NORMAN — Friday was an important night for the Norman High football team — but probably not the one most people would think.
While the Tigers easily rolled to a big victory over Choctaw on Homecoming to remain undefeated in district play, there was another Tiger football squad that took the field.
That would be the 1992 team, which celebrated its 20-year reunion on Harve Collins Field last night at halftime to be honored for the state title they won two decades ago. About 30 players or coaches showed up on Friday from a Tigers’ team that defeated Lawton Eisenhower, 17-14, 20 years ago to give NHS its second state title in football.
“That 1992 team won the state title, and those are the special teams,” NHS coach Greg Nation said. “That’s something we’ve tried to instill in our kids. Winning a state championship is unlike anything else. It creates a special bond with your teammates and your school.”
One of those teammates on that team was John Heavner, who was a junior tight end for the Tigers in 1992.
“That was a really good group of guys, and obviously we had some great players on that team, with several division-one players,” he said. “It was a fun group, and when it’s fun you can be successful.”
Success is something familiar to Heavner. After graduating college, he went on to have a successful coaching career in football, with stops ranging from East Central to Southern Missouri to Toledo, and, finally, at Dordt College, a private NAIA school in Iowa.
At Dordt, Heavner presided over the inception of the football program and became its first head coach in 2007, a position he held until this year. In December, Heavner decided it was time for a change, and moved his family back to Oklahoma to be closer to family. He also left coaching for the first time in his life, taking a sales job based out of Norman. A move, he joked, to the first “real job” of his life.
“I have three kids and I wanted to be back here to raise them near their grandparents,” he said. “It’s nice being back here.”
One of the unexpected benefits of the move was being able to attend Friday’s reunion and see friends he hadn’t seen in years.
“It’s awesome to get to come back and see guys you haven’t talked to in a long time,” he said. “They always tell you that winning a championship is a big deal, but as you get older it doesn’t always seem that way. But being back out here with your kids, and that great feeling comes back.”