Tigers welcome football hero Flood home
A long glance over the packed stands at Keith Roman Field Friday night was all Joe Flood needed to know that he was home.
“The town has changed a lot,” Flood, a two-time second team All-State linebacker for the Douglas Tigers in the early 90s, said.
“But this,” gesturing out at the crowd and across the field, “This is exactly the same.”
The same light towers still illuminate the smoke coming off the barbecue, leaving a gray haze hovering over the Tiger faithful while Ken Carr’s voice still booms over the P.A. system, cascading up into the starry Sierra sky.
The same coaches still walk the sidelines, and the same fans still grace the bleachers late into the night.
The same Rock of India still sits in the south end zone, a rallying point for the varsity boys since Flood’s sophomore year.
While most any former Tiger player would remember this field as home, it holds a special place in Flood’s heart.
It’s where he found his family.
Flood moved to Gardnerville from the Bay Area in 1989 with little hope.
“I was an insecure teenager,” he said. “I had been physically, verbally and emotionally abused at different times throughout my childhood.
“My dad had a serious drug addiction and my mom was always searching for the right man, with or without me.”
He found an escape with his freshmen football teammates, but in 1990, his mother’s second marriage failed and she decided to leave.
Joe decided not to go with her.
“This community took me in,” Flood said. “This community taught me the value of kindness, giving and stability.”
Andy and Mary Burnham took Flood in to live with them and their children.
“They really taught me the true meaning of love, being loved and the importance of family.
“They actually sat down and ate dinner together. Their boys and I worked in the yard and played whiffle ball together. It really was what life was all about.”
Flood said that during the school year, different families would invite him to dinners and trips to Lake Tahoe.
“It made me feel like a was a part of this great community,” Flood said. “So many people did so much for me, I just wish I could say thank you to all of them.”
While Flood was finding support off the field, he was quickly becoming one of the greatest defensive players in Douglas history on it.
He was brought up to play with the varsity squad in the season finale of his sophomore season against Granata High in Livermore.
In his junior year, he was on the first Douglas team to beat Wooster High School. He was also named the KGVM player of the week when he registered 16 tackles, forced a fumble and had an interception as Douglas handed South Tahoe its only loss of the season.
He broke the school record that season with 108 tackles in only eight games and earned second-team All-State honors for his efforts.
Flood earned first-team All-Conference honors after his senior year and was named the Bank of America player of the week three times. In a game against Elko, he had four fumble recoveries in one game. He also had 22 tackles, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble against Fallon. He was voted the co-recipient of the team’s Most Inspirational Player Award.
He also found a role model in Douglas High coach Mike Rippee.
“For a while, my father was not available and I really needed guidance,” Flood said. “I was forming a personality without my parents. But coach always listened to me, and told me was capable of anything.
“It took a few years to sink in, but he helped me to believe in myself. He is the greatest coach in the world. Not because of his X’s and O’s, but because he took the time to teach us values. Winning is so important to him, but he would never cheat.”
Flood recalled one game specifically in 1994 when Douglas beat rival South Tahoe with an ineligible player.
“When coach Rippee and (Douglas athletic director Steve) Wilcox found out, they forfeited the game immediately,” he said
He looked to Rippee for advice in his college career as well.
“I was playing at Modesto Junior College and I remember the coaches telling us that there was a difference between use and abuse with steroids.
“I was very undersized and I asked Rippee what he thought. I still remember he said, ‘What if you took them and it caused a birth defect in your children or it prohibited children all together?’
“I never took steroids and today I get to raise two very beautiful boys in the same manner that the people of Douglas County taught me.
“I show them love, the values of giving, stability, the importance of family and kindness.”
Flood was inducted into the Tiger Football Hall of Fame Friday night, and was accompanied by his wife and two sons. After Carr announced that Flood prays his sons will one day be Tiger football players, the crowd in attendance gave a boisterous cheer.
“Joe, we hope your prayers are answered,” Carr said.
Flood graduated from Sacramento State and teaches high school in California for students who are emotionally challenged. After six marriages between them, his parents were remarried. His dad has been clean for 13 years.
“It wrenches my stomach a little bit being back here tonight,” Flood said. “Because I wish I could live here so bad. It makes me miss this whole community. Everyone is just so friendly and warm.
“I pray that God blesses this valley for being such great people.”
Also inducted into the hall of fame Friday were Ron Hall, Cameron Alder and Ted Borda.
Hall graduated from Douglas in 1974. He holds the school record for points scored in a game (48 against Fallon in 1973) and was selected as an All-League fullback that year. He also won two state championships in wrestling and was on the Douglas track team that won the state title in 1974.
He began teaching in Douglas County in 1978 and retired last June after 26 years of teaching and 25 years of coaching with the football team. He also coached and officiated wrestling.
His sons, Drew and Grant, each played football and wrestled for Douglas.
Alder was an honorable mention All-State linebacker in 1988. In 1989, he was a second-team All-State linebacker.
He attended BYU and started at outside linebacker for the junior varsity team his freshman year.
He was brought up to the varsity squad and traveled to the 1990 Holiday Bowl with the Cougars. He earned an undergraduate degree from BYU and then earned his M.B.A. with honors from Purdue.
Borda was the fifth of his family to serve as the Douglas High student body president. He was Douglas’ varsity quarterback in 1970, ’71 and ’72. In 1972, he was the league’s leading rusher and was a first-team all-state running back that same year.
From 1973 to 1977, he played football at the College of Idaho and started as an offensive guard his senior year.
He was a Northern Nevada high school football coach in 2A, 3A and 4A leagues for 16 years. He finished coaching in 1995.
— Joey Crandall can be reached at email@example.com or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.