All his life, Sonny Detmer has been obsessed with any sport that involved a ball, so when his playing days ended he put his heart and soul into coaching.
Sonny then had the rare experience for a father impassioned by sports. He became a high school coach and his two sons, Ty and Koy, became talented enough and stayed motivated enough to star for BYU and Colorado. Ty won the Heisman Trophy, both earned All-America citations and Ty set numerous collegiate passing marks.
Both had NFL careers.
How many fathers experience that?
I’ve known Sonny Detmer since the summer of 1986, after Ty’s junior year of high school. Sonny’s unbridled enthusiasm is something to behold. He is a kind, intelligent and funny football savant.
Now at 71, when many men his age seek retirement, a rocking chair, golf and a nice fishing hole, Sonny remains at his post coaching at 5A Region IV Somerset High just outside San Antonio, Texas, not too far from Southwest High where Ty rewrote city and state passing records.
“My sisters won’t let him retire,” said Ty Detmer. “They want him to coach their sons, so he’s still at it.”
This has been a fun extravaganza to watch.
The latest grandson of Sonny to make a college choice is Koy Detmer Jr., Koy’s son and Ty’s nephew, who agreed to accept a preferred walk-on status at BYU this fall. Koy Jr. will try to help offensive coordinator Robert Anae rebuild the Cougars' QB depth which lacks an experienced backup to senior starter Taysom Hill.
Other Hill backup candidates are Tanner Mangum, just off a church mission, and dual-threat Beau Hoge, the son of ESPN football analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Merril Hoge. Anae told the media last week sophomore McCoy Hill, who was hurt on the first day of spring practice, isn’t expected to be healed by fall camp in August.
In 2014, Sonny’s grandson Zadock Dinkelmann, then only 14 and the Somerset QB who will follow Koy, Jr., committed to play football at LSU. His oral commitment is part of the 2018 Tiger recruiting class considered the youngest in school history. Dinklemann is the son of Ty and Koy’s sister, Dee.
Another grandson, Stevie Joe Dorman, is expected to be the starter this year at Southern Arkansas after transferring from his uncle Koy’s alma mater, Colorado. He too was coached by grandpa Sonny at Somerset.
“My dad still loves it,” said Ty. “He called me the other day and told me he’d taken Somerset to San Antonio to compete in a seven-on-seven tournament. He was all giddy and laughing how they took down the big boys today. They didn’t know what they were in for.”
Sonny grew up in Lawrenceburg, Indiana as the only son of Hubert and Doris Detmer and excelled at football, basketball, baseball and track. He was a Sporting News All-American wide receiver at Wharton College (Texas) and went on to play baseball and basketball at Florida State.
“Sonny was a great, great athlete and super guy,” according to former teammate Dr. Ron Bateman of Fort Collins, Colorado. “He had the best pair of hands I’ve ever seen. He played center field in baseball and wide receiver in football. He was a tremendous hitter at the plate.”
It has to be satisfying that through his grandsons, his legacy continues.
Koy now serves as his father's offensive coordinator and play-caller at Somerset.
In BYU-bound Koy Junior, Uncle Ty says the Cougars are getting a chip off the block, as well as someone who loves the game like the Detmer men before him. “He has a great passion for the game. He loves football and you can see it in all he does,” said Ty.
Nobody can predict what impact Koy Junior may have or even if the walk-on will get playing time. But by choosing BYU Koy Jr. will certainly have plenty of eyes on him. The Detmer name resonates big-time in Provo.
“He’s a sharp kid, he’s a gym rat. He’s been around football his whole life and understands it, sees it and throws it well,” said Ty.
“If he can put a little weight on these first few years and get his legs underneath him, he’s the kind of kid who can make it at that level because he competes, plays hard and has a good time with it. He’ll have a good time running the scout team or anything they want him to do, and like it.”
Note: Ty Detmer will bring in three-time Pro Bowl QB Mark Brunell and two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner to his QB Elite camp July 6-7 in Salt Lake City (QBelite.com). The camp has filled out its senior high slots, but has room for middle school athletes (grades 6-8).
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at email@example.com.