In the wake of tragedy, Josh Rodriguez hasn’t had time to fully reconcile the short history of games he coached against a friend and teammate.
There will be plenty of time for that moving forward, but for now, North Platte’s football coach will help his team and community host a BBQ dinner and auction for the family of Nate Danneman, the football coach of rival West Platte killed in a four-vehicle crash in late April. The two were first teammates at Missouri Valley College before ending up as friends on opposing sidelines the past two seasons.
The North Platte and West Platte football teams have joined together to organize this special event, scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 10 at North Platte High School in Dearborn, Mo.
“It’s really just about people, man,” Rodriguez said of the benefit’s importance. “You do things because they’re human beings. Rivalries are great, but when it’s real life stuff, you don’t want to see people hurting. You love people. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”
Shannan Eagen, Jen Lawson and Kathi Vandal of West Platte and Tasha Rodriguez and Stephanie Snook of North Platte have been working to bring the two communities together.
Cost for the dinner will be $10 per adult and $5 for each child with silent and live auction proceeds also benefitting widow Tabitha Danneman and the couple’s two young daughters.
The players from the two teams will be serving and hosting the event.
The dinner runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. with silent auction items available for bid from 6 to 7:45 p.m. The live auction with Hiatt Auction of Weston, Mo. donating its services will start at 8 p.m. Items include a patio set, a grill, a $500 gift certificate for fireworks, 100 pounds of beef and Kansas City Royals ticket packages.
There will also be various Royals items up for bid, including a Salvador Perez All-Star Game jersey, Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon bats from the 2015 World Series and a 1985 George Brett signed World Series ball.
Coach Rodriguez worked to come up with an idea to help the Danneman family beyond just food and flowers. The concept was important because the two rival coaches spent one year together as teammates with Danneman then spending time as a graduate assistant during Rodriguez’s playing days.
“It was more that we were pretty good friends,” Rodriguez said. “I felt it was important for us to be able to show compassion for the West Platte community in the wake of tragedy. With everything going on over there, I felt the obligation to help.”
The longtime KCI rival schools will also be splitting players up in groups of two to four, and those in attendance can bid on their services to perform yard work, take on chores or contribute to community projects.
While Danneman coached the past four years at West Platte, he lived in Camden Point, Mo. — part of the North Platte School District. The Rodriguez family lived just a short distance from the Dannemans, and they stayed close friends.
A four-vehicle accident along Interstate 29 claimed Danneman’s life on the evening of Wednesday, April 19. He was just 37 years old.
A native of St. Louis and a graduate of Rockwood Summit High School, Danneman came to West Platte after stints as an assistant with Marshall and Richmond and then two years as a head coach at Drexel, going 17-4 with the Bobcats.
Danneman compiled a 20-28 record at West Platte, leading the Bluejays to Class 1 District 7 titles and quarterfinal appearances in 2013 and 2015 — both times going into a matchup as an underdog against highly ranked Hamilton. In both quarterfinal losses, West Platte came up just short of pulling a monumental upset.
The fatal crash that took Danneman’s life occurred about one mile south of Camden Point, Mo. on Interstate 29, shutting down both southbound lanes and one northbound lane just before 7 p.m. on Wednesday night. Authorities initially indicated one semi and two passenger vehicles were involved, later adding a third passenger vehicle to the official accident report.
According to investigators, a semi apparently traveled out of the northbound lanes of I-29 and struck three vehicles before overturning. Danneman was driving a Ford Focus with his 4-year-old daughter as a passenger.
Danneman was identified as the victim in the early morning hours Thursday. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Three others suffered minor injuries in the crash, including Danneman’s daughter.
Support in the aftermath was overwhelming, including a GoFundMe that raised thousands of dollars in a matter of days. The stunning loss led to quick reflections, including for Rodriguez.
Danneman and Rodriguez split two matchups against each other the past two seasons, but it was a series Rodriguez hoped to continue well into the future.
“It’s not one of those things you think about while coaching them,” he said. “Events make it very real for you. Those are the things, that down the road in my career, which hopefully lasts a long time, I’ll be able to cherish those memories because even though it was just twice, they were really good games.”