JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dennis Bartley played sports at Sandalwood and came back to teach and coach at the high school. In every sense of the word, Bartley was a Saints lifer.
Earlier this week, the veteran coach, who retired two years ago, died suddenly of natural causes. Bartley was 64.
His life has impacted the lives of countless students at Sandalwood. Look no further than the name atop the scoreboard at Sandalwood’s Wood Shed to get a glimpse of his impact.
Dennis Bartley Field.
Players he coached remember the man well. Some of those former Saints would later return to the program to coach alongside Bartley, who is as well known of a Sandalwood alum as any the school has.
“He was a great man they just don’t make them like Coach Bartley anymore,” said Saints assistant coach Doug Pariseau.
Bartley’s influence at Sandalwood spans decades. Bartley coached both wrestling and football, spending the bulk of his time on the Saints staff working with the defensive line. He became a father figure for many athletes over the years.
Current Sandalwood coach Adam Geis said that Bartley was a Saints institution. He was quiet and competitive and enjoyed the old school lifestyle. Geis said that Bartley didn’t own a cell phone because he enjoyed his time away from the sport and distractions.
“He never said anything bad about anybody, ultra positive, a tough, tough hard-nosed football guy,” Geis said. “He was there every day. He never missed a day. He was in such good shape. Very, very strong. Super fit. You look at a guy like that and expect him to look the same way when he was 90.”
Now, some of Bartley’s former players are following in his footsteps and work and coach for the Saints.
“Not only was he telling us what to do when we were students and players for him and trying to guide of then but when we were in our 40’s he was still giving advice,” said Sandalwood assistant Casey Gibson.
“He always told me anything worth having is worth working hard for because if it is not, it doesn’t exist.”
That type of statement was typical Bartley. The lessons he taught over the years are ones that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
“He was a father figure for me and a lot of guys, and being able to share the field with him as a player [and then], as a coach, and to be able to continue on the field named after him with him being gone is something I’m very proud and honored to be able to do.”