When the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers take the field in Las Vegas on February 11, Andy Lowry, Columbine High School's head football coach, will be in the stands.
Lowry just became the first person from Colorado to win the NFL's Don Shula High School Coach of the Year Award for the AFC. He’s coached at Columbine for thirty years and coached at Lakewood High School before that, so the Colorado native knows his way around football in the state.
Still, getting to actually watch the big game in person is something Lowry "never dreamt" he'd be able to do, he admits.
"I was looking at the price of the tickets and there are reasons that most of us don't go," Lowry says; tickets are running near a $10,000 minimum right now. "I'm not sure on a teacher's budget that I'd ever be able to go, so that's going to be so exciting."
Lowry is bringing along his son, Columbine's athletic director and his defensive coordinator. He received two tickets after winning a local coach of the year award early in the season, courtesy of the Denver Broncos and the Colorado High School Activities Association, and then another two when he won the Don Shula award.
This season, Lowry led the Columbine Rebels to an undefeated season and a state championship, beating Cherry Creek High School for the title in December.
“It was a special year; our kids believed in us and our coaches did a great job of teaching and building those relationships,” Lowry says. “God's hand was all over us and kept us healthy and guided us. It was just a pretty magical season for us.”
The magic will continue for Lowry in Las Vegas this weekend, after he got to attend the Pro Bowl Games in Orlando last weekend. He says the NFL treated him and his NFC counterpart, Shane Fairfield of Muskegon High School in Michigan, very well.
“It's a great honor and a great, great award,” Lowry says of the Don Shula win, adding that he considers it something shared between his coaching staffs over the years as well as his family, who put time into making him the coach he is today.
His son and daughter were both home from college and present when the Broncos informed him that he had won the award.
"You know college kids over Christmas break, they usually didn't wake up until after noon," Lowry recalls. "I walked in at nine o'clock in the morning or 9:30 and I was like, 'What are you guys doing here?' ...They have great relationships with a lot of our coaches and people here, so I thought they were meeting somebody for breakfast so they just totally surprised me. It was so cool and such a blessing to have them be part of that."
The Columbine football program will receive $15,000 from the NFL Foundation and Nike, which Lowry says will go toward equipment like helmets as well as repairing golf carts for hauling equipment and water.
But first, he's looking forward to watching the many Coloradans involved in the Super Bowl. Lowry's squad played against Valor Christian High School when Christian McCaffrey — now the 49ers' star running back — was a senior there, and Lowry says that game was the only time in Columbine football history when it was mercy-ruled.
“It was very, very special to be able to watch him and just watch not only the great football player he is but just the great leader and hard worker and great role model that he's been to so many people,” Lowry says. “It's great to root for him and then, obviously, [49ers head coach Kyle] Shanahan and [general manager] John Lynch.”