In 1955, Don Coryell led the Wenatchee Valley College Knights football team to an unbeaten record of seven wins, no defeats and a single tie to win its first major championship since 1947. The 13-13 tie against Grays Harbor was played in 13-degree weather in Aberdeen.
Coming to WVC in 1955, Paul Zimmerman, senior writer of pro-football for Sports Illustrated, wrote that Don Coryell created the Power I formation at Wenatchee Valley College and took a winless program to an undefeated team and earned a trip to the Potato Bowl.
Prior to coming to WVC, Coach Coryell played defensive back at the University of Washington in the late forties and early fifties, and he coached high school football in Hawaii and at the University of British Columbia. Known for his intensity and passion for football, Coach Coryell took a roster made up of players from Hawaii, Canada, Washington, California and Oregon and created a team that specialized in dazzling pass plays and a mystifying ground attack. North Central Washington players included WVC Hall of Famer Gene Jessup, Al Seyster, Don Oldfather and Dan Dow (Wenatchee High), Byron Ennis (Okanogan), Joe and Roy Bell (Manson), Glenn Speaks (Twisp), Roland Todd, Elmer Bailey, Dale Sparber and Ben Stewart (Cashmere), and Tony Notaras (Ephrata).
Coach Coryell went on to Whittier College and then to San Diego State University for 12 years where, using the philosophy of recruiting only junior college players, he won 104 games and lost only 19. He also had three undefeated teams. At San Diego State University, Coach Coryell was often credited with the development of the modern-day passing attack in college football.
From there he went on to the National Football League to coach the St. Louis Cardinals and ended their 25-year playoff drought by leading the Cardinals to the playoffs and two division titles. In 1978, he became head coach of the San Diego Chargers and led them to three division titles and four playoff appearances. His Chargers team led the NFL in passing six consecutive years and seven years overall. At San Diego, his defensive genius became legendary and was referred to as “Air Coryell.” He has coached multiple National Football League Hall of Famers and is credited as being the Father of the NFL Modern Passing Game. Players such as Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, John Jefferson, Charlie Joiner, Wes Chandler, James Brooks, Dan Dierdoff, Jim Hart, Terry Metcalf, Brian Sipe, Fred Dyer and Fred Dean played for Coach Coryell. Those who coached with him or who credit Coryell for his influence on them are coaches Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, John Madden, Mike Martz, Ernie Zampese and Norv Turner.
Coach Coryell originated the three-digit play-calling system that most NFL teams use today. Coryell invented the one-back offense and, as par to that scheme, he developed an entirely new position, the H-back. Coryell came up with one of the most substantial innovations in modern football by splitting the tight end wide away from the formation.
The deployment required a leaner, faster tight end that could out-run linebackers and out-muscle defensive backs.
Coach Coryell is a member of the San Diego Chargers Football Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame, the NWAACC Hall of Fame and now, the Wenatchee Valley College Athletic Hall of Fame.
Coach Coryell was unable to attend the 2010 WVC Athletic Hall of Fame event, and his nieces, Claire Siegel and Carol Coryell, accepted the induction in his place. Sadly, Coach Coryell passed away July 8, 2010, in La Mesa, California. He was 85.