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’84 campaign was character-builder for football Trojans
January 26, 2012
MADISON, S.D. – One of the 1984 football Trojans is now a U.S. Army major, the another department head at one of South Dakota's largest universities, and others have gained success in the private sector. Also, many have stayed involved in both education and coaching.
They all stuck it out in the fall of 1984 when then-Dakota State College slashed many of its majors to save the college. William Janklow, then-governor of South Dakota, changed the school's mission to computer information education.
The action sent many student-athletes packing, with them transferring to other schools. Others stayed, however, giving then-Provost Dr. Robert Wagner reason to keep football alive at DSC.
Persistence was the main character of the '84 Trojans.
"My mother was big on completing what you started," said Major Bill Nelson.
Like many of the 39 Trojans in 1984, Nelson, a senior, played both ways – a free safety on defense and quarterback on offense.
"I'd been a starter for two years," he added. "I didn't think about switching schools."
Upon graduation, Nelson taught and coached at Bridgewater for two years and then went to teach and coach in Nebraska.
While in Nebraksa, Nelson joined the National Guard, and then entered the U.S. Army in 1991.
Currently, Nelson is the Information Officer at Ft. Stewart in Georgia. He is in line to become a Lt. Colonel sometime later this year.
That stick-to-it attitude was what drove Jay Trenhaile of Zell, S.D.
"I had something to prove as a junior," said Dr. Trenhaile, now the head of the Counseling and Human Development Department at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
"I didn't want all of it to end there and then," he said. "I really liked going to Dakota State. It was a challenging time. Tom (Maurer), our assistant head coach told us 'if this was easy, everyone would be doing it.' I tell my students here at SDSU 'if you duck challenges, you'll never be successful'."
Trenhaile is eager to add, "Perseverance played a key factor that season. After being runner-up in the South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference the year before, going 5-4-1, we had something to prove in 1984."
Bryan Lund, like Nelson, wanted to complete a four-year football career and get a bachelor's degree in 1984-85. Thanks to Dr. Wagner, he was able to do just that.
"Many of us had to go both ways, especially at the start," said Lund. "We had a pretty close-knit group of players and a great coaching staff. We had a lot of fun that season, but the biggest thing I learned that year was to not give up on anything."
He was named the team's most valuable player that season, playing on both the offensive and defensive lines. The senior was also an All-SDIC selection.
Lund went on to be employed at Elmen Rental for 20 years and then became part of the management staff at Johnson Control Services in Sioux Falls. He has been there for the past eight years.
Bruce Bettmeng, Lund's teammate and roommate, the team's starting center as a junior said, "We weathered the storm. Bryan showed all of us some really good leadership. It taught me to keep plugging along. That's something I've tried to teach my kids."
Bettmeng now is the owner/operator of five ice cream-and hot dog style eateries in the Sioux Falls area.
Phil Barrios, Raul Yturralde and Lonnie Johnson were among a number of '84 Trojans who carried their teaching degrees and coaching skills into their post-DSC years.
"I was s-o-o close to leaving," admitted Barrios, then a sophomore linebacker from El Paso, Texas. "I was about to transfer to the University of Texas-Arlington, but I had a lot of friends at Dakota State. More importantly, I had just met my future wife Maria (Eldman) from Willow Lake."
After graduation, Barrios and his wife moved to Bonesteel where he taught and coached at Bonesteel-Fairfax High School for a few years. He later served on the coaching staff of Gustavus Adolphus in Minnesota and then at SDSU where he earned his master's degree.
During that time, the Barrios' son Derek attended Dakota State and played football. He graduated in 2007. He now teaches and coaches at Arlington.
The Barrios family moved back to El Paso in 2007 where he taught and coached at Coronado and Franklin high schools until this past summer when Barrios was named Eastwood High School's athletic director and head football coach.
Yturralde, a junior lineman who also came from El Paso, said, "I was very apprehensive about having my dream of a college education and playing football taken away from me. I come from a family headed by my father. He instilled in his children the need for us to get an education. After all, he was an educator himself. When I found out that we were going to continue the (football) program, I was ecstatic, having already completing two years."
The El Paso native was another Trojan to go both ways that fall. "We played some real ironman-style football that year," he said.
"When I graduated, I had had enough of S.D. winters, so went back to El Paso," said Yturralde. (He had met and fell in love with a S.D. woman, Dawn DeJabet of Madison.)
Since then, Yturralde has had a number of teaching and coaching positions. Currently, he makes the short commute across the border into New Mexico where he is a physical education instructor and coach for Capparel High School.
As for Lonnie Johnson, an Oldham senior who played as a defensive back and offensive lineman, he was adamant about completing his college career at Dakota State.
"Flat out, I was going to stay at Dakota State to finish my degree," stressed Johnson. "I had put that much time in the program already, and I just wanted to finish it out the right way in Madison."
Johnson took his bachelor's degree and football knowledge to Kimball where he taught and coached for three years. From there, he went on to teach and coach at Chamberlain, Baltic and West Central school systems the next 15 years.
Right now, Johnson is Montrose's middle and high school principal. In athletics, he shares the athletic directorship with McCook's Jack Rasmussen as part of the Montrose-McCook Central cooperative.
After suffering two opening-season losses, the '84 Trojans blitzed Dakota Wesleyan 23-0, sending the Trojans on to a 2-5-1 season.
Dakota State ended the year fourth in the conference in rushing offense, gaining 931 years and fifth in passing, amassing 636 yards. Defensively, the Trojans held opponents to 504 passing yards and 1,196 yards in rushing.
At the end of the season, Nelson garnered All-SDIC and NAIA All-American honors. Other Trojans named All-Conference were Lund, Barrios, Sylvester Clark, Rod Kopfman and Mike Thorpe.
Johnson, in a real sense, sums up what most Trojans learned that watershed season, "I learned that even through adversities, you have to work even harder and not just walk away from them."
Dan Holsworth, Dakota State University Athletics Assistant
Edited by Nick Huntimer, Dakota State University Sports Information Director