Tom Sawyer

Coach Sawyer named a Steamboat Days grand marshal


The Winona Steamboat Days Festival Committee is proud to announce that Winona State University (WSU) Football Head Coach Tom Sawyer has been selected as the sports grand marshal for 2021 Steamboat Days Grande Parade.

Tom Sawyer has led the WSU football program since 1996, recently announced that he will retire from coaching at the conclusion of the 2021 Warrior football season. 

Sawyer owns every Warrior football coaching record, earned over 25 years as the head coach of one of NCAA Division II football most consistently successful programs.    

Since taking over in 1996, four of Sawyer’s student-athletes have been honored by the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) with the Glen Galligan Award. The  Glen Galligan Award  is given to a student-athlete who participates at his institution for four years and is academically superior while making a positive contribution to the institution. 

Under Sawyer, seven Winona State Warriors have been finalists for the Harlon Hill award, the highest honor available to NCAA Division II football players.  

Tom Sawyer was named the NSIC football Coach of the Year five times, receiving the award as voted on by his coaching peers in 1997, 2000, 2001, 2004 and most recently, in 2017.   

Sawyer has led WSU in ten NCAA Division II post-season contests, including seven NCAA Division II football playoff games and three Mineral Water Bowl appearances.  Winona State has finished .500 or better 21 times under Sawyer, and his teams have earned 10 NSIC Regular Season or Divisional championships. 

In the 107-year history of the program, only one WSU postseason football contest has been played without  Tom Sawyer as the head coach. In that game, the 1993 NAIA Championship Game, Sawyer served as a Warrior assistant coach.

Sawyer has deep roots at Winona State and within the greater Winona area.  

Sawyer played football and baseball for the Warriors as an undergraduate student-athlete and joined the WSU coaching staff as an assistant under head coach Dave Bassore in 1987. When not found on the turf of Maxwell Field or in the weight room of the Integrated Wellness Center overseeing his program, Sawyer is visible elsewhere in the region, speaking to local high school sports teams, connecting with his WSU faculty colleagues, and playing a major role in the community in which he resides.  

Said another way, since 1987, Tom Sawyer has stood on a Warrior football sideline every fall season as an assistant coach or head coach, except for 1990-91, a year he spent coaching and teaching at Cochrane-Fountain City High School. He earned both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in education at WSU, where he is an associate professor in the department of physical education and sport science.

Tremendously well-respected in the area and in the profession of college football coaching ranks, Sawyer is known around Winona as a down-to-earth, humble, and approachable leader. Aside from his record-setting success on the field, Sawyer’s ability to connect with and relate to people from all facets of the greater Winona area are an indelible legacy of his quarter century at the helm of Warrior football.  

Tom Sawyer is a man who has helped shape the careers and lives of countless Warrior success stories, from student-athletes who have gone on to successful careers, as well as professional football players, and dozens of impactful coaches in the NFL, NCAA, and high school football communities. While comfortable and successful in the spotlight that comes with being a NCAA football coach, Sawyer is quick to include others in his successes, and has served admirably as an ambassador of the university for more than two decades.

While the timing of writing the last chapter of Sawyer’s coaching legacy is known, the contents of the pages reflect the promise and potential of the 2021 fall football season.  Winona State will kickoff the 2021 campaign at home against Concordia – St. Paul on Thursday, Sept. 2, in a 7 p.m. game.

Tom Sawyer has two children, Jessica, and Tommy.  Sawyer’s son was a member of the Winona State football team from 2007-09, and Jessica and husband Mike have two sons, Max, and Carson. Sawyer and Connie Mettille live in Winona.  

The Winona Steamboat Days Grande Parade is Sunday, June 20, at 12:01 p.m. The parade goes west on Broadway from St. Charles Street to Center Street. For a complete list of Steamboat Days events and activities go to


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