West Platte High School head football and wrestling coach Nathan A. Danneman died Wednesday evening when a tractor-trailer crossed the median of Interstate 29 and struck three vehicles north of Platte City.
“Nathan Danneman will always be known as a positive and hard-working role model for our kids and staff. He will be greatly missed. Our deepest sympathies go out to Coach Danneman’s family during this time of grief,” the district announced on Facebook and Twitter Thursday morning.
“Coach Danneman was one of our best,” West Platte superintendent John Rinehart said. “He was a great teacher and a great coach. He was really well thought of — if not beloved.”
Kids and staff alike were drawn to him, Rinehart said. The coach was gregarious and very positive.
“He was the kind of man you’d want your kid to have as a teacher or coach,” Rinehart said. “That’s about the highest compliment I can pay him professionally.”
The 37-year-old coach from Camden Point, Mo., was killed in the 6:45 p.m. crash Wednesday. Three others, including his 4-year-old daughter, who was in the back seat of his car, had minor injuries.
The semi was headed north on I-29 when it crossed the median — and a cable barrier — near the exit to Camden Point. The semi then struck the 2014 Ford Focus that Danneman was driving south on I-29. The semi also struck a 2017 Ford F-150 and a 2015 Chevrolet Cruze.
Danneman was pronounced dead at the scene.
The West Platte School District hired Danneman as head football coach and assistant wrestling coach in 2013. He also served as a physical education and strength conditioning teacher for the district.
Robbie Shepherd, his former principal at Drexel, Mo., where Danneman served as head football coach for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, said he lured Danneman to take the job.
“He was just smart about the game, and he was well-loved by everybody. It was the perfect combination,” Shepherd said. “We always laughed. I used to joke with him because he was a short guy. But he was bigger than life.”
West Platte was 20-28 in Danneman’s four-year tenure and finished 1-9 last season.
Some of his current and former players and students took to Twitter to commemorate his life. The school district announced that all games and meets were canceled Thursday.
“I can only wish I grow up to be the kind of man Danneman was,” Cameron Johnson posted. “Rest in (peace), Coach.”
“This town lost an incredible man tonight, and he will not be forgotten,” Clay Lambrecht wrote. “Prayers out to his family. All we can do is remember the good times and be thankful for what we have.”
A memorial fund has been set up on GoFundMe by his twin brother, Jake Danneman, who described him as a devoted husband and father of two “sweet and sometimes sassy daughters.” In just a few hours the fund had raised more than $14,000 of its $50,000 goal.
“As the head football coach for West Platte High School, Nate was an influential pillar who instilled discipline, passion and courage to young men,” wrote Jake Danneman, who is defensive coordinator of linebackers for Liberty North High School.
“Coach Danneman was a masterful game planner and that is why I am here writing this today. There are no game plans in life that can prep you for an event such as this tragedy.”
The district had grief counselors at the school for students and staff. The mood at the high school was described as “quiet and sad.”
The West Platte Fellowship of Christian Athletes will hold a candlelight vigil for Danneman at 8 p.m. Thursday at the West Platte High School’s old football field. The high school is at 935 Washington St. in Weston.
Danneman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo., where he played football. He was chosen defensive MVP in 2000 and served as team captain for the Vikings. He also earned all-Heart of America Athletic Conference honors.
While pursuing a master of science degree in educational leadership, Danneman coached at Marshall High School, where he helped lead the football team to the state quarterfinals and the wrestling team to a top-10 finish. He also coached throwing on the track and field team.
In 2003, Danneman became defensive coordinator at Richmond High School, where he spent six years coaching football, wrestling and track.
While at Richmond, he helped lead the Spartans to two district titles, two conference championships, two quarterfinals and a semifinal.
He was chosen as the defensive coach for the Missouri East/West Lions All-Star Game in 2004. Three years later, he was chosen to help coach the MO-KAN All-Star Game.
Prior to joining West Platte, Danneman coached at Drexel High School. He posted a 17-4 record and won the WEMO Conference championship both years.
Danneman is the second head football coach from the Kansas City metro area to die this year. In February, Blue Valley coach Eric Driskell died following a ruptured brain aneurysm.
As news of Danneman’s death spread, people took to social media to express their grief and condolences to his family.