MEDINA — Medina native and Mustangs varsity football coach Eric Valley was named Coach of the Year for Section VI by the Buffalo Bills and ADPRO Sports.
Valley’s award was announced on Sunday during halftime at the Bills' game against Miami. Also in the running for the honor were Albion varsity football coach Adam Krenning and Wilson varsity football coach Bill Atlas.
In addition to a monogrammed football, Valley will receive a $1,400 grant and a $2,000 credit from ADPRO for his football program.
He is not only appreciative of his win, but thankful for the monetary awards.
“We have to meet with the coaching staff to decide what to do with the money,” Valley said. “We usually put on a pretty elaborate banquet for the kids, or maybe we will buy them shirts. There is supposed to be a spring football season beginning in March, and it won’t be very warm. Or, with budgets being tight because of COVID, maybe we can fill some budget gaps.’
Valley said he likes to provide healthy fruit and snacks for the kids at practice and the money might help with that.
Valley has won Coach of Week twice before his recent win during week three of the Bills’ season. He got the call on Dec. 22 he had won Coach of the Year honors.
An art teacher at Medina High School and a talented artist, Valley said he had previously painted a portrait of Josh Allen’s grandmother after she died and thought the call from the Bills was to thank him for the portrait.
The coaching award was based not only on Valley’s coaching skills, but a lot on his community service.
“And what a great community this is,” Valley said. “Like Buffalo rallies around the Bills, Medina rallies around the Mustangs, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of it.”
Valley has served on the Section VI Football Committee; he has run youth summer camps for kids; he worked with Loyal Football and Niagara Orleans Football Association. He started an Alumni Weekend and alumni soccer and baseball games. He has headed a 5K run, is involved as a Medina Sports Booster and has run multiple fundraisers for families in need.
A son of Tom and Kathie Valley of Medina, Eric graduated in 1991, the last class to graduate out of the old Medina High School on Catherine Street. He was a three-sport athlete – in baseball, football and basketball. He won the Babe Ruth Award in his senior year.
He attended Cortland, where he went for art ed, but when they dropped that course, he became an art major. After graduating in 1995, Nick Benadetti offered him a job coaching junior varsity football. In the fall of 1996, a long-term subbing position became available as elementary art teacher. He then attended Buffalo State and got a teaching certificate. In 1998, he replaced retiring art teach John Fox. He taught art in the Middle School for 12 years and when Towne School closed, he came to the high school.
At the high school, Valley was junior varsity football coach for three years, then varsity assistant coach for nine years. He took over as head varsity coach 13 years ago.
Valley admits to being above average in sports in high school and college, as well as a good student. He was named Scholar Athlete several times and won the School of Excellence Award several times.
Growing up, Valley said his parents always forced a good balance between sports and his studies.
“I guess it paid off for me,” he said.
He said he gets his talent from both his parents, both of whom are pretty creative people.
“Mom grew up working in a flower shop and has a great eye for design,” Valley said. “Dad is also very artistic.”
Valley gives credit to his entire coaching staff for his success. Assistant varsity coach is Eric Gross; Brian Fry of Medina will join them this year as defensive coordinator; Gordie Luthart is head junior varsity coach, with 24 years in the program; Bill Bruning is also on the junior varsity staff; and Todd Eick was varsity football for the combined Medina, Barker and Roy-Hart.
Medina is merged with Lyndonville and has 25 to 30 kids enrolled in the football program this year.
Valley said Luthart has done a great job with junior varsity, who has lost only one game in the last two years.
Valley’s final comment on his recent honor was, “Although my name is on the certificate, this is reflective of our entire program.”