“Once a Red Devil, always a Red Devil.”
It’s a quote I’ve heard Dick Sturm say many times throughout his outstanding coaching career at Ravenswood – first as an assistant and later as the storied program’s head coach for 15 seasons.
Aside from four years as a Salem Tiger and one season as an assistant at Magnolia High School in New Martinsville – home of the Blue Eagles, Sturm has had red and black running through his veins.
Long before making his way to Ravenswood, Sturm grew up worshiping another band of Red Devils – Calhoun County’s, guided by an iconic coach in Wayne Underwood.
Sturm would eventually make his way to high school and become a star for Underwood as a lineman.
He represented Calhoun in the then prestigious Little Kanawha Conference North-South All-Star Football game in 1961.
Sturm’s coaches in the game ironically were Jim Spano and Joe Bokovitz, who were guiding the program at Ravenswood. Spano led Ravenswood to a pair of state championships before his untimely death in his early ‘30s. Bokovitz would later become Ravenswood’s head coach.
Little did Sturm know at the time he would ultimately spend the bulk of his professional life in Ravenswood as a gifted teacher and coach.
Sturm feels blessed while at Calhoun to have played for the legendary Underwood, who was 125-33-7 as Calhoun’s head coach, before suffering a sudden heart attack on the steps of the old school in Grantsville.
“Coach Underwood was a different individual. He was very mild-mannered, he didn’t rant and rave,” said Sturm, speaking fondly of his high school coach.
“Coach Underwood dealt with boys from Calhoun County, of course, a rural area, farm boys and stuff like that. He gave you a sense of self-esteem in football, but really in life and so on.”
Underwood wasn’t solely fixated on football according to Sturm, who still owns a farm in Calhoun County.
“He would stop and pick us up and take us over to Arnoldsburg (a small Calhoun County community) to play baseball with kids in that area.”
Sturm said Underwood was constantly looking to lend a helping hand.
It’s a trait Sturm would apply during his years in teaching and coaching.
As an assistant, Sturm was a part of two state championship teams at Ravenswood. As head coach, he guided his Red Devil teams to 111 wins, including several playoff appearances and an appearance in the 2010 Class AA state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Sturm, is well-remembered for own calm demeanor.
He fell in love with Ravenswood when he arrived in 1967 and never had any desire to leave. Sturm and his wife Donna raised their three children in the Ohio River city.
Staying loyal to Ravenswood is something Sturm learned from Underwood.
“Coach Underwood had several opportunities to leave, but he fell in love with Calhoun County,” Sturm said while sipping coffee in his Gallatin Street home.
When Sturm’s Calhoun football days ended with the season of 1960, he kept his football future in the Underwood family. Sturm played at Salem for Wayne’s younger brother, Ted.
Another Underwood brother, Spike, coached in the Huntington area.
Sturm earned First Team All-West Virginia Conference honors while at Salem. He is a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in addition to being inducted into the Ravenswood High School Red Devil Football Hall of Fame and the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame.
When Wayne Underwood died suddenly, Sturm said it was tough to take.
“Any death effects a community like Calhoun County and Grantsville. That was devastating,” said Sturm. “He was well-respected and admired by so many people.”
Just as Sturm is in Ravenswood for his years of work and loyalty.
He has great memories playing for Calhoun County at the old field in downtown Grantsville and certainly the years coaching at Flinn Field (now known as Flinn Field at Spano-Taylor Stadium).
He was a standout Tiger for four years and a bright young coach for one season with the Blue Eagles.
But mostly, Dick Sturm was a man in the red and black.
A good man, indeed.
“Once a Red Devil, always a Red Devil.”