Bojak Honored as Mentor and Teacher
Former friends and colleagues, along with the Jordan School District Board members, honored former West Jordan, Jordan and Riverton football coach Rick Bojak in a special meeting July 26. — Greg James
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The Jordan school District recently honored former Brighton, West Jordan, Jordan and Riverton football coach Rick Bojak, recognizing his lifetime contributions and unique service to students across Utah and the nation.
Bojak is now battling Lou Gehrig's Disease, or ALS, and is confined to a wheelchair. When diagnosed five years ago, doctors gave him one to three years to live. He continues to have an impact on those around him.
“I was a shy kid. He made me feel like a million bucks. I was not a very good player, but he spoke to me just like he spoke to the stars of the team,” former player and assistant coach Todd Egbert said. “He made me want to become and educator. He taught me to have a positive attitude. I learned to have confidence in myself. Wins and losses are important, but the relationships we build supersede any wins we may have had.”
Fellow coaches, former students and colleagues lined up to honor a man, coach and teacher for his many achievements at a July 26 special school board meeting. Bojak was once president of the board, and in 1994, he was teacher of the year.
Bojak coached and taught for more than 40 years in the district, including his most recent contributions at Rosecrest Elementary School. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, he is still teaching physical education to those students.
“When he was on the board, he always had a stack of newspaper articles by his microphone to read about the students in Jordan School District,” Jordan School District Board Vice President Janice Voorhies said. “I had students come up to me and say ‘they talked about me,’”
Bojak won two state titles at Jordan High School in 1981 and 1983. His success was not limited to the football field.
“West Jordan was hosting an afternoon marching band competition on the main football field,” former colleague Julie Christofferson said. “When it was time for the West Jordan band to take the field, the entire football team ceased practice, trotted over to the bleachers, sat down and cheered. When the band was done, they went back to the field and practiced. He taught his team more than just football. I worked with him at Jordan and West Jordan. He is an awesome person.”
He has not given up his fight against the disease that riddles his body. Researchers have announced they have discovered a new gene that could be responsible for the disease. The Associated Press reported that the ALS Association is crediting the money raised from the ice bucket challenge for the discovery of the connection.
“He never put himself above anyone else,” Riverton High School colleague Vicki Olsen said. “When I was coaching sophomore volleyball at Riverton, he came up to my team the day after a game and congratulated us. He always relished in other people’s success.”
He is credited for 107 football victories in his time as head coach at Jordan, West Jordan and Riverton high schools. His influence was felt by more than the players and coaches with whom he shared those victories. He is still teaching to never give up in the fight of his life.
“In my first year coaching with Rick we had beaten Bingham in our last game of the season, former coach and player Nate McCleary said. “The team was gathered on the field for him to announce our player of the year. I expected him to pick one of the varsity stars. He chose a player that never started a game for us that year. He chose a young man that never missed a practice. He also never missed an opportunity to help tutor players that might have had trouble keeping their grades up. He truly understands what greatness is.”