Rob Molholm, Evergreen High’s head football coach, wears on his right middle finger the ring he received when the Wheat Ridge High School Farmers won the state championship in 1996.
He wears it as a reminder of what it takes to be a state champion, and he’s set that lofty goal for his Evergreen Cougars. EHS has never won a state football championship.
“It has a special place in my heart, and it reminds me of what I’m striving for,” he said of the ring.
Molholm, 34, has a staff of more than a dozen assistant coaches to help him guide the team. None of those assistants is more important that his offensive coordinator — his dad, Keith Molholm.
Together, they eat, sleep and breathe football, whether it’s talking daily about the team or watching college football games together equipped with notepads to write down plays that might work for EHS.
Keith, known as “Coach Senior” to the players and the other coaches, is proud of everything his son has accomplished. He is happy to share Rob’s successes and to help ease the pain of the failures.
“Rob’s grown into his role (as head coach), and it’s satisfying to see,” Senior said.
For more than a decade, the father-son duo have coached together in various capacities at other Jeffco high schools. For many of those years, Senior was the boss and Rob was the assistant.
“(Now) he’s the boss, and that is something I fully respect and understand,” said Senior, 62. “He tells me who he wants to play full-time on defense. He gets first pick, and that’s the way the head coach is.”
Rob said of his father: “I have a great father-son relationship.
We talk every day. We talk about life. We’re like best friends.”
This year’s team lost in the first round of the playoffs against Silver Creek High School.
An early love
Rob’s love for football began at age 7, when his dad took him to a Denver Broncos game at Mile High Stadium. John Elway was the quarterback, and Dan Reeves was the coach.
A few years later, Rob’s Halloween costume was of Reeves, even though a lot of other boys were dressed as Elway.
“I always wanted to be a coach,” Rob said.
Rob played midget and high school football, always offensive or defensive line, some of the time with his dad as a coach.
“He was hard on me,” Rob said. “He had to make it as fair as possible.”
Senior was a coach at Wheat Ridge High when Rob was earning a degree in history and political science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Senior managed to get Rob an offensive-line coaching job for the Wheat Ridge freshman team.
“I would not have gotten my (coaching) start that early if not for him,” Rob said. “I was only four or five years older than the players. In fact, I’m still Facebook friends with most of them.”
Soon, Rob was coaching the junior varsity defense and Senior was coaching the JV offense — “a father-son deal,” as Senior called it.
The first few games, Senior called all of the plays. Then, one day, he expected Rob to do it.
Rob said: “I told him, ‘I have no idea what to do.’ ”
Senior responded: “You’ll figure it out,” adding, “I knew he would grow quicker (as a coach) if he gained the confidence.”
In two years, the Wheat Ridge JV team had a 16-4 record.
The Molholms also have coached together at Jefferson High School.
A move to Evergreen
Rob graduated from CU in 2002, took a long-term substitute position at Denver’s West High School, and then did his student teaching in the spring of 2003 at EHS, which turned into a full-time teaching job.
He took 2005 off from coaching to get a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Denver.
In 2006, Rob took an assistant coach position at EHS, and in 2007 Senior did the same. In 2009, Rob was named head coach, and Senior continued on the staff.
“2009 was a rough year,” Rob said. “We went 3-7, and we haven’t had a losing team since.”
In the meantime, Senior had a 20-year career with the former Keebler Cookie Co. in Denver, worked for a short time for CU, and in 2006 he took a job as the support services purchasing manager for Jeffco Schools.
The way others see it
Patti Molholm, Senior’s wife of 37 years and Rob’s mom, said she wasn’t sure it would work when the two said they would be coaching together. She was pleasantly surprised.
“They both love football,” she said, “but they both see it in a different perspective. It has worked, and they have something in common. What I like about it is, they feed off each other and bounce ideas off each other. Do their voices get loud when they talk about football? Sure. Because they so want Evergreen to win.”
She says the two always were close, but as they get older, they are getting even closer.
Assistant coach Brent Olyowski said it was nice to see the pride both Molholms show when the players do well, but Senior shows even more pride when his son does well.
Olyowski said it was funny that when things go well during the game, Rob calls his dad “Dad.” When it’s bad, Rob calls his dad “Keith.”
Assistant coach Mike Sellers added: “They work well together. I think our staff is pretty well established as far everyone’s role.”
Offensive line coach Sean Lynch said father and son have some of the same mannerisms, and their football philosophies are the same.
“They deal with each other like a head coach and an offensive coordinator,” Lynch said.
A common philosophy
Rob and Senior are coaches because they love the players and the game.
“Outside my family, the boys are the most important thing in my life,” Rob said. “They all can drive me crazy just like children, but you still love them.”
Rob describes his coaching style as “very intense, very focused. I kind of black out during the game. My entire focus is on the field. When I’m not in that zone, I’m not as good of a coach.”
He said he gets so focused on football that sometimes he forgets to do the simple chores of life, like paying bills.
Rob and Senior have the rare distinction of both winning state championships. Senior’s was in baseball at Jefferson High School.
“When we talk to the boys about what it takes to be a state champion, we do it from experience,” Senior said. “I wasn’t a great athlete. I was a decent athlete who worked hard and had good coaching along the way. I wasn’t a superstar or anything like that. We outworked and were smarter than the other teams, at least in baseball.”
While the championship ring on his finger reminds Rob of the ultimate high school football achievement, it helps him focus on the future of EHS football.
“Wheat Ridge has a great tradition of football,” Rob said. “We’re building ours.”