Few people who participate in athletics become so iconic that they are revered by virtually all who come in contact with them. Marv Heater is just such a person.
Marv Heater is a graduate of Newberg High School where he was an all-conference guard on the football team. He attended Oregon State for his freshman year before transferring to Linfield College in McMinnville where he became an All-Northwest Conference offensive and defensive tackle.
“Coach Heater” began a new phase of his athletic career as a graduate assistant at Linfield before becoming an assistant football coach at Central High in Independence, then head football and track coach at Drain, and finally back to Central as head football, wrestling, and track coach in 1956. During his five year run at Central, Coach Heater won three conference titles. In 1960 the Panthers won the state football championship.
In 1961 he began an eleven year stint as a PE teacher and head football coach at South Salem High School where his teams won or shared Valley League championships five times. His '66 team lost to Hillsboro High in the championship game and his '71 team won South Salem's second state championship. Twelve of Coach Heater's Saxon players earned Division I scholarships with Jeff Hart, Bob Horn, Craig Hanneman, and Greg Specht going on to play professionally.
In 1972 Heater moved into administration as athletic director at Sprague High School for two years before returning for five years as an assistant principal at South Salem. In '79 he became the first principal at McKay High School, retiring in 1986. With still more to offer, Coach Heater became the Executive Director of the Oregon High School Coaches Association in 1987 and served until his retirement in 2010. Coach Heater, together with his '66 and '71 football teams, has been inducted into the South Salem HS Hall of Fame and to this day, at the age of 88, he serves on the Saxon Hall of Fame selection committee as a proud Saxon.
Coach Heater has been married to his wife Jeanne for 66 years. They have four children – Jan, Pam, Ann, and Brian. All graduated from South Salem. Brian was a member of the Saxon football program.
"Coach Heater is one of a kind. He has influenced my life more than any other adult. His professionalism, integrity, and kindness makes him special to many. I love that man." - Dave Johnson
(Dave Johnson is a former player for and employee of Marv Heater and former head football coach and Assistant Principal/Athletics Director at South Salem High School. Like Heater, Johnson is a former Executive Director of the Oregon High School Coaches Association.)
After the 1970 high school football season, there were four Saxons that were offered the opportunity to continue playing the next year at Oregon State. All four of us decided to accept the offer.
This amazing opportunity would have never taken place without the Saxon football program leadership provided by Coach Heater, as well as the lessons we all learned from all the coaching staff, about ‘team play’ and the importance of individual improvement …individually working to be the best that we could be.
The next year at OSU, one of us was voted Freshman Player of the Year for the Beavers and then later one of us went on to be drafted into the NFL by the 49ers. The Saxon experience, that we are all four are grateful for, set the base for us to be successful, not only on the field, but also as we individually moved through life into the real world.
Jim Gahlsdorf - Saxon football, with Coach Heater, was something I will never forget. We had an awesome group of guys with a great coaching staff. I was injured early on in my senior year and watched and cheered ¾ of that season from the sidelines. I think that very situation, and Coach Heater, helped me to grow and to be able to accept the disappointments that face us from time to time…… and to deal with them and move on. Thank you, Coach.
Mark Wickert – The Saxon experience set the tone of how to be better than I ever thought I could be. Coach Heater, and the excellent coaching staff that he put together, took me and the team to levels that we did not know were possible. I thank you Coach, for giving me the base to walk through life with my head held high and providing great memories that I have always carried with me. I am proud to say that I was, and am, a Saxon. I am forever grateful to you, Coach.
Jeff Hart – My dream of playing football past junior high school began when I met Coach Heater after he spoke at our athletic awards ceremony at Judson. SSHS had previously had very successful years in football and were one of the best programs in the state. I did not have an "involved father" in my younger years, so the Saxon coaches became people who helped me in all phases of development. Coach Heater always pushed us to get better and not become complacent, which was instrumental in getting me through 11 years of professional ball. This also helped me later in my personal and professional life. I never forgot those lessons. Thank You Coach Heater.
Mark Atwood –
If you think you are beaten – you are,
If you think you dare not, you won’t,
If you would like to win, but don’t think you can,
It’s almost a cinch that you won’t.
Enough said, ….and anyone who was fortunate enough to play for Coach Heater knows what I mean. I think about my Saxon days often and would not trade them for anything. What a great experience………. I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to be a Saxon under your leadership. Thank you, Coach.