half, there are a lot of people watching. Adding the lights really made it special, our version of Friday Night Lights.”
How long will he go
Although Jim has cemented his legacy in the coaching ranks for eternity, there’s always that bucket list tucked away somewhere. He insists that there’s nowhere he would want to be, especially now since he is coaching his fourth and final child, Kevin, a junior defensive back and receiver. And he can’t really see an end to coaching in sight.
“I don’t know when I’ll be done,” he said. “One good group of kids just keeps bringing you back. Like I tell my wife, I always pick out a kid and tell her ‘I would like to see this kid graduate.’ Now, that kid is 45 years old and has a family of his own.”
When asked if he ever would like to follow in the footsteps of his father in Anaconda, Jim wouldn’t rule it out but also pointed out how much he loves Drummond and the values it teaches youngsters.
“I never want to say never, but there were a couple of coaches that I really admired and all of them spent there entire careers at small schools,” he said. “This is the kind of environment I like, one that was not too dissimilar to Anaconda Central.”
Jim is more excited about coaching his children than the records he’s piled up over the years in Drummond. Like the teachings from his own father, Jim is hoping he can pass on the same values to his children that he learned while at ACHS.
“I would love to know I’ve passed this on to my own kids,” Jim said of his three daughters, Katie, 22, Megan, 21 and Bridgett, 19, and son, Kevin, 16. “I’ve had the luxury of coaching all my children. It’s been a humbling experience.”
A grounded, family-oriented and humble man, Jim is the essence of what a coach should be — a teacher, mentor and a hero.
The time he’s put in making Drummond a powerhouse couldn’t be repaid by wealth. Instead, Jim banks on a simple statement that defines the man he is.
“You grow wealthy in relationships, and coaching has done that for me,” he said.