Another hall call: Sun Citian Dick Fortrier earns high school honors as football player, coach

Bob Fortrier, left, and Sun City resident Dick Fortier hold their plaques after induction into the Bemidji (Minnesota) High School Athletics Hall of Fame on May 6. The Fortrier twins helped lead the Lumberjacks to a 26-0-1 record as varsity players from 1962-64. [Courtesy the Fortrier family]

Richard Smith
Independent Newsmedia

Relatively speaking, Dick Fortrier did not spend a long time playing or coaching football.

But the game was, and remains, a focal point of the Sun City resident’s life. In the past four years, two Minnesota high schools inducted him into their athletic hall of fames, one for each role.

Most recently, in May, Mr. Fortier joined the Bemidji High School Hall of fame for his playing career — as did his twin brother, Bob. His father, Bun Fortrier, Bemidji’s basketball coach for two decades, was a cornerstone of the school’s original class.

“It was quite an honor. My dad was the first one in 2001, my older brother (Ross) in 2007 and Bob and I this year,” Fortrier said.

Coached by Red Wilson, the Fortrier twins were at the heart of three undefeated Lumberjacks teams. Bemidji High went 26-0-1 from 1962 to 1964, nearly a decade before Minnesota instituted a playoff system for state champions. The twins also played basketball and took part in track and field.

They graduated in 1965 and continued as a package deal for the University of Kansas. Both played for the 9-1 1968 Jayhawks, who squared off with Penn State in the 1969 Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Mr. Fortrier graduated in 1970 with no doubt about becoming a football coach.

“That’s what I always wanted to do,” Mr. Fortrier said.

He coached three years at Tracy High School in Minnesota, then started in 1973 at Pipestone High School in the southwestern part of the state.

While Mr. Fortrier coached the Arrows for a bit less than a decade, his impact was profound. His teams finished 66-19 over the course of nine seasons.

The Arrows peaked with undefeated regular seasons in 1977, 1978 and 1980. The third of those Pipestone teams was the state runner up.

Mr. Fortrier joined the Pipestone-Jasper Athletic Hall of Fame in September 2016, alongside former players Tom Newgard and Chuck Schroyer.

“Both are wonderful to be associated with. Pipestone is a relatively new hall of fame,” Mr. Fortrier said.

Those players, and others like Cliff Carmody and Bruce and Steve Meyer, helped execute their coach’s meat and potatoes philosophy.

Mr. Fortier coached physicality and execution in the running game and on defense. He still enjoys the college and high school game.

While he keeps up on modern offenses that seem light years away from the late 1970s Pipestone Arrows, he remains firm in his conviction that games are decided at the line of scrimmage.

“I follow college football and high school football out here. We’ve had three nephews play at Northwest Christian,” Mr. Fortrier said. “When I go to a Northwest Christian game, I sit by myself near the top of the bleachers and try to see what they’re doing, like a coach would.”

Fittingly, the youngest of those nephews, Aren Van Hofwegen was an old school plowhorse for the Crusaders, even if the formation was more often a spread. Operating behind the biggest and best line in 3A, Van Hofwegen powered the team to a state title with 1,635 yards and 18 touchdowns on 258 carries.

Now, all the Van Hofwegen boys have finished their high school football careers. Mr. Fortrier said he might catch a game at Liberty High School in Peoria, the nearest school to his Sun City home.

The couple moved to Sun City in 2002, almost exactly 20 years after Mr. Fortrier stepped back from coaching to concentrate on helping his wife, Jane, raise a young family. In 1982 the Fortriers and their two sons moved to Storm Lake, Iowa, where Mr. Fortrier began a new career in sales.

Retirement has not slowed the couple down. The Fortriers keeps active by biking, dancing, hiking and weight lifting. About 10 years ago they decided to help others stay active.

For the first half of this decade, they helped another local personal trainer. In 2016 the couple established Get Fit for Life. For information on their personal training service at the seven recreation centers in Sun City, visit its Facebook page.

Their retirement home has allowed the couple the convenience of the Sun City facilities and the trappings of a major metropolitan area with some of the feel of small town Minnesota.“You’re in a big city, but yet you’re in a small city,” Mr. Fortrier said.

Northwest Christian’s Aren Van Hofwegen runs with the ball during the 2018 3A Championship Game against Yuma Catholic on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

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