Sawatzke: End of an era for Monti football
Denny Holker has seen snow, he’s seen rain. He’s seen sunshine, he’s seen cloudy days. He’s seen state tournament games, he’s seen winless seasons. He’s seen Jim Link, he’s seen Roman Peloquin.
Over the course of 40 years, Denny Holker has seen darn near everything that’s happened in Monticello football, and he’s seen it all from an enviable position.
In 1973, Monticello Athletic Director Dick Frie was looking to create a more permanant cast of characters to run the chain gang at home football games. He approached Holker.
“He wanted a guy in a reliable position to do it all the time,” said Holker when we sat down and talked this week. “He said, ‘you got the best seat in the house.’”
That was in 1973. For the next 40 seasons, Holker has held down that seat (even if it’s technically a standing position) while holding a down marker. But as he nears 60, and his legs have started to bark more and more each Saturday morning, Holker is preparing to work the chain gang for the last time this Saturday at the Monticello playoff game.
He’ll have the important job of keeping the game on track and at times being an extra official on the field. It’s what he’s always done. And he’s always taken that seriously. But for him, it seems it has also been an equally important opportunity to build friends. Those who know Denny know he’s one of the friendliest and most helpful people around. He volunteers his time with the Knights of Columbus among many other organizations. And doing the chains provided another opportunity to make and advance relationships.
“He knows many of the officials by their first name and they acknowledge him when they come onto the field,” said Frie in a letter that was read at Monticello’s last regular season home game when Holker was presented with a game ball signed by the entire Magic team.
This isn’t the first team to adore him. Holker has missed three home games in his entire career. One happened with Mick Goudy as head coach, when Holker needed surgery and was in the hospital on game night. After the game, Holker remembers Goudy and the team sending cards and a flower to his room.
As much as he cherishes the football memories, and there have been some good ones (including the ‘76 team that went all the way to the state semi’s, as well as this year’s team which he calls one of the best he’s seen here), Holker clearly cherishes the relationships even more. He lights up when talking about some of the people he has grown close to over the years of doing this.
“The guys I work with, all of the coaches I know, the kids I’ve talked to through the year,” said Holker. “That’s who I’ll miss the most.”
Holker will still be around football. He’s hoping to snare a seat in the press box next year. But without him, the sideline will likely be a little more quiet and a little less bright. And even though Holker, a truthful man, says with a serious tone that he never affected the spot of the ball during a Monti game, his smile suggests that first downs may be just a bit tougher to come by next year.