MARYVILLE (AP) - Scott Bostwick was about to get his shot at head coach after 17 years as the defensive coordinator at Northwest Missouri State University.
But Bostwick, 49, died Sunday at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, just before his first season in charge was due to get under way. The school said he suffered an apparent heart attack while mowing his lawn.
Former coach Mel Tjeerdsma said when he told Bostwick he was retiring, his long-time assistant jumped at the chance to replace him.
"I said "What are your feelings? Do you want to be the head coach?'" Tjeerdsma recalled. "He said, "Why do you think I stayed this long?'"
Bostwick was promoted to the position in December.
"It's a tough day, a day we weren't expecting," Tjeerdsma said. "We're all hurting right now. We're Bearcats and we're family. That's what's going to get us through it. Our focus now is on his family and doing whatever we can do to help them."
Over the years, Bostwick became a fixture on the sidelines, always wearing a red Bearcat hat, as he helped the Bearcats win three national titles and 12 MIAA championships. He was named the American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year in 2007.
Just two days before he died, Bostwick spoke at a golf tournament in Lake Panorama, Iowa, about how he waited 17 years to lead a college program and how he took pride in the Bearcat family. Bostwick concluded the speech by joking he's most proud of being an undefeated college football head coach.
Northwest players and coaches met Sunday afternoon to tell stories about their late coach.
"We could have stayed for four or five more (hours) telling stories," defensive coordinator Richard Wright said. "We all have a good coach Bostwick story or 20. I don't think he realized how many people he touched."
Before coming to Northwest, Bostwick spent four years at Western Washington University in Mt. Vernon, Wash., and another four years as defensive coordinator at Nebraska Wesleyan, where he had played football.
"His cup overflowed with (passion)," said Dave Tollefson, a defensive end with the New York Giants who played under Bostwick for the 2004 and 2005 seasons. "Everybody knows Bostwick from him yelling on the sideline. He wasn't just yelling; it was the fire inside of him and his love for the game. He wasn't going to take anything less from his players, and we weren't going to give anything less."
Bostwick is survived by his wife, Sue, and two children, Leah and Eric.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced and Northwest has not discussed a replacement coach for Bostwick.