The Single Wing and a Prayer – Book Review by Paul Zollo



The Single Wing and a Prayer by Keith Piper with David Piper

Written mostly by Keith Piper, this was completed this year by his son David Piper. The elder Piper was the head football coach at Ohio’s Denison University for a long time, from 1954-1992. His record of success is legend, as was his use of his signature play, the single wing offense, which is affectionately explored throughout. His son, David Piper, is a celebrated songwriter in Los Angeles, one half of the Trough Records  duo Piper-Grey.  He’s also a teacher, and a former football player himself, at Ithaca under the late Hall of Fame coach Jim Butterfield.  So this is more than a tremendous labor of love, which it is, it’s also an informed one. Piper the son has a lot of love and respect for his father’s play and signature moves, which are related here as intricately and lovingly as classic Julia Child recipes. Even those of us mostly unfamiliar with the intricacies of this game are entranced by the union of precision and passion here, the art and science of this thing which unfolds physically, but is keenly calculated.  In David’s introduction, he explained his motives, that his father hoped to provide future generations of coaches with the single wing wisdom, which is both a method and a philosophy of the game, so that any coach could lead his team to triumph as he had some 200 times. But this is more than a play book:  Piper the son wove his own memories and anecdotes, and those of many others he collected,  around the technical stuff, as well as instilled all of it with rich textural photographs and diagrams on every page, so what you’re getting here is the full vision of a man’s life. Football is the focus, but it’s bigger than that, it’s about dedication, focus, passion, fearlessness and love. It’s also a gift to David’s mother and Keith’s wife, Philomena, to whom the book is dedicated, as a way of preserving the beauty and magic of this wonderful life, in which she was always present: “[She] missed only two games,” wrote David, “in my father’s entire 39 year career.”  If you love football, if you love wisdom and poetry intertwined, if you love the love of a family: father-mother-son – this is a place you should visit. You’ll be glad you did.

All proceeds will go toward the Denison University Football Program.

[ Purchase at Denison University bookstore: and look for The Single Wing and a Prayer.  Cost is $38.95 plus shipping.]

All proceeds go toward the Denison University Football Program. Image

Keith Piper, Denison University Head Football Coach, 1954-1992


Paul Zollo is the editor-in-chief of Blue Railroad, a magazine for the arts (, and is a senior writer for American Songwriter Magazine.


The Single Wing and a Prayer – New Ordering Info! –

“The Single Wing and a Prayer”, by Keith Piper and David Piper, a 300 page book complete with a 75 minute DVD which describes in detail Keith Piper’s single wing offense which he ran successfully at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, is now available for purchase by visiting the Denison University Bookstore,

The price of the book is $38.95 plus $9.95 for shipping and handling. All proceeds will go toward the Denison University Football Program.

Keith Piper was the Denison University head football coach from 1954-1992, and for 18 of those years he ran, exclusively, the single wing offense. For many of those years, Denison was the only college football team in the nation running the “antiquated” offense, which features a direct snap back to the waiting tailback or fullback and a “quarterback” who often leads the play by trapping or blocking through the hole. The lone wingback, for whom the offense was named, figures prominently in the power series and the reverses and misdirection plays associated with the single wing offense. Keith Piper, from Niles, Ohio, was a center for his Niles McKinley High School football team which ran the single wing offense under Coach Earl Hoker. He continued on to Baldwin-Wallace College and played single wing center for Coach Ray Watts. In 1962 in his ninth year as Denison’s head coach, and because he had no traditional quarterbacks to run the split-T offense, he turned to the single wing with Tony Hall, a transfer from Ohio State, at tailback. Denison lost only two games in the 1962-63 seasons, featuring two-way players running the offense and staying in the game to play defense. Piper would return to various forms of the “T” in 1965 with many successful seasons, and in 1978 he put the single wing in again and never turned back until his retirement in 1992. The book also features many anecdotes from former Denison players and coaches who coached with and against Keith Piper. David Piper, one of Keith’s sons, picked up the book in 2003 and finished what his father had started back in 1979, a book about the single wing offense and Coach Piper’s life in football.


“The Single Wing and a Prayer”, by Keith Piper and David Piper, is finished, printed and the books will soon be on the way to Granville, Ohio, home of Denison University. Many folks have already pre-ordered (thanks!) through pay pal (below) and those books will be sent out as soon as the they arrive, probably early October.

For those of you who prefer to send a check, please make it payable to Denison University for $43.95 (38.95 plus $5.00 shipping) for each copy. In the memo line on the check, write “The Single Wing and a Prayer”, number of books ordered, and be sure to include your mailing address.

mail to:

Nan Carney-Debord, Director of Athletics 

Denison University,

P.O. Box 810

Granville, Ohio 43023-0810


Keith Piper, former head coach of Denison University

Keith Piper, former head coach of Denison University

Back Cover of “The Single Wing and a Prayer” by Keith Piper and David Piper – Keith Piper gets a ride off the Case Western Reserve field in Cleveland, Ohio, November, 1986, following Denison’s victory over CWRU, 27-14. The win secured Denison’s second consecutive NCAC championship.
The book, 300 pages and 300 photos with an accompanying DVD, is being printed this summer, and will be available in October.

“The Single Wing and a Prayer” is nearing the goal line!

“The Single Wing and a Prayer”, a book by Keith Piper and finished by one of his sons, David, has successfully raised over $22,000 toward the first printing. The goal is to cover the printing of 1500 hard back books with a DVD attached, and the cost of the shipping. We are almost there!

Many thanks to the amazing 46 “Co-Publishers” who have stepped up to this challenge. Your names will be printed on the dustjacket of the book. All we need is nine more people added to this list, and we will be ready for the final proofing, then publishing! Proceeds beyond the cost of production, printing and shipping will go towards the Denison University Football Program.



“The Single Wing and a Prayer”, by Keith Piper and David Piper, is coming down the pike. Several of Dad’s former players got together and devised a plan towards the first printing of 1500 copies: An individual contribution of $500 gets you a copy of the book and your name as “Co-Publisher” on the inside sleeve of the dust jacket.

We would also gratefully accept your donation of any amount towards this publication.

All proceeds above the cost of the printing and production will go towards the Denison University football program.

The Single Wing and a Prayer was started by Keith Piper in 1979 and details his signature single wing offense. It is also full of anecdotes and photos from his years as a football player and coach. Piper was the head football coach at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, from 1954-1992.

Thank you.

David Piper