Ourlads’ General Manager and National Scout, Dan Shonka, has been involved in player personnel work for over 4 decades. He is one of, if not the only, NFL Draft Analyst to have played the game, coached the game, recruited high school players on the major college level, and scouted professionally. Shonka scouted for National Football Scouting, the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL for a combined 16 years. Scouting is not a hobby. He has built his home and raised his family on his experience as a player personnel evaluator and he remains a team consultant.
Then in 2004, Thomas E. Hepler, founder of Ourlads’, gave Dan and his wife Peggy the responsibilities of continuing the longest independent NFL scouting service. The Shonka’s took over Ourlads in order to have more time to follow their children’s activities. Their son Teddy was a first-team All-State football and baseball player. He was a five sport athlete. Daughter Sarah was a soccer player, cheerleader, and was a member of a competition national championship cheerleading team.
In the late 1970’s, before the deluge of numerous prep football scouting services that engulf the internet today, Joe Terranova, an executive with the Ford Motor Company, had the top Prep Recruiting Service in the United States and gave birth to the industry of what is a recruiting craze of epic proportions. Mr. Terranova named Dan Shonka one of the top 10 recruiters in the country at both Purdue and the University of Kansas. In 1979, Shonka recruited six starters including both offensive and defensive tackles who led Kansas to the Hall of Fame Bowl in 1980. Broderick Thompson, one of those players, played for 12 years in the NFL. He played defensive tackle at Kansas and made a successful switch to offensive tackle in the NFL. Reggie Smith started at Kansas for three years as an offensive tackle, then played for the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL and the Denver Broncos.
Academically, Dan Shonka prepared for his career goal of football coaching as an undergraduate by studying speech, journalism, and physical education. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and also has over 50 graduate level hours in psychology from Pittsburg State in Pittsburg, Kansas.
Professionally, if there was a man who ever set up a curriculum of career development as a head football coach, it is Dan Shonka. Shonka studied at Iowa State under Earle Bruce; Homer Rice, former Cincinnati Bengal coach at Rice University; Jim Young at Purdue University, and Dan Fambrough at the University of Kansas.
Apparently having learned his lessons well, the 27-year old Shonka was named the head coach at Highland (KS) Community College in April of 1980, and responded with the first winning season in 12 years, despite starting 20 freshmen and playing its toughest schedule. One of the non-freshmen starters, Al Lierz, was named to the 1980 Juco All-American team. Also named was freshman Daryl Triplett. These were the first two All-Americans in Highland’s history.
Shonka then moved to Independence Community College in 1981 after Highland de-emphasized football. Hampered by a late recruiting start, Shonka molded nine Highland transfers with six Pirate players and recruits, to post a 4-4 conference mark, the second best record in 11 years. Shonka led the Pirates to a second place conference tie in 1982, and led the freshmen-dominated group into the junior college playoffs for the first time in the school’s history. Shonka’s overall mark in his two years there was 16-6-3 and 8-1-2 in the Jayhawk Juco Conference, less the losses to the nation’s first and second ranked teams.
A strong promoter of higher learning, Shonka guided his teams to a 3.0 grade point average each semester he was a head coach at the community colleges. Shonka also coached the first two Jayhawk Juco Conference student-athlete award winners, Jim Blaes in 1981, and Bill Wiley in 1982.
Shonka’s next stop was New Mexico Highlands’ University where he instilled new pride in the football program. Shonka began in February 1984 to help put the Cowboys back on the winning track. In his first year, the team finished 2-9 overall and 2-6 in the conference, with a fifth place tie in the RMAC. The Cowboys were picked ninth. The following spring Shonka was the guest clinic speaker at the Mexican National football clinic in Mexico City. The 1985 season was a turn-around year where the Cowboys finished with a 7-3 record, a ranking of 19th in the country, and a list of over 50 new school and conference records. Under Shonka’s direction, NMHU was the first university in New Mexico to be invited to a bowl game. The Aztec Bowl in Mexico City was cancelled however due to an earthquake. Shonka coached and recruited more All-Americans (9) in his tenure than all the others in the history of the program. One of those All-Americans, Anthony Edwards, is now the Director of Player Development for the Arizona Cardinals. He played for 10 years with the Eagles and the Cardinals.
Shonka’s three years of junior college coaching was 16-14-3, and he never had a losing conference mark. His 6-year record as a head coach was 30-29-3. All three schools had 1-8 records the year before Shonka took over. Shonka also directed the construction and fundraising at both Highland and Independence Community Colleges as well as at NMHU. The facility renovations included a new locker room, weight room, coaches’ offices, and training room.
Shonka played linebacker and offensive guard for perennial prep powerhouse Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The school received the mythical state championship in football during Shonka’s senior year. Shonka also played first base on the state’s runner-up baseball squad. He played one year of collegiate football before a series of knee injuries ended a promising career.
While attending college, Shonka founded a minor league professional football team, the Cedar Rapids (IA) Raiders, which won the championship of the Midwest Professional Football League. The Raiders, through Dan’s promotional ideas, broke all existing minor league professional attendance records at that time, averaging 9,500 fans per game.
Dan won a distinguished writing award in 1974 from the Associated Collegiate Press Club while sports editor of the “Iowa State Daily.” He also edited a nationwide sports tabloid, “The All-American Competitor.” Moreover, Dan has written a book for football coaches and players, called “Do it to Win.” He also edited a collection of motivational material entitled “A Coaches’ Handbook of Motivational Messages.” Shonka was also featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in regards to his unusual recruiting measures, which included advertising for players in the newspapers. The idea received much national press attention. From 1988-1997, Shonka and his wife were also co-publishers of Dan & Peggy’s College Football Preview, an annual national sports magazine focusing on small college football.
“Dan Shonka is a high-powered individual and thinks big in terms of a football program. He is recognized by his peers not only as a fine coach but also an outstanding recruiter and promoter of his program.”– Dick Hardy, Sports Editor, Independence Reporter
“Dan goes 100 different directions, 100 miles per hour.”– Gus Schrader, Sports Editor, Cedar Rapids Gazette
“What Dan Shonka accomplished at Highland and Independence is akin to taking the lemons fate handed him and starting a chain of lemonade stands.”– Wichita Eagle-Beacon