Former Lyons coach John Nichols talks to his players during football practice last fall.
Richard M. Hackett/Times-Call
Former Lyons coach John Nichols talks to his players during football practice last fall.

John Nichols has spent the last 16 years turning the Lyons football program into a Class 1A powerhouse. But something in his gut told him it was time for a change of pace.

Nichols resigned from his post as head coach of the Lions on Monday, citing personal reasons for the decision.

“I was thinking about it quite a bit,” Nichols said. “I’ve enjoyed my tenure here. I’ve been here for 18 years (two preceding his run as head coach), and just thought a change might be good. I just feel like this is as good a time as any.”

Nichols, a social studies and physical education teacher at LHS, said he is considering other coaching openings in the St. Vrain Valley School District but didn’t mention specifics.

His credentials are plenty.

Nichols’ football teams went 114-57 during his 16 seasons. The Lions were state runners-up in 2001, 2002 and 2006. They reached the quarterfinals nine times in the last 11 years. And they won at least six games every year since 2000.

LHS went 10-2 last fall, reaching the state semifinals.

“John gave a lot of heart and soul into the program,” said Kathy Leiding, Lyons’ athletic director for the past 15 years. “He worked hard and tirelessly. He was organized and detailed and did a great job at fundraising.

“That’s a long time to give of yourself of a program and a school. I know it’s been a long hard decision for him to make.”

Nichols — a Nebraska football player in the mid-1980s who got his coaching start as a player-coach in Austria and then as an assistant prep coach in Illinois before heading to Lyons — credited Leiding and other administrators at the school for supporting him, especially through some lean early years.

Nichols’ first three teams won a combined eight games. But the coach got a youth football program going in the town in the late 1990s and soon after started reaping the rewards.

Nichols said it was satisfying to see the program build a winning tradition and selfless team vibe over time.

“It takes awhile to get that going,” Nichols said. “But once you do get that going and the younger kids see it, it becomes an expectation. It’s pretty exciting to see that.”

Nichols said he believes there’s no reason the Lions can’t keep right on rolling, given the reputation of the school and the tradition in the program.

Leiding was equally optimistic, and said she already had fielded calls on Monday from coaches interested in the job.

Leiding said she’d prefer to hire a replacement for Nichols who could teach in the building. She said the search for that person probably wouldn’t seriously begin for a few weeks until she has a better idea of what teaching openings the school will have next fall.

“I think John’s left the program in good shape,” Leiding said. “I think it’s something that would look desirable to somebody out there who’s really enthusiastic about staying with a tradition that’s in place.”