By Aaron Yost
When, exactly, David Younger and Dave Heuberger first met is lost in the mists of memory.
But it was a moment that began an enduring relationship between the two Western Oregon University football players.
“We became really quick friends,” said Younger, now a co-head coach at Class 5A South Albany.
“We never played against each other, but I’ve always been a fan of following coaches, so I knew his dad had a good run at Sweet Home, and my dad was a coach at Astoria, so we had that in common,” said Heuberger, who is in his seventh season as head coach at Class 6A Roseburg.
Entering their sophomore year at WOU, having survived their freshman year in the dormitories, they and two others moved into some apartments located behind McArthur Field. At the time, they were trying to reduce their bills and live out the dream of being college football players. It was the fall of 1997.
“At first, it was the pure interest in football, then as I got to know Dave, well, his dad was also a high school football coach and high school baseball coach,” Younger said. “We started telling stories about being coaches’ kids.
“Some of his experiences, how he grew up — on the sideline, on the field with his dad, being at practices, being a ball boy or bat boy — we had those in common. That’s how I fell in love with the game, seeing the high school kids and how much fun they had with practice. It was just great.”
Their time together was predictable. Football dominated their lives: practices, workouts and games.
It was a good time to be Wolves players. Western Oregon fashioned a 7-2 record in the regular season in 1997, winning the Columbia Football Association title. The season ended with a 26-20 overtime loss to Willamette at McCulloch Stadium in Salem.
There were good times playing Sega football on Friday nights or going to a high school game to scout opponents for their fathers and friends.
“We were at North Marion with this old VHS camera and the tape dropped,” Younger said. “He had to go look for it under the bleachers.”
“We would go find those games and get out on Friday nights,” Heuberger said. “It was good to get out and see how cyclical high school football can be.”
Beyond football, there were shopping trips and workouts — events that, while seemingly mundane, forged lasting memories for both.
“We had our Lucky Number Tuesdays at Bi-Mart — that was a big outing in Monmouth,” Heuberger said. “And we’d go to WinCo on the S turns. I think it was a lot of fried egg sandwiches, Top Ramen.
“Our training table, when they gave it to us during fall camp, was corn dogs, Jo-Jo’s. You hung out by the minestrone soup. That’s about what you could get between practices.”
Shopping was an adventure as four young men — all football players — learned just how much it cost to eat at home, even on egg sandwiches and Top Ramen.
“Going to WinCo, that was a good time. And then when we would get back, the realization that it wasn’t enough,” Heuberger said.
“I remember one time, we had just gone grocery shopping, and we had pooled all our money together,” Younger said. “We got the groceries and thought we got enough to last three or four weeks. About four days in, we were out of groceries. We were always lifting and at practice, so over $100 ended up lasting us less than a week.”
Looking to get additional workouts in, the roommates contrived a method to block the weight room door from locking shut on Fridays, allowing them to gain access on the weekend. The advent of electronic security and key card access were years away, so the method worked and the guys got all the extra workouts they wanted.
“It was a good, easy way to sneak out and get an extra workout in there,” Heuberger said. “With technology now, I don’t think that it would allow that door to prop open like that.
“We had a great time going there, a great education going there, we got to play some small college football and now we get to give back and show our kids that there are other things that we want them to take away from it.”
There were conversations over their years at Western Oregon beyond comparing their childhood experiences. They talked about what if they had their own football programs — what they might run, how they would approach various aspects of being a head coach. They both got there, following similar paths.
Heuberger began as an assistant at Scappoose after finishing his degree and playing career in 2000. He moved on to Marist Catholic in Eugene, then took over the program at Springfield. Four years and a Midwestern League championship later, Heuberger was hired to replace the legendary Thurman Bell at Roseburg.
Younger left Western Oregon after the 1998 season, finishing his degree at Oregon State and starting his coaching career as an assistant for his father’s Sweet Home team. After Rob Younger retired from coaching in 2009, David Younger joined Randy Nyquist’s staff at West Albany, where he met Jeff Louber. Younger left to be the head coach at Harrisburg. Louber now is Younger’s co-head coach at South Albany.
“You mix in that we have supportive people around us, that’s a pretty big thing to have,” Heuberger said. “The support that (our wives) allow us to do it — it’s more than just a job to us. It’s something we enjoy doing and we’re willing to put up with the Facebook mafias. It’s that conversation with a kid that may have lost a parent or is making bad decisions — those are the meaningful moments.”