Don Dalton, who achieved great success as coach of the Burlington High School football team from 1969-95, died Monday morning at the age of 75.
Former Burlington coach Hans Block said he was notified by Dalton’s son, Dean, that Don Dalton died between 8 and 8:30. Dalton had lived in Wautoma for several years in his retirement, but it was not immediately known if that’s where he died.
Dean Dalton, who was once running backs coach for the Minnesota Vikings, could not be reached for comment Monday night.
Dalton went 202-57-1 with 22 Southern Lakes Conference championships and eight trips to the WIAA state playoffs. He was enshrined in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1997.
Burlington’s football field was named “Don Dalton Stadium” on the night the Demons opened their 2014 season.
Block said that Dalton’s second wife, Barb, daughters Trisha and Amy, and Dean, had spent Father’s Day with Dalton Sunday.
“Don had a profound way of communicating,” said Block, a 1976 graduate of Burlington who went on to coach the Demons from 2003-13. “He was able to get a lot out of his players through positive strokes and motivation.
“He saw good in everyone and he just knew how to push the buttons to get the kids to perform at a level where they overachieved. He had positive things to say about everyone who ever played for him.”
Ironically, Don Dalton readily admitted that he was an old-school tough coach with little sentiment for players for several seasons after he started as Burllngton’s coach. But he gradually became a more caring man with genuine concern for his players.
“I had tunnel vision when I first started,” Don Dalton said in a June 2014 interview. “I thought the only thing on this earth that was important was football.”
Dalton went 27-1 in his first three seasons as coach after succeeding Glenn Braunschweig in 1969. His only two losing records in 27 years as Burlington’s coach were in 1978 (4-5) and 1985 (4-5).
One of Dalton’s greatest regrets was never being able to host a playoff game during his tenure. Because Dinty Moore Field at the old Burlington High School was not regulation, the Demons were forced to play all their postseason games on the road.
That changed when the high school relocated to its new location on McCanna Parkway in 2000. Dalton was the school’s Burlington’s athletic director during the transformation before he retired in 2001.
“I think about how we had an illegal football field, so we never had playoff games,” Dalton said. “I like the new set up.”
Dalton had one other regret. He retired from coaching after the 1995 season. The next season, a junior quarterback named Tony Romo stepped in to play for the Demons.
Would Dalton have a do-over with his retirement had he known the caliber of quarterback who was waiting in the wings?
“Yes!,” he said in 2014. “If you want to know the truth, I wish I would have stayed for Tony.”
But that was minor. What mattered to Dalton was all the kids he coached.
“I’m going to tell you that the part I missed when I got away from it was the kids and the communication with the kids,” Dalton said. “I loved pre-game, I loved halftime and I loved trying to stimulate and make them give their best.
“I’m going to tell you it’s about the motivation of kids, of seeing a lesser kid get better as he progressed through the four years of high school.”