By Cole Deutschendorf
Scott Stiles and Shannon Stiles were in town for the Class 3A Kansas high school basketball state championships. They entered the arena, where it took them a little under an hour to make their way to their seats.
If you didn’t know them, you might assume that Scott Stiles was the President of the United States, as he and his wife could be seen talking to numerous people in the arena before sitting down.
Scott has been a staple of the Hutchinson community going back nearly 40 years, and was recently diagnosed with cancer. The citizens of Hutchinson have rallied around Scott and Shannon throughout their battle.
“We have been overwhelmed with the response. It probably took us 45 minutes to get to the crowd,” he said. “Even 35, 40 years later, people remember. It was just really cool to see, whether it was coaches, custodians, or teachers.
“They rally around you, and they don’t forget you.”
It’s this community feeling that has made the journey a little bit easier for Scott and Shannon.
Journey to Hutchinson
Stiles, an Ohio native, had Division I offers for football in the early 1980s, including Iowa State, but decided instead to attend Hutchinson Community College.
“It was an opportunity for me to play right away and get re-recruited,” Scott said.
Scott quickly took to the community while playing football at Hutchinson.
“The fans were always so giving, and so instrumental in supporting the college,” he said. “They had a foster parent program for out-of-state athletes, and it made you feel a little more part of the community. The community has always really rallied around the athletes.”
Scott played quarterback for HutchCC for two years before transferring to Bethel College, despite having a chance to sign with Bowling Green. He prospered for Bethel, including leading the nation in total offense one year and also setting two school records, including touchdown passes in a game (six) and longest completed pass (95 yards).
Scott broke his back in two places during his senior year, ending his playing career.
He then began his coaching career, which started with coaching for 10 years in Ohio. While in Ohio, Stiles got into broadcasting, including broadcasting NBA star LeBron James’ last high school game with St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, pregame shows for the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, and racing events, such as the Indianapolis 500.
An opportunity for Scott to return to HutchCC to be an assistant coach for the football team came up, and he accepted the chance.
“You know, going back to your alma mater that gave you so much, I felt like it was an opportunity for me to get back out there,” he said.
Scott helped coach the Blue Dragons to winning the Heart of Texas Bowl game in Tyler, Texas in 2004, a surprise 15-10 win over Blinn, Texas.
He then moved on to becoming a public-address announcer of the Blue Dragons after most of the football staff was fired. During this time, he became more involved in the Hutchinson community, which included announcing seven NJCAA basketball national championships, and Blue Dragon football and basketball games.
Toughness in Stiles
Fast forward to the present, and tragedy struck, as Scott was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2021.
Stiles has several cancerous tumors on both lungs, and is currently receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Scott and Shannon have found a way to bring a bit of humor into the situation.
“The joke in our house is that he is an elite athlete,” Shannon said. “We use that analogy, because when things get hard, and everyone else wants to give up, elite athletes don’t give up even when your body starts hurting, and the pain starts kicking in. You have to ignore it, keep your eyes on the end prize and the end goal, and that’s what we do.”
An elite athlete. The phrase that started off somewhat as a joke for the Stiles has become one of the phrases that motivates them each and every day to beat the ominous battle that is cancer.
Scott has always had a tremendous amount of strength and tenacity in the face of pain. When he broke his back in college, he played another quarter and a half.
“Finally, my legs went numb, and I couldn’t hardly walk, and that’s the only reason I came out. That was my mentality, and that’s the way we’re taking this on too,” Scott said.
Shannon said that while that mentality is a great one to have, they have to be careful with how far they take it.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword. We were at a doctor’s appointment, and (Scott) had to ask for more pain medicine, and I said ‘what do you mean you’re taking pain medicine? I didn’t even know,’” Shannon said. “There’s a fine line, because at some point he can’t take this on alone, he has to let the community in.”
Community support a key factor
Again, Scott and Shannon pointed back to the community’s support.
“It’s a humbling experience, but we just appreciate the fact that the community has been here. When we were at the tournament, we were just so overwhelmed with how much love, and how much of a family it is regardless of how long he’s been gone from there,” Shannon said.
Josh Gooch, the athletic director at HutchCC, agreed with Stiles, about the Hutchinson community.
“That’s the type of community that we all want to be a part of, that whenever somebody has come on hard times, that (the community) will rally up and work together to try to help something as devastating as cancer,” he said. “You try to be supportive, try to be encouraging.
“We’re going to continue to be a supporting group here at Hutchinson Community College, and continue to support him, being there not only as friends, but as colleagues, and not only individually, but collectively.”
Scott jokingly talked about the many embraces that he shared with people at the tournament. “You know how you give shoulder hugs, and guys give each other shoulder bumps? It was none of that. It was full embraces, 30-45 second hugs, and tears, and not wanting to let go,” Scott said. “That meant a lot.”
Denny Stoecklein, the director of marketing and public relations at HutchCC, is one of the many friends Stiles has in Hutchinson.
“Scott still has many friends within the Blue Dragon community who are certainly sending well wishes his direction as he continues to fight this battle,” Stoecklein said. “There are a lot of prayers and well wishes being sent that direction.”
Scott’s diagnosis has brought back people into his life that he hasn’t interacted with in a long time.
“I’ve had people and teammates that I haven’t talked to in 25 or 30 years all of a sudden show up out of nowhere,” Scott said. “People from Europe, Italy, people reach out and say ‘we’re following your story.’”
Another positive that has come out of Scott’s fight is he said that several people have gotten scans after hearing about his story, and have found tumors.
“People that have gone and gotten scans, and said ‘oh my gosh, you may have saved me because they found a spot.’ It’s those kind of rewarding stories that we may have helped to save someone,” Scott said.
Scott and Shannon wanted to make it clear that their intentions in sharing their story is to try to help others.
“When we give our testimony, we’re not doing this to gloat, we’re doing this because maybe it will save someone. People may look normal on the outside, but they may be really hurting on the inside,” Scott said.
One thing that Scott and Shannon have had to work through is receiving gifts, even though that might seem like an easy thing to do.
“Everyone loves to give, but it can be hard to get. It’s important to get as well, because you’re giving them the gift of giving to you,” Shannon said. “It’s been a very humbling experience for us.”
The Stiles will continue to fight the battle against cancer, while the Hutchinson community continues to rally around them.
If you feel inclined, there is a GoFundMe page set up to support the Stiles through the journey that lies ahead of them at https://gofund.me/29c8703d