A man stood on the sidelines, chewing gum and wearing his signature bucket hat, for several local football programs. Over four decades, he has impacted, literally, countless student-athletes, parents and residents. The community remembers him after years of dedicated service to Weld County.
Larry Adams, 70, died two weeks ago after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six months ago. He spent his entire life in northern Colorado, most of which was on his family’s land in Lucerne, farming or coaching football.
His coaching career was 46 years old, as old as some of the current players’ parents, and included stops at Arickaree, Highland, Eaton, Northridge, Greeley West, Resurrection Christian and the University of Northern Colorado.
Adams was what everyone should strive to be, said Tom Beck and Noland Eastin, two of his friends and former UNC players.
Eastin, now a teacher at Loveland, said Adams’ character set him apart from others. He never let his emotions run too high or too low, he spoke firmly but kindly, and service to others was the top priority.
None of his actions were done by false subtleties either. The surviving family of Eastin, Beck and Adams – as noted in his obituary – all said he was working to truly connect with those around him. He wanted to know their names and their stories. And he always remembered the details.
It’s easy to get distracted and not give others your full attention. Adams, however, did it with ease.
“He just has real authenticity to him. He always had a really calm demeanor, but when he spoke, you listened,” Eastin said. “He’s one of those guys who just demanded your respect because he did everything right, he was on time all the time. He was consistent. He never wavered in anything he never taught or coached.
Beck, who is the Northridge girls’ football coach and works in house finance, said he has never heard anyone speak ill of Adams. This is what happens when every engagement is intentional and someone is always present. It is a proof of character and integrity.
While at UNC, Adams coached wide receivers during the Bears’ Division II National Championships in 1996 and 1997. He was inducted into the UNC Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006 and 2007 due to his involvement in these two teams.
Eastin played on both teams as a defensive back, while Tom Beck was quarterback for the 1996 squad.
Although Adams was not the positional coach of either man, he played an important role in their lives and playing careers.
Beck said he will work with wide receivers and QB groups together before games and during practices. Eastin met with him whenever possible for advice. He was the kind of coach all players want – someone who expects the best, helps his athletes achieve it, and cares about their personal lives.
Adams and his team were the reason UNC won their championships. It wasn’t because the list was loaded. That’s because they created an environment where everyone could succeed, Eastin said.
“I’ve spent a lot of time talking with Larry and I really thank him for his coaching, what he’s done – not just for me but for our group of wide receivers – and for being able to snag that first banner of national championship,” added Beck. “I know he was there the next year when they won the next one. His fingerprints are all over it.
Adams also stayed in touch with both men after their time with the Bears.
When Beck took a job at Northridge, Adams and former UNC coach Kay Dalton joined the team. He remembers Dalton, an offensive coordinator for the Grizzlies, shouting into the helmet during a game, while the other two stood on the sidelines. They looked at each other for a moment before Beck said it was Adams’ turn to calm Kay down, he laughed.
Eastin coached at Roosevelt High School for nearly 20 years. Adams, though often at a rival school, served as a friend and mentor, especially early on.
Both admitted that they had not kept in touch with Adams as much as they would have liked; death reminds people how short life is.
The 1996 champion team held its 25th meeting at the Dalton home last fall. Many players and coaches were present.
“Everyone told stories and shared, and we laughed,” Beck said. “I think the stories were like fishing stories. They probably got bigger and better over time. We probably made up half of it, maybe even three quarters, but boy, we just had fun with everyone sitting down.
Beck said that was the last time he saw Adams. He wished they had spent more time talking, but it was a good memory.
Eastin also saw Adams around this time. It was a tough visit – they knew what the outcome would be – but it was special. The two had a private conversation that the young father and husband will treasure for the rest of his life.
“We talked about this situation, how difficult it could be. He handled it with class and respect,” Eastin said. “And, you know, we smiled and we cried. We laughed, and that was it.
Adams should be recognized for the kind of men Eastin and Beck have become and the way they live. He taught them that service comes first and that humility, not social media awards or approval, is what makes a person great. They think that “we” will always go further than “me”.
Samuel G. Mustari, a 42-year-old retired veteran sportswriter for the Greeley Tribune who covered UNC during Adams’ time at school, knew him professionally and personally. He agreed with Beck and Eastin.
“LA was one of the good ones,” Mustari said. “I had a lot of respect for him, partly because he went about his business without drawing attention and was very good at everything he did. He treated people fairly and was a great example of how we should all live our lives.
“Heaven has a one-person superstar at our expense.”
What a legacy to leave.
Adams graduated from Eaton High School in 1969 before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UNC. Even with his declining health, Adams visited the 2021 Eaton football team after winning the second straight 2A state championship.
His family selected a photo of a smiling Adams with the championship trophy for his obituary.
It was the perfect encapsulation of a man who has dedicated his entire life to improving the Weld County community.
“The only way to honor people like Larry is to do what he did every day. Get up every morning with a good attitude, put on your boots and go to work and try to make the world a better place by helping people others and doing the right thing,” Eastin said. “A lot of times the good thing and the hard thing are usually the same thing. I thought Larry did that every day.
Anyone wishing to make a donation in Adams’ honor can donate to Coach LA Football Memorial. All funds will support Eaton High School football and players.