HUDSON – After 25 years of Friday night lights, Hudson High School’s Head Football Coach Dan McAnespie is retiring.
“I feel it’s time,” he said.
The day he broke the news to his team was tough, he said.
“There was some shock and some disbelief. At times when I was saying it, I was in disbelief too,” McAnespie said.
Captain Ty Mullahy called being coached by McAnespie a “special experience.”
“He’s a genuine guy. It was really nice to have him as a head coach. I think the whole town of Hudson is going to miss him,” he said.
‘If you hear about Friday night lights, I was in it.’
A former player, football has been part of McAnespie life for 45 years.
He began playing football in the seventh grade and continued to play in high school and throughout his college career at Fitchburg State.
After graduating college, he pursued a career as a history teacher and served as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator for Pelham High School in New Hampshire.
He later moved to Georgia after accepting a job teaching history at Dunwoody High School where McAnespie also served as an assistant coach.
“If you hear about Friday night lights, I was in it. It was awesome,” McAnespie said.
He and his wife then moved back to Massachusetts when he accepted a position at Hudson High School where he currently serves as vice principal.
Though the crowds were larger in Georgia, McAnespie said the Hawks’ support makes the Friday games “a great event.”
“The spirit here in Hudson is top notch. The red sea is phenomenal,” he said. “When we say family at the end of our chant, we really mean it. People live it around here.”
He’ll miss the grind, but McAnespie said he will miss the players the most.
Each team has a different personality, he explained, and it’s kept his job interesting.
He described the team this year as close-knit and “extremely dedicated” during workouts and practices over the summer.
“In the morning during summer workouts, he would always be the first one there, the loudest one there,” said Captain Will Jackson. “He is just an energetic, all-around great guy. I want to congratulate him. He has been a part of this community for a long time, and he has made a big impact.”
McAnespie is someone he can “always rely on,” Jackson said.
“He really cared about my future and stuff, which was really great as a young adult trying to grow. As a person he was great and as a coach he was always consistent,” he said.
McAnespie reflects on career
This fall, the Hawks made it deep into the postseason. The team was undefeated until they ultimately fell in the quarterfinals against Dover Sherborn.
Additionally, at the helm of the team, McAnespie has overseen some of Hudson’s memorable games, including when they beat Marlborough in the 100th anniversary of the Thanksgiving game.
However, McAnespie said that some of his best memories did not happen on the field.
“The wins and losses you forget them. It’s more about the relationships you share with the kids and the families who live in Hudson,” he said.
Over the years, a handful of McAnespie’s former players have joined him on the sidelines as assistant coaches.
One of such assistant coaches is Jake Wardwell, who said he always looked up to McAnespie.
“He always guided us on and off the field when I played for him. He’s a great coach,” he said.
Wardwell said he “still needs to pinch” himself when he thinks about playing for McAnespie and then serving as his assistant coach.
“Coaching with him has been an honor. Seeing him on the sideline since I was a kid, I haven’t seen a game of Hudson high football without Coach, so it’s gonna be a little bit weird, but I am happy for him,” he said.
‘The biggest Hawk fan ever’
Though he won’t be coaching, McAnespie will still be “the biggest Hawk fan ever” by attending games.
Hudson High School Athletic Director Jessica Winders said it’s difficult to imagine someone else at the helm.
“He’s certainly earned the right to decide when to retire so I don’t begrudge him the decision, but he will be hard to replace,” Winders said.
She added, “Dan has been the face of the program for 25 years, so to say that he will be missed doesn’t do him justice. His impact on Hudson football and the lives of the hundreds of student-athletes is simply immeasurable.”