MURPHYSBORO — Dan Gould sat on a back row at a past Murphysboro City Council meeting, curious about who had complained about the youth football program he ran.
In a few minutes, he got full clarity.
Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens called him to the front of the council chambers to give him the city's Russell Breading Memorial Community Service Award, bestowed on a community resident whose work supported and uplifted the city. This is the fourth year the mayor has bestowed the award, named for former Murphysboro businessman Russell Breading, who died in 2013.
Gould received the award for his work with the Murphysboro Junior Tackle Football League, which works with local youth from third- through eighth-grades.
“I was totally shocked," Gould said. "I has absolutely no idea.”
Gould walked away, relieved, overwhelmed, happy and awed. His wife, Amy, and family had concocted the ruse to get him to the City Council meeting to receive the award. They had all said there was a major complaint against the program.
Gould's parents were also there, he thought, to lend him moral support, along with one of his assistant coaches, Bill Bietz, in whom he'd confided. All of them, though, already knew about the award.
Even as he prepared to hear the charge against his program, Gould said he was not worried about what he thought the mayor might complain to him.
“I was very confident,” Gould said. “I’m very confident in the program overall. Our program is an outstanding program and has been for years."
The program just finished its 16th year. Gould, who is also a defensive line coach at Murphysboro High School, created the tackle football program years ago to give youth who might not play such sports as baseball, wrestling or basketball another avenue to become involved in athletics.
Many of the youth stay with the tackle football program and join the high school's football program, Gould said. The Murphysboro Youth Tackle Football program is open to both boys and girls, but has only had a sprinkling of girls, including two standouts over the years, he said.
Gould started the program with about 47 children, but now has more than 100 participants. His two sons, Cody and Cole, who also went through the program, now assist with the eighth-grade athletes.
The Tackle Football team also plays in a Jamboree conference that is held at SIUC's Saluki Stadium, he said. He is president of that conference, the Southern Illinois Youth Football Conference.
Gould said it's more than a football program, teaching the children how to work for what they need. For instance, to help raise funds, they sell hot dogs and other items outside a Murphysboro business and help cleaning up and putting grocery bags inside the customers' vehicles, he said.
"I think a lot of the impact that it has is teaching the kids just not just teamwork and being a part of a team, but the whole discipline of it, the respect aspect of it," Gould said. "I think is the most important thing."
"I have always told the boys (his sons Cody and Cole) that if we can just make a difference in one kid’s life … we’ve done our jobs," Gould said.
He said he'd like to think the award was given to him for his work with several youth programs, including a weight-lifting program for youth that he created at the Murphysboro Middle School. The youth can work with the weights from Monday through Thursday, he said.
"It’s an honor to receive the award," Gould said. "I’d like to thank them (the mayor and council) first and foremost and it falls back to all the volunteers, the coaches, the parents, the future players ... and of course, a big thanks to my family."