On the wall of Jim Isaak’s office at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester hangs a framed reminder of that magical season 32 years ago.
Captured for eternity in a black-and-white photograph are Isaak and teammate Mark Prairie carrying a triumphant coach Bob Sadek on their shoulders in the moments after Sadek’s Rosemount Irish defeated Moorhead for the 1981 Class AA State High School football championship.
“I’ll cherish that forever,” Isaak, now a Mayo Clinic fundraiser, said of playing for Sadek. “He just made it fun — he made sports fun. He brought out the best in people.”
Sadek, a prominent high school athlete who played quarterback for the University of Minnesota before enjoying a long career as a high school teacher and coach, died May 31 from heart disease. He was 70.
An intense competitor who played several sports, Sadek honed his athletic skills on the fields, rinks and gym floors of Minneapolis before his family moved to suburban Chicago. When his father, who worked for Armour & Co., was transferred back to the Twin Cities during his son’s senior year of high school, Sadek enrolled at Richfield in time for the 1959-60 basketball season.
“We had a pretty good team coming back that year, but Bob was kind of like the last cog in the machine that took us from a good team to a great team,” said Bill Davis, a teammate who became a lifelong friend.
With Sadek at point guard, Richfield reached the 1960 state tournament, where it lost in the semifinals to Edgerton, a small-town team from southwestern Minnesota that was the tournament darling and eventual champion.
Within a year, Sadek was at the University of Minnesota, where he was a backup quarterback on a Rose Bowl team and later, a starter.
“He was smart and he did everything with confidence,” said Stan Skjei, a teammate and friend who later coached against Sadek. “He was kind of ‘Cool Hand Luke’ like. He’d say something in the huddle, and you’d get it done.”
After graduating, Sadek pursued a teaching and coaching career, with stints at Macalester, Northern Michigan, Hamline and New Mexico State before landing in 1979 at Rosemount, where he taught physical education and coached football and baseball.
The highlight came in 1981, when the Irish, with Sadek’s son, Brett, at quarterback, won the state title.
“That was just a dream come true,” said his wife, Mary Sadek.
Nearly a decade later, Sadek moved to the new Eagan High School, where he coached until retiring in 2009. One of his great joys, his wife said, was helping to build a new baseball field, something he’d also done at Rosemount.
Yet for all of Sadek’s athletic success, it was his ability to connect with students that Isaak and others most admired.
“He loved being part of a team — he loved being part of something,” Isaak said. “He loved interaction with players and students.”
Shortly after he retired, Sadek was diagnosed with an amyloid buildup and told that he was a candidate for a heart transplant. He got it last August, but by then, his body was worn down from the wait, Brett Sadek said.
Sadek, of Lakeville, is survived by his wife, Mary, his sons Brett and Joshua, his daughter Jacqueline and five grandchildren.