On Wednesday, the Houston Texans officially named Santa Fe head football coach Mark Kanipes as their nominee for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award, which recognizes the nation’s best coaches on the high school level.
It may have taken an unimaginable tragedy to bring the Indians football team and their head coach to the forefront among the many great Houston-area programs and coaches the Texans could have chosen from, but Santa Fe’s season, alone, made Kanipes a worthy candidate for this distinction.
Among the criteria for the award is on-field success, and when it comes to that, Kanipes guided the Indians to a rare level of success in the program’s history, as the team qualified for the playoffs for only the fourth time ever and first time since 2009.
Dedication to the community is another quality factored into the award, and Kanipes has shown that, as well. After the school shooting at the high school on May 18 that killed 10 and injured 13 more, many staff members and students opted to not return for this school year — understandably so. But Kanipes stayed.
Kanipes had spent four seasons prior to this one steadily building the Santa Fe program from consistently being at the bottom of the district standings to one that, this season, had to be taken seriously as a playoff contender. He gave the community a leader and a team that brought joy to a town in need of it.
The award’s other criteria — character and integrity, leadership, and commitment to player health and safety — it can be said go hand-in-hand with this.
And for these reasons, Kanipes’ nomination should be seen as more than just a sympathy vote to a coach and a community that went through a tragedy. Adding that tragedy to the circumstances surrounding Kanipes’ credentials for the award only makes him a stronger candidate.