Edmonds-Woodway coach John Gradwohl, wearing his signature khaki shorts, talks to players during practice on Aug. 24, 2018, in Edmonds. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Edmonds-Woodway coach John Gradwohl, wearing his signature khaki shorts, talks to players during practice on Aug. 24, 2018, in Edmonds. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Gradwohl steps down after 28 seasons leading E-W football

The 58-year-old turned his alma mater into one of the area’s most consistent programs and was the longest-tenured coach in Wesco.

EDMONDS — There’s a running joke among the students and staff at Edmonds-Woodway High School regarding longtime football coach John Gradwohl. Gradwohl is notorious for wearing his khaki shorts no matter how cold the temperature may be, so when the school held Dress Like Your Teacher Day a few years back it wasn’t hard to identify the students who chose Gradwohl as their subject.

But after 28 seasons, Gradwohl decided it was time for he and his khaki shorts to step away from the sidelines.

Gradwohl, the dean of Wesco football coaches, is stepping down from his position at Edmonds-Woodway. The 58-year-old will remain a physical education teacher at the school.

“I suppose there are a lot of reasons,” Gradwohl said when asked why he felt now was the time to step down. “I think it’s the best thing for the program, and the best thing for me. I think the program needs a little bit of a reboot, get someone in with new ideas and new energy, I think that will be good for the school and the kids. I’m going to miss it, I still love it. But I don’t think I’m able to give the program what is needed.”

Gradwohl, who graduated from Woodway High School in 1983, turned his alma mater into one of the most consistent programs in Wesco. In his 28 seasons — which made Gradwohl the longest-tenured football coach in Wesco — he compiled a 174-100 record, won 10 Wesco championships and guided the Warriors to six state playoff appearances, including trips to the Class 4A state semifinals in back-to-back seasons in 2006 and 2007.

“To put it simply, John is Edmonds-Woodway football,” Edmonds School District athletic director Angie McGuire said. “Over the last 28 years, he has created an atmosphere of high expectations in his program and has put competitive teams on the field each year. He has also created a football program where players know they can count on him for anything — whether it is related to football, school or life. He is there for the athletes without condition.

“We have been fortunate to have John at EW for the last 28 seasons. His mark on the football program and in the community is something that will last for a long time.”

Gradwohl never set out to coach his alma mater. After playing for legendary football coach Frosty Westering at Pacific Lutheran University, Gradwohl moved to California, where spent two years as a teacher and football coach at Ramona High School near San Diego and three years at Berkeley High School in the Bay Area. But after marrying his wife Margie, the couple moved back to the Puget Sound region. That happened to coincide with the football coaching job opening up at Edmonds-Woodway, which was the product of Woodway and Edmonds high schools merging in 1990. Gradwohl applied for the jobs at both Edmonds-Woodway and Mountlake Terrace, and he took the Warriors job because that’s where he interviewed first. His first season in charge was 1996.

Since then Gradwohl became an institution of Snohomish County high school football, with his 28 years at one school rivaling the likes of Dick Armstrong’s 32 years at Snohomish. Among the players he coached during his tenure were future NFLers Keith Grennan and Ali Gaye. His career concluded with a season in which Edmonds-Woodway went 5-1 in Wesco 3A South play and 6-4 overall, advancing to the Week 10 playoffs.

“I feel good about (my time as Edmonds-Woodway’s coach),” Gradwohl said. “I feel like the program is in a pretty good place. It wasn’t perfect, as coaches we’re evaluating ourselves all the time and finding things we could have done better. But I feel it’s in a good place for the next coach, there’s a good team coming back and a pretty good tradition. I feel like most every year we ended the season playing a game that matters, and that makes it exciting for the kids. Looking back at all the different decades is a little overwhelming, but in a good way.”

While Gradwohl’s teams experienced plenty of success, he said his favorite memories didn’t necessarily revolve around the biggest successes.

“I think some of my favorite memories are when the kid who wasn’t the star player made the big play,” Gradwohl said.

“I had a couple teams that finished third in state — and those were exciting trips — but I remember another team that started 0-4 and ended up finishing 5-5, and I was just so proud of the team for not giving up and hanging in there and having success.

“I had some great athletes, but I also think of the players over the years who played out of position to help the team. I could list so many kids who did whatever it took to help the team. Seeing kids make sacrifices for the betterment of the team and be unselfish is pretty cool.”

Gradwohl also went out of his way to acknowledge his assistant coaches, as well as express gratitude for the support he received from school administration throughout his 28 years.

Because Gradwohl is remaining at Edmonds-Woodway as a teacher, he said he was ready to help out the new coach in any capacity, including staying completely away if asked. And Gradwohl didn’t rule out the possibility of returning to coaching in the future.

“You never say never,” Gradwohl said. “I know I need some time away right now. Maybe I’ll never coach again, maybe I will. Who knows what the future holds.”

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

Jean-Luc Baker leads advanced students through a warmup during the Seattle Skating Club 2024 Your True Step figure skating seminar on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at Olympic View Arena in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Patterson: What’s next for local Olympian Jean-Luc Baker?

The Edmonds ice dancer brought Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen to town with Your True Step.

Logan Gilbert of the Seattle Mariners throws a pitch during the second inning against the Texas Rangers at T-Mobile Park on June 16, 2024, in Seattle, Washington. (Alika Jenner / Getty Images)
Mariners week: Gilbert’s brilliance lifts Seattle to sweep

Seattle’s 8 1/2-game lead in the AL West is its largest since the 2001 season.

AquaSox week in review: Mariners’ Polanco does rehab stint

Everett wins five of six on the road against Eugene; Schreck and Garcia have big weeks.

Women’s PGA Championship offers fans chance to watch and learn

The women’s golf major tournament comes to Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish beginning Thursday.

Jackson senior and UNLV commit Yanina Sherwood is The Herald’s 2024 Softball Player of the Year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
2024 Softball Player of the Year: Jackson’s Yanina Sherwood

With both her arm and bat, Sherwood led the Timberwolves to their second-straight state title.

Kamiak’s Synclair Mawudeku (2) pitches during a 4A softball game between Kamiak and Jackson at Kamiak High School on Tuesday, April 9, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. Jackson won, 9-0. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
The Herald’s 2024 All-Area softball team

Editor’s note: The Player of the Year and All-Area teams were chosen… Continue reading

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba catches the game-winning touchdown pass as Eagles cornerback James Bradberry defends in the fourth quarter on Dec. 18. (Yong Kim / Tribune News Service)
Seahawks look to fully unlock Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s potential

Seattle is expecting good things from the receiver, who was taken 20th overall in the 2023 draft.

Everett 8-year-old Ryder Romano was selected to compete in the prestigious Brick Invitational Hockey Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Brittany Walker)
Everett 8-year-old selected to prestigious hockey tournament

Ryder Romano will play at the Brick Invitational Hockey Tournament on July 1-7 in Edmonton, Alberta.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon (21) celebrates a stop of Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) during the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Nov. 30, 2023. The Cowboys won, 41-35. (Tom Fox / Tribune News Service)
Captain of the Seahawks defense? Why it could be Witherspoon

The talented second-year cornerback brought ‘outrageous energy’ to Seattle’s minicamp.

Drew Bryson, the new Arlington boys basketball head coach, at Arlington High School on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arlington taps alum Bryson to continue boys hoops tradition

The former Eagles star succeeds Nick Brown as Arlington’s head coach.

Why Seahawks are joining NFL trend with joint practices

Seattle will conduct practices with the Tennessee Titans prior to their preseason game.

Seattle Storm head coach Noelle Quinn on the sidelines June 15, 2023, during a game against the Las Vegas Aces in Las Vegas. (Ellen Schmidt / Las Vegas Review-Journal, file)
As WNBA exposure grows, Storm content to quietly stack wins

Amid the Caitlin Clark-fueled buzz, Seattle has won seven of its past eight.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.