Stan Bedwell had a dream.
He was just a kid from Mineral Springs, Arkansas, a town of just more than 1,000 people, tucked away in the southwestern corner of the state, less than 40 miles from football-crazy Texas.
Bedwell grew up dialing up plays on Madden Football video games and dreaming about the day that he’d coach college football.
Fast forward to the present day and he is living his dream as the offensive coordinator for Rochester Community and Technical College's football team. His path was anything but ordinary, though.
Bedwell has always loved football. It has always been his favorite sport. But after he graduated from Mineral Springs High School in 2002, he played junior college baseball at North Arkansas College before transferring to Southern Arkansas University.
It was there that he had a realization. Two, actually.
He wasn’t going to be a Major League Baseball player, and he loved football more than baseball.
So, Bedwell made the gritty decision to end his baseball career. He had just one year of college eligibility left. He dusted off the old VHS tapes of his high school days when he quarterbacked Mineral Springs, and started to send them to coaches across the country.
“I was a 5-foot-10 quarterback,” Bedwell said. "I wasn’t all that athletic. Plus, we didn’t throw much in high school. If we threw the ball three times, we thought we were airing it out. Senior year, we put in some shotgun and threw it four or five times a game, and we thought we were Kentucky.”
THE WORST PROGRAM IN THE U.S.
He didn’t get a ton of feedback. But one coach took a chance on him. His name was Eric Slivoskey.
Slivoskey was headed to Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, North Dakota. Slivoskey told Bedwell that if he came with him, he’d get a chance to start at quarterback.
Bedwell’s eyes got big.
So, in the summer of 2006, Bedwell moved away from Arkansas for the first time.
Except Trinity Bible College was one of the worst teams in college football. The tiny school manufactures preachers and missionaries. Not football players.
They were so bad that in 2004 they lost to Rockford University (Illinois) 105-0.
Shawn Fury even wrote a book about that 2004 season titled "Keeping the Faith: In the Trenches with College Football's Worst Team."
That’s the program that took a chance on Bedwell.
"There were 32 guys on the team in training camp and 25 guys once the regular season got started,” Bedwell said. “I started at quarterback. Then moved to wide receiver and safety. I made All-Conference. It wasn’t that I was this super big athletic guy. It was literally a necessity thing.”
FINDING A HOME IN SWITZERLAND
The experience at Trinity Bible College reignited Bedwell’s love for football. And that path has taken him all across the world.
“As a 5-foot-10 quarterback, unless you’re Russell Wilson or someone special, there’s not going to be big money here in the states to play football,” Bedwell said. “I love the game. I wanted to travel. So, in 2006, I hopped on a plane for the first time in my life and flew over to Europe.”
Bedwell signed with the Basel Gladiators in Switzerland to play quarterback. That started his European professional career. In 2008, he threw a career-high 25 touchdowns for the Kragujevac Wild Boars in Serbia. The Wild Boars went winless the year before. They won a championship once Bedwell was under center.
Things changed before the 2009 season. Bedwell was back in the United States, and he went to a clinic featuring Hal Mumme.
Mumme has had a long coaching career in a multitude of spots. But he’s known as one of the fathers of the air raid offense. He was Mike Leach before Mike Leach. Mumme explained how the air raid offense would leave defensive coordinators scratching their heads. Instead of relying on smashing the ball up the middle for three or four yards and a cloud of dust, the air raid offense unleashed the quarterback. Instead of throwing once or twice a drive, the quarterback was working fast and airing it out.
Bedwell brought the air raid concepts back to Serbia and convinced the coaching staff that it was the thing to do.
In the first game of the season, Bedwell threw for 569 yards and seven touchdowns.
“I was like, ‘OK, this is pretty good,’” Bedwell said.
He didn’t stop there. Later in the season, he threw for 11 touchdowns in a single game. That was a European and Serbian record.
In 2013, Bedwell was inducted into the European Hall of Fame after finishing his career with more than 27,300 yards and 343 touchdowns. He won eight MVP awards and three national championships during his time in Europe.
But while Bedwell was a big name over in Europe, he was still somewhat of an unknown in the United States. And that dream of coaching was still nagging at him. His first college job came for Northland Community and Technical College in 2011. He was the offensive coordinator who also helped out with the quarterbacks and the wide receivers.
His first game at the helm came against RCTC. The Yellowjackets blew out Bedwell and NCTC. RCTC was the gold standard of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC).
“They spanked us,” Bedwell said. “Our only score was on a fake punt that we didn’t even call. Our punter took off by himself. We lost by like 30 points. Then, we took off and won every game but one and found ourselves in the state championship against Rochester again. And they spanked us again.”
The following day, Bedwell was up in the press box scouting high school players when he connected with RCTC’s head coach Derrick Hintz.
“He offered me some beef jerky,” Bedwell said. “That’s the key to my heart.”
Hintz was impressed with Bedwell and later that year, he offered him the offensive coordinator job at RCTC. Bedwell accepted, but he and Hintz were only there for one year. They led RCTC to a 10-1 record in 2012 and won the MCAC conference championship. The Yellowjackets' offense ranked fourth in the nation in passing (319 yards per game) and 12th in scoring (39 points per game).
Hintz wanted to watch his children (Matthew and Maddeson) play their respective sports at Byron High School, so he resigned from RCTC. That meant Bedwell’s connection was gone. But the relationship between Bedwell and Hintz didn't disappear.
Hintz returned to RCTC in 2017. He re-hired Bedwell in 2019 to be his offensive coordinator yet again.
TWO JOBS IN TWO COUNTRIES AT THE SAME TIME
Bedwell basically lives a double life. During the fall, he coaches. As soon as spring ball ends, he heads to Europe to play.
In 2015, Bedwell was coaching at Belhaven University (Miss.) as the running backs coach under Mumme. But he’d also signed to be the head coach of the Lazio Marines in Rome, and he was the quarterback and coach of the Hameenlinna Huskies in Finland.
“I was the head coach of two teams at two different countries at the exact same time,” Bedwell said with a laugh.
His schedule was mind-boggling. At the beginning of February 2016, Bedwell went to Rome to begin playing. But every bye weekend, he’d head to Finland for practice.
“We’d practice in Rome until 11 p.m., so then I’d drive to the airport,” Bedwell said. “I’d take a 4 a.m. flight to Finland. Big layover in Latvia. Get to Finland at 11 a.m. They’d pick me up and drive an hour and have two practices that Saturday and then we’d go out and drink a lot that night before practicing twice on Sunday. So, then I’d hop on an overnight bus to Helsinki, Finland. Fly to Riga, Latvia and have a 12-hour layover. Then, get back to Rome at 6 p.m. and take the train straight to practice. We’d practice from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. again. That was every six bye weekends we had.
“Friday morning until Monday night when I went to sleep, I had about six or seven hours of sleep total. I didn’t love the travel; I didn’t love the layovers. Riga, Latvia isn’t my favorite place, but I love football. It’s always about relationships with the guys you play with or the guys you’re coaching here. If you believe in the whole, ‘Team is a family’ thing, then it was great because I had a really big family that year.”
After he got inducted into the Hall of Fame, Bedwell nearly called it quits. But in 2019, he was still playing in Romania. He led the Bucharest Rebels to a championship playing quarterback and coaching. He was signed to head back over to Romania yet again this year. RCTC’s spring practices were supposed to end on April 5. Bedwell had a flight booked for April 6.
But life is on pause right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the first true offseason Bedwell has had since 2005.
The football lifer is itching to get back on the field. But for now, he’s focused on recruiting and beefing up the roster. Bedwell’s reloaded his offensive line with some monster commits. RCTC is bringing in some really talented quarterbacks for the 2020 season.
And Bedwell is still planning to keep pushing the envelope as a quarterback. He’s the ultimate competitor who elevates every team he’s played on.
Football has taken Bedwell across the world. 18 seasons in nine countries in Europe. He owns a 95-22 career record as a player. He has five championships and 11 total MVP/Offensive Player of the Year awards.
RCTC is the fourth college program that he’s coached at, but he believes he’s found a home in Rochester. Hintz has allowed Bedwell to do his thing, and they have a great friendship centered around football and beef jerky.
“He’s the smoke master,” Bedwell said. “He’s always smoking food. He bought a quarter of a cow, so he called me up yesterday and gave me a bunch of meat out of his freezer.”
Being a football coach was Bedwell’s dream when he was a kid in Arkansas. His dream has come true. But a Hall of Fame quarterback? Not even Bedwell could’ve imagined that reality.
Not too shabby for a guy who didn't play college football until his senior year.
"I love football," Bedwell said. "I love being here. I’m not seeking out new opportunities. I learned that you treat every job like’s the last job you’re ever going to have; $30,000 isn’t enough for me to go back on my word that I’ve sold to a ton of kids that I’m going to be here for them and take care of them."