Corvallis represents the first football head coaching job for Dwight Roberson, South Salem's track coach the last two seasons.
Corvallis represents the first football head coaching job for Dwight Roberson, South Salem's track coach the last two seasons.

It's been more than a decade since Dwight Roberson walked up to Corvallis High School to ask if he could volunteer as a football coach.

Now, the former Oregon State linebacker has taken over as head coach of the Spartans, replacing Thomas Casey, who went 2-7 in his only season.

It represents a homecoming of sorts for Roberson, who assisted at Corvallis for six seasons (2013-18) before spending the last six years working in the Salem-Keizer School District, including one-year stints as an assistant coach at McKay (2019) and South Salem (2023).

“Corvallis is like my community,” Roberson said. “Just coming back, I'm really noticing that. Ever since I got the job, people have been reaching out. It's like a big, huge family. And that's what I want to bring to the football program.”

At Corvallis, Roberson assisted under longtime coach Chris McGowan, who went 99-106 in 21 years before retiring after the 2022 season. Roberson started out as the JV coach and became a varsity assistant, spending his last two seasons as Corvallis' defensive coordinator.

“Before I left, I was really hoping to take the spot after McGowan retired," Roberson said. “But I was really seeking employment in a school, and Salem-Keizer just happened to give me an opportunity. It was a really hard decision, but I left.”

Roberson served as a community resource specialist at Salem-Keizer for two years and spent the last three years working as a counselor at South Salem. He was the head track coach at South Salem the last two seasons.

Roberson said that then-Saxons football coach Scott Dufault encouraged him to join the South Salem staff. But Roberson wasn't ready to get back into coaching until last season, when he coached the defensive ends for a team that finished 9-1.

“I just wanted to be home to support my wife,” said Roberson, who has children ages 5 and 3. “What really got me back was something that my father (Dwight Sr.) told me. He said, 'You'll only be able to coach for a certain period of time because once your kids get a little bit older, you're going to want to be at their events.' I was like, 'I'll get back into coaching, and when the time comes that I want to step away, I'll make that decision.'”

Roberson, recently hired as an elementary school counselor in the Corvallis district, said he is hopeful to carry forward the coaching philosophy of McGowan.

“I would never have the opportunity to coach high school football if it wasn't for him,” Roberson said. “He's a great guy, puts the students first. That's what I want to bring back to Corvallis football, just family.

“I need to show these kids that they're valued and they're important. When I talked to the boys when I first got the job, I told them that I just want us to have fun. Football is about having fun. In my playing experience, I just had fun.”

Roberson grew up in Oxnard, Calif. He played on three state title teams at St. Bonaventure of Ventura under coaches Jon Mack and Todd Therrien.

“I've seen the blueprint of how a program should be run,” Roberson said.

Roberson had an outstanding college career at Oregon State. He signed with the New Orleans Saints as a free agent in 2011 but was released before the regular season started.

With his expertise on defense, Roberson will be the team's defensive coordinator. Longtime assistant Randy Silbernagel will be the offensive coordinator.

Corvallis' 3-2 finish in the COVID-shortened season (spring 2021) is its only winning record in the last 12 seasons. This year, the Spartans are hopeful of building around a large senior class that includes a returning starter at quarterback in Axel Prechel.

“I'm very excited about this season,” Roberson said. “Some of the players I coached in track before I left Corvallis. It's a big group of kids. The future is bright. I'm very excited where the program can go.”