Puetz’s impact felt for decades
The Scotus Central Catholic High family is in mourning after losing one of its most legendary and impactful coaches and teachers over the weekend.
Jim Puetz, synonymous with the Shamrocks since the late 1960s, passed away on Saturday at the Monarch Hospice in Lincoln. For the better part of the last 12 months, he had gone through a bout of influenza, began a regiment of kidney dialysis and struggled with diabetes.
Puetz was 77.
His death comes ahead of a week in which Scotus is set to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its 1993 state championship football team – one of three Puetz helped deliver as either the head coach or assistant.
His career spanned 35 years on the football staff at Scotus, included 26 seasons as the head boys track coach and 41 years in the classroom. He was an assistant on the 1967 football state title team and the head coach of the 1984 and 1993 championships.
On the track, he led the Shamrock boys to back-to-back state-winning track trophies in 1978 and 1979 and to runner-up finishes two other times.
The number of young men in athletics, and young people in the classroom, he interacted with in his four decades in Columbus are too numerous to count.
Puetz coached his final game in 2001 and taught his final lesson in 2007.
He was the Lincoln Journal Star Boys Coach of the Year in 1993, an inductee into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and a recipient of the Skip Palrang Memorial Award in recognition of outstanding and dedicated service to high school football and athletes in 2016.
“He believed in power football. One of his mantras was to play as many kids as we possibly could. Any time we could rotate a player, we tried to do that and play many kids,” brother Gary Puetz said in an interview Monday afternoon. “As far as pure football, he probably put more emphasis on offense than defense when it came down to it.”
Puetz’s football teams amassed a 235-96-6 record (.706 winning percentage) in his time at Scotus.
Prior to the Shamrocks, he spent a year at Springview in 1961, the following two years in Central City, then 1965 and 1966 at Nebraska City Lourdes.
Gary joined his staff in the fall of 1975.
“One of his strong points was that he let his coaches coach. We had meetings every morning to go over what we were going to do at practice with the whole coaching staff. Everyone was allowed to put in their two cents and everyone was allowed to write up what they were going to do in their own group sessions,” Gary recalled. “I didn’t feel like I had any more authority or any less authority than anyone else.”
Nebraska began a postseason playoff system in 1975. Puetz and Scotus qualified for the first time in 1984 and won four straight for the school’s second state championship. Over the next 18 seasons, the Shamrocks were in the playoffs 14 times including his final year in 2001.
In that span, Scotus won 17 playoff games. Puetz’s playoff record was 17-13. His 17 postseason victories account for 71 percent of the Shamrocks all-time playoff wins while his 30 playoff games are 64 percent of the total playoff games in school history.
“He enjoyed having a good time with the kids; he tried to make it fun. But also, we were pretty tough,” Gary said. “He demanded quite a bit of the kids during practice. He didn’t demand as much during the summer other than the weight room. We wanted to have short, exciting, productive practices. Jim didn’t believe in going out there for two and a half hours. If we weren’t out of there in an hour and 45 minutes, we weren’t following the practice schedule.”
In addition to the halftime celebration for the 1993 team, Scotus is in discussions to honor Puetz prior to the kickoff on Friday against West Point-Beemer.
The ’93 championship group scored 439 points while allowing just 114 and included All-State selections Brandon Drum, Chris Kinnison, Jeff Herdzina and Scott Sobota.
A mass of Christian Burial for Puetz is scheduled for Thursday morning at 10:30 at St. Bonaventure Church. He will be laid to rest at All Saints Cemetery in a ceremony after the mass.
Visitation is from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Bonaventure, followed by a Vigil at 7.
“He was always the emotional leader of the team,” Gary said. “Rick Grubaugh ran the offense, Jim pretty much ran the defense and I ran the special teams and both lines, but when it came to being the emotional leader, that was definitely Jim.
“We have good parents and good kids. I’m sure whoever would have been here would have been successful. But there’s no doubt because he stayed around so long and coached so many games, he had a big, big impact on Scotus and probably on a lot of other high schools that we competed against.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.