GOD’s COACH

Former Rockdale coach traded in his whistle for a bible
BY BILL MARTIN
Reporter Sports Editor

HUMBLE—When it comes time for coaches to exit the sidelines, a large portion of them go into the insurance business—so often, that it is a running joke in the profession.

Warren Cico also chose to enter the insurance business, but in a different capacity—he provides insurance for sure. Insurance for the soul.

It was a simple case of moniker makeover. Coach Cico becomes Pastor Cico.

The former Rockdale coach, who influenced a generation of Tiger athletes as part of the state champion football and track teams coaching staff from 1973 thru 1977, seemingly vanished into thin air, while pursuing jobs in the northern part of the country.

Cico, now 66, is currently the pastor at St. Francis United Methodist Church in St. Francis, Kansas, population 1,200.

How he transformed from coach to pastor became his own personal travelogue of the Midwest.

After graduating from the University of Texas in 1970, Cico (yes, pronounced psycho) grabbed up his first job coincidentally in Taylor, making him one of the few coaches who has coached at both Taylor and Rockdale.


Pastor Warren Cico presides over the Methodist church in St. Francis, Kansas, population 1,200. 
Reporter photos/Bill Martin Pastor Warren Cico presides over the Methodist church in St. Francis, Kansas, population 1,200. Reporter photos/Bill Martin An Angleton native, he returned home the next year to join the staff of the Wildcats new head coach, Fred Johnson.

Johnson had been an assistant at Angleton when Cico was in high school.

Two years later, Johnson brought the young Cico with him to Rockdale, along with Lew Simmonds and Dick Weigand.

Cico, then 26, taught at the junior high, while coaching most of the freshman teams in all sports and lending a hand at the varsity level, especially hitting the road on Friday nights, scouting the Tigers’ next football opponent.

Cico played a vital role in the Tigers’ state champion football and track champions in 1976-77, especially track, which is his passion.


Pictured here after the 1977 state championship in track, Warren Cico coached at Rockdale from 1973-77. Pictured here after the 1977 state championship in track, Warren Cico coached at Rockdale from 1973-77. While Johnson lasted until 1980, Cico exited Rockdale in 1977 and took a job in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, where he stayed for 12 years as defensive coordinator and head track coach.

“After winning state, there was too much pressure,” he said of his reason for leaving. You could tell things were about to change.”

He added another state champion to his resume when Belle Fourche (which means “beautiful forks”) captured a title in 1983, like Rockdale, the one and only in school history.

A change is coming

It was while he was in Belle Fourche (200 miles west of state capitol Pierre, near the Wyoming border) where his life’s direction took a different road.

There was no Presbyterian church in Belle Fourche, so Cico began attending a Methodist church there where he became involved in church activities.

The pastor there, Gary Ray, who Cico calls a “shirt tail relative”, asked him to do the service one Sunday while he went home to New York for the Christmas holidays.

“I told him I can’t preach, I’ve never preached before. He said, ‘you don’t have to, I’ve got videos to show and all you have to do is read everything else’.”

Ray talked him into it and he began filling in for him more and more while he served other area churches.

He began taking lay speaking classes and became a certified lay speaker.

People began insisting that he missed his calling.

“I would say I haven’t missed my calling, I’ve got the best of both worlds, I get to work with kids five days a week and then on Sunday be an example for them and sometimes share the good news on Sunday. I loved it.”

His personal life had changed as well, marrying the school’s band teacher Shelia in 1981.

They were blessed with a girl, Aaron, in 1982, and then twins Emily and Brent followed in 1985.

The Cicos decided they wanted to raise their growing family in a smaller place (Belle Faucher had a population of 3,000) so he began applying for jobs “all over the place.”

They landed in Lewellen, Nebraska, a town with a population of 225, located in the panhandle.

The school played six-man and had seven players on the team. In 1993, Lewellen played for a state championship, but lost.

The calling

On December 14, 1990, a near-tragic event unfolded that would change his life forever.

He and the three kids had been over in Oshkosh, about 12 miles away, while he refereed a basketball game.

On the way home, a drunk driver slammed into their car head on.

Cico was not injured nor were the twins Emily and Brett in the back seat. He had to bust the window to escape the car.

He got Emily and Brett out safely, but in the front seat, eight-year-old Aaron did not respond and her face was covered in blood.

She had her seat belt on, but her shoulder strap was behind her.

The upper part of her body collided with the dashboard and broke most of the bones in her face.

Three college kids passing by witnessed the wreck and gave them a ride to the hospital back in Oshkosh.

“When I took her in my arms, I was thinking what can I do, what can I do? Then I realized, I haven’t prayed, I haven’t prayed.”

At the hospital, doctors told him that because she had broken most of the bones in her face and had a skull fracture, that she would most likely have brain damage.

After extensive surgery to repair her face, doctors miraculously told Cico there was no skull fracture, no brain damage. She’d be okay.

“That’s when I decided that God had been talking to me. That’s when I decided that I would go into the ministry.

“I’ve got to tell everyone what God had done for Aaron. That girl is a miracle. She was healed by God.”

Cico still wanted to make sure there was truly a calling. He retreated to Fort Robinson, a park area in the Northwest corner of Nebraska, for four days of soul searching.

All he took was a fishing pole.

With just grasshoppers as bait, he caught one fish a day— just one.

“That’s all I needed. I was being provided for.”

He entered St. Paul’s School of Theology near Kansas City and after graduating, got an internship at St. Stephen’s in Kansas City.

Before landing at his current calling in St. Francis, he also made stops in Cumberland, Iowa, Copeland, Kansas and Bennington, Kansas.

Nowadays

Still in great shape, Cico runs everyday and his diligence has earned him a place at the Senior Olympics in Cleveland in July in the 800-and 1,500-meter runs.

His church runs a thrift store in St. Francis and it brings in $2,000 a week and that’s almost a full time job for him.

His son Brett just got out of the Army and is living with him while he decides what his next step will be.

Twin Emily works at a homeless shelter and Aaron, “the miracle child,” is 31 now and an English teacher.

Cico still has a connection to Texas, his mother lives in Cleveland and his sister in Humble and he was recently in state for a visit.

Following that, he was headed out to another mission trip, this time to Chadron, Nebraska.

Cico hasn’t completely washed his hands of coaching. He still stays involved in sports, tutoring local kids in the shot put and discus.

Coaching and ministering do have their similarities.

“I love being in the ministry and working with young people. I like serving people.”

CICO BIO

Age—66
Family— Daughter Aaron, 31;
twins Brett and Emily, 27.
Education—University of Texas,
1970. Angelton High School.
Coaching stops—Taylor (1971),
Angleton (1971-73), Rockdale
(1973-77), Belle Forche, South
Dakota (1977-88).
State championships—Rockdale
1976, Bell Fourche, SD 1983.
Church stops— Cumberland,
Iowa; Copeland, Kansas; Bennington, Kansas.
Currently—The pastor at St. Francis United Methodist Church, St.
Francis, Kansas.


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