Bemidji High School football assistant coach Jim McKeon was named a winner of the prestigious Butch Nash Award on Saturday.
The longtime BHS coach won the award at the annual Minnesota Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame banquet in Minneapolis. The Butch Nash Award is given to assistant coaches in the state who play a prominent role in their school’s football program and own qualities that make them “the epitome of the ideal assistant coach.”
At the awards presentation, McKoen was described as “the godfather of Bemidji football. He has spent 20 years being a positive force for kids at Bemidji High School. Through it all, his commitment to his ‘boys,’ willingness to sacrifice for others and his dedication to our sport has been immeasurable. We in the Bemidji community are extremely fortunate to have coach McKeon, and we are ecstatic that his work is being recognized at the state level.”
In all, 13 assistants won the Butch Nash Award for the 2021 season. Joining McKeon were Jason Albrecht (Lakeville North); Steve Alger (St. Peter); Jesse Barnacle (Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton); Cory Bedel (Hancock); Jim Bentson (Pillager); Andy Dahl (Moose Lake-Willow River); Terry Donovan (Kasson-Mantorville); Duane Ferber (New Richland-H-E-G); Jeff Gabrielson (New London-Spicer); Jon Gilmer (Lakeville South); Craig Larson (Fertile-Beltrami); and Daniel Storlie (Byron).
The Bemidji football community also poured out its support to the McKeon family in the past year. McKeon’s daughter, Gianna, was diagnosed in February 2021 with telangiectatic osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and died in January 2022 at the age of 10. All season, Lumberjacks from near and far rallied around the McKeons with support ranging from finances to on-field encouragement like wearing “Team G. Pearl” shirts and other purple apparel in Gianna’s honor.
Jim McKeon has coached at Bemidji for 20 seasons. He has been on board for six of the program’s eight section championships, reaching the state tournament in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2018. The Lumberjacks finished as high as second in the state in 2011 and went 6-4 as a section runner-up in 2021.