By Aram Tolegian
There’s no telling just how impressive the career of Monrovia High School football coach Ryan Maddox might be when it’s all said and done.
But judging by its infancy stage, Valley football fans could be looking at a legend in the making. A local version of Nick Saban, perhaps.
Maddox is in his fifth season at Monrovia. It’s his first varsity football head coaching job. His 5-year record is 58-11. He’s won five consecutive Rio Hondo League titles and three CIF championships. And Maddox is only 40 years old.
Maddox and his Wildcats will enter uncharted territory on Saturday when they host Madison of San Diego in the CIF State Division III bowl game qualifier. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
“You would hope to just get one CIF championship, but it’s been a blessing,” Maddox said of his career to date. “I don’t know that it’s all sunk in yet because we’re still going. I can’t sit here and relish what we’ve done because I’ve got to keep the focus on playing this week against Madison.
“We’re not done yet. That’s the true nature and competitiveness of it and that’s what I love.”
Maddox graduated from South Hills High in 1990. He played tight end/linebacker/safety for the Huskies, but said he was not a standout but simply a solid player.
After high school, Maddox eventually wound up at Cal State Fullerton where he got a degree in political science. After waiting tables and being a bartender to help put money in his pocket, Maddox decided he wanted a full-time job and teaching would be his calling.
An impromptu interview at the Covina- Valley Unified School District office where Maddox showed up in shorts just hoping to submit an application led to his hiring as a sixth-grade English and history teacher at Sierra Vista Middle School, where Maddox attended as a child.
Maddox coached the school’s flag football team and soon got a call from West Covina head coach Mike Maggiore, because a friend referred Maddox to him. The offer was short and simple: Come be the junior varsity head coach at West Covina and help out the varsity staff on Friday nights. Maddox accepted after talking it over with then-South Hills coach Steve Bogan and principal Judi North.
It was apparent right away Maddox knew what he was doing. West Covina’s junior varsity team went 9-1 in Maddox’s first season and the following season he was on Maggiore’s staff coaching wide receivers and defensive backs.
Maddox rose to offensive coordinator for a few seasons, then shifted to defensive coordinator in 2004 when West Covina won the first of three CIF championships under Maggiore. Maddox soon after felt it was time to go in search of his own program.
He sought the Ayala job in 2006, but it went Tom Inglima. He went for the Diamond Ranch job that same year and it went to Roddy Layton. When Steve Garrison decided to step down after a successful run at Monrovia, Maddox pounced and finally got the nod.
Maddox wasted little time making a name for himself. Along with assistant coaches Craig Schuster, Mike Minter and Donald Davis, Monrovia was equipped for success.
The Wildcats won the Rio Hondo League in Maddox’s first season, but were out of the playoffs in the semifinals. The following season, Monrovia won league again and reached the championship game before falling to San Dimas on a rainy night at Citrus College.
At a school that had just fallen to 0-10 in CIF championship games, Maddox knew he wanted to be defined as the guy who got the Wildcats over the top.
It happened a year later when Monrovia blew out Whittier Christian to win the 2010 Mid-Valley Division championship. Then it happened again the following season when Monrovia beat San Gabriel to repeat as champs. It happened again this season when Monrovia overcame the two teams CIF had placed in the division to make things harder on the Wildcats and won a third consecutive championship. Not bad for a 40-year-old in his first head coaching gig.
“In a way, yes, it made it sweeter,” Maddox said. “The first one was my first and the school’s first after having been there 10 times and losing. That was pretty special for the community. But this one, it carries that weight because of who we beat.
“We beat a defending state champion (Sierra Canyon) to get to that game and then we beat the No. 1 team in our division (Paraclete) to win the championship. This is probably the most fulfilling (championship).”
There are no secrets to Monrovia’s success, Maddox said. He has picked the brains of Concord De La Salle coach Bob Ladoceur and Servite’s Troy Thomas.
He almost became an assistant under Thomas before deciding the commute was too far to handle with a burgeoning family at home.
Really, it’s just hard work. Maddox arrives on Sunday mornings at the crack of dawn and works for 17 hours going over film of that week’s opponent, conjuring up a game plan and drafting a practice plan. Maddox estimated the time he spends on just coaching adds up to 40-50 hours per week. That’s in addition to being a history teacher at Monrovia.
In just five seasons, Maddox has accomplished double or triple what most coaches would hope to do in an entire career. And it’s not over yet as the Wildcats are two wins away from a state championship bowl victory. It’s scary to think what heights Maddox may take Monrovia or his own personal career to over the next two decades.
But as anybody who knows the soft-spoken, hard-working man of faith, he will do it with very little fanfare and plenty of hard work and humility.
“I have looked at and kind of modeled myself after different successful head coaches,” Maddox said. “I’ve built my program on those ideas. There’s probably nothing new in any of it. It’s getting good people surrounding good kids. There are no secrets to it.”