In the summer of 1997, weeks before he stepped under the Friday night lights as head football coach of the Webb City Cardinals, John Roderique would jolt out of his sleep. That is, with his mind swirling about, well, everything.

“Those first few weeks, I’d wake up and think, ‘What did I do?” said Roderique, who had left behind a Golden Era of Pittsburg State University football – where he had been a seven-year assistant (six full-time) – in order to lead his high school alma mater. “I could have fallen flat on my face.”

Instead, he became the face of Webb City football, guiding the Cardinals to 12 state championships, which represents the most of any high school coach in state history. Call it a success story perfectly suited for the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, which proudly inducted Roderique with the Class of 2021.

Since 1997, Roderique owns a 298-28 record. The state championships, all in Class 4, cover 1997, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.

Overall, the Cardinals have advanced to the playoffs in 22 of Roderique’s 24 seasons, reached 19 state semifinals – including eight consecutive (2008-2015) – and finished as a state-runner-up in 2004 and 2015.

Notably, his teams won 21 consecutive district titles and dominated during a 92-game, regular-season win streak (2003-2013) for the Webb City Football Program (MSHOF 2015).

“When I became a (Pitt State) assistant in 1990, I didn’t think I wanted to be a high school teacher and coach,” said Roderique.

The next few years reinforced why. A two-time All-American linebacker for the Gorillas in the late 1980s, he was soon on the coaching staff on seven NCAA Division II playoff teams, including its 1991 national title and 1992 and 1995 national runners-up.

However, with two children and another on the way, Roderique headed to Webb City, with the enormity of it all – coaching his alma mater, where he had been a multi-sport athlete, including a 1985 All-State linebacker – hitting him hard that summer.

Yet that first season?

Roderique guided those Cardinals to a 14-0 record, the first of 10 undefeated seasons. In fact, his first two victories were notable because he was matched against Branson’s Steve Hancock (MSHOF 2009) and Pittsburg (Kan.) High School’s Larry Garman (255 wins in 34 years, three state titles).

However, Webb City missed the playoffs the next two years, leading Roderique to pursue would fuel the rest of his tenure: An emphasis on youth leagues and summer football camps – engines that increased participation numbers.

He was already emphasizing both, but ratcheted up the strategy, considering 49 freshmen had joined the Webb City program in 1994, with only 22 finishing out with the 1997 team.

Results began to show in 2000, when the Cardinals earned a 42-0 playoff win against Camdenton (MSHOF 2016), which scored a 42-7 win against Webb City the prior season.

“As youth numbers grew so did the success at the high school level,” Roderique said.  “At one point, there were 72 players on one team in third grade.”

A number of other factors have fed into the success: Disciplined teams in every facet, with the ability to play smash-mouth football on both sides of the ball. The offense has gone to the air, too.

Notably, Roderique treats varsity players not like kids but like the young men they are about to become.

Said Roderique, “I remember Coach (Chuck) Broyles sitting on the couch at a recruiting visit and telling a player, ‘The decision you’re going to make will affect the next four years of your life … but what happens in those four years will have an impact on the next 40 years of your life.”

Many have influenced Roderique’s career: Coaches such as Mark McDonald, Broyles, Jerry Kill, Kurt Thompson (MSHOF 2019) as well as administrators Steve Gollhofer, Dr. Ron Lankford and Dr. Anthony Rossetti. Roderique also praises assistants, including Darrell Hicks and Mike Smith. USA Football, a development and certification non-profit, also has enhanced his career.

Additionally, the support of his wife, Heather, and their children – Hailey Derryberry, John and Tyson – has sweetened this wonderful journey.

His sons and nephews Scott Roderique, Brayden Drake and Pat Drake were all Cardinals quarterbacks.

“I may not have at the time, but I now see just how special it was,” Roderique said.

Roderique also thanks the community.

“It’s been an incredible place to coach,” Roderique said. “The parent support, community support and administrative support have been tremendous.”