Before Ron Rittimann built the Johnson Jaguars into a budding football power in the San Antonio area, he had a hand in authoring some of the best moments in the history of Canyon athletics.
The 1985 graduate was a member of the first Cougar football team to ever defeat the rival New Braunfels Unicorns as a junior, and he also made consecutive trips to the state baseball tournament. Canyon’s Wurst Bowl win in 1984 led to the program’s first district title and subsequent playoff appearance.
“I am a fighting Canyon Cougar through and through,” Rittimann said. “My mom still lives in the house we moved into in 1972, so she’s still in New Braunfels. We were Canyon Cougars from day one, my sisters and I. It was a great place to grow up. New Braunfels has changed over the years. It’s a lot more crowded, but it still has that small town feel to me when I go back. Any time we drive by on I-35, I make my wife and kids have a moment of silence as we drive by the school. It’s got a special place in my heart.”
Rittimann was honored in May as the 2019 recipient of the Texas High School Coaches Association’s Tom Landry Award. The honor goes to one coach each year who has made a “significant contribution to the athletes and the game of football” in Texas and “served as a positive role model for both athletes and coaches.”
Naturally, Rittimann was flattered by the recognition.
“It’s very humbling and I’m very honored and blessed to be considered for something like that because they give one of those out a year,” Rittimann said. “It’s pretty rare and I’m very excited about it.”
Since accepting the head coaching job at Johnson and beginning competition in 2008, Rittimann has spent the past 11 seasons laying the groundwork for the Jaguars’ success. Johnson has qualified for the postseason in each of the last six seasons and advanced all the way to the Class 5A Division II semifinals in 2013.
“Looking back after 11 years, it’s been awesome,” Rittimann said. “That first year was a struggle just to open a brand new school. I talked to a lot of coaches that have done that and they say it’s something you only do one time in your career and I think I agree with that. It’s a unique situation, but looking back I’ve been very blessed. We’ve had really good stability with our staff. Most of the guys who have been here in 2008 are still here, so it’s been a great experience.”
Rittimann said former Canyon head coach Troy Burch served as a role model and helped him make the decision to go into coaching.
“I’d watch him and think, ‘I wonder if I could ever do that one day?’” Rittimann said.
Rittimann also has plenty of ties to the current coaching staff at New Braunfels, which lost to Johnson last season in San Antonio and hosts the Jaguars this year on Sept. 13. Unicorns athletic director Jim Streety gave Rittimann his first high school coaching job at San Antonio Madison in 1991, and current New Braunfels head baseball coach Bobby Alford played for Rittimann with the Mavericks.
But that’s not all.
Rittimann and New Braunfels head football coach Glenn Mangold were college roommates at Southwest Texas State University — now just Texas State — in San Marcos.
“We’ve got a lot of connections with those guys,” Rittimann said. “We’re still going there to win the game, but the other 364 days of the year we’re good friends with those guys.”
Rittimann said he still keeps up with some of his high school teammates and enjoys talking about the glory days when he comes into town. The topic of Canyon’s first rivalry win over New Braunfels is routinely brought up, although there are a few people who decline taking part in that particular conversation.
“That’s kind of a special deal that a lot of people still talk about when I go back home — except Coach Streety,” Rittimann said. “He and I don’t talk about that much.”