When John Rade's pro career ended, he did something unusual for a retired football player—he went back to school.
Rade, the defensive coordinator for the Wood River High School Wolverines, and a former linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, had something to prove, not only to his Boise State college professors, but to himself.
Now 46, Rade acknowledges that in his younger days, when he played defensive end at Boise State, he "majored in eligibility." The second time around though, he took school seriously, retaking classes he'd previously passed, earning 4.0 grade averages, impressing his professors and graduating with a degree in finance.
Rade, who doubles at WRHS as assistant athletic director, is a studious guy. He studies the game of football, he studies academically, and he studies life.
"Sports is about life," Rade said. "You have successes and you have failures. And you've got to learn to be able to deal with both."
Rade came to WRHS last year with head football coach Mike Glenn. Rade had been Glenn's defensive coordinator for three years before that at Eagle High School near Meridian.
"I don't know if it was a package deal," Rade said. "I just tugged on his coat strings."
Glenn sees it differently. "I wasn't going to take this job without him coming up here with me," Glenn said.
Glenn and Rade have been a winning combination. They had winning seasons at Eagle, and there are high expectations that they'll make the Wolverines into a winning football team.
Rade is a California native. His father was in the military so he lived in a lot of different places.
He played two years of football at Modesto Junior College before transferring to Boise State University, where he played defensive lineman for the Broncos. He's now a member of the BSU athletic hall of fame.
In 1983 Rade was an eighth round draft pick by the Falcons. He made the team and played nine seasons at linebacker for Atlanta.
Playing for the Falcons brought out the student in Rade. He'd never played linebacker before, and the only way the position made sense to him was if he studied the entire defense. Eventually he was chosen as a team captain.
"It was a lot of study, and I lived and died football," Rade said.
Looking back at his pro career, Rade said his one regret is that he was so obsessed with the game that he didn't really take time to enjoy it enough.
"If I had it to do all over again, I truly would stop and smell the roses," he said. "I didn't appreciate what I accomplished, but instead it was just grind, grind, grind and fix all the negatives."
Rade speaks highly of the Falcon coaches he played for—Dan Henning, Marion Campbell, and especially Jerry Granville, the outspoken former head coach of the Houston Oilers.
"Yeah, I love him," Rade said. "He was great. He had a carefree attitude. If you were doing the right thing and got beat on a play, he understood and didn't come down on you. It was all about having fun, and he knew a ton about football. I learned a lot from him."
Rade was a teammate of such football notables as quarterback Steve Bartkowski, running back Gerald Riggs and cornerback Deion Sanders.
"He was an awesome teammate," Rade said of Sanders. "He was a very hard working guy. He had his media persona and his teammate persona. And the teammate persona was the real him. I really respected his abilities."
Bad knees forced Rade onto the injured reserve list in his final year with the Falcons. In 1992 he decided it was time to retire.
After his second college stint, he and former Boise State teammate Paul Unger set up a successful telecommunications business. But football was still in the back of his mind and eventually he sold his half of the business to Unger.
"And then I got the bug back—the football bug," Rade said. That happened when his son Jared, who is now a junior at WRHS and a middle linebacker for the Wolverines, started playing little league football.
Rade coached youth football for a few years, and eventually met Glenn, who recruited him as a motivational speaker for the Eagle football team.
"One thing led to another, and I became his defensive coordinator," Rade said.
Rade and Glenn share similar philosophies about football. Both of them see the game as a way to teach kids about life.
"Making an impact on a kid's life—that is really important to me," Rade said.
With son Jared playing for the Wolverines, Rade has the unique perspective of being both parent and coach.
On the football field, "I try to take the father out of the picture," Rade said. "I try to treat him like any other player. Home is father and son, and field is player and coach."
Rade and his wife Lori, a former Twin Falls resident and Rade's "college sweetheart," have purchased a home in Hailey and now consider the Wood River Valley home.
Lori is an assistant counselor at Wood River Middle School. The Rade's also have a daughter, Jenna, who is studying education at BSU.
Ever the student, in addition to his football and assistant athletic director duties, Rade was a student teacher last year at WRHS. Now, he's just a week or so away from receiving a teaching certificate in economics and business.
The Wood River High School Wolverines take on the Preston Indians tonight at 7 p.m. at Phil Homer Field in Hailey. The 0-1 Wolverines have never beaten the 1-0 Indians, but gave then a scare last year in a 7-6 defensive battle.