Friday, January 6, 2017

This is What It's All About - Gary Kubiak

Karl Mecklenburg (left) and Kubiak with Elway (right)
Ben Westfeldt, a former Pioneer who is now coaching at Rampart High School, shared this on his facebook page.  It is a message from Karl Mecklenburg (one of the all-time greats for the Denver Broncos, and one of my all-time favorite linebackers) about his former teammate Gary Kubiak.  Mecklenburg does an amazing job of honoring his teammate, putting into words some of the many ways to be a leader.  I think all of us can agree we'd like have these words written of us when we hang up the cleats or hang up the whistle.  Please take a moment to read:

The 1983 NFL draft is referred to as “the year of the quarterback” and is considered one of the strongest drafts in NFL history. The Denver Broncos had thirteen rookies make their team that year including me and their choice at quarterback Gary Kubiak. Gary was a ninth round pick out of Texas A&M but the Broncos expected him to challenge Mark Herrmann for the backup role and eventually replace Steve DeBerg as the starter. Gary had been a four sport high school star in Texas, twice named to the all-state football, basketball, baseball and track teams, and had put together an outstanding football career as an Aggie. Athletic and smart he was going to be the Bronco’s future at quarterback.
Kubiak came to Denver in June with the rest of us rookies to work out at the team facility, get to know his future teammates, and prepare for training camp. In July the Bronco’s brought rookies and a few nonstarter veterans to rookie camp. This was the week before the veterans joined them in Greeley and reported to training camp. Gary was a star at rookie camp with his accurate passes and his quick mastery of Dan Reeves offensive system. Then to Gary’s’ surprise the Bronco’s pulled off one of the NFLs biggest steals in history. They traded quarterback Mark Herrmann and their 1983 first round pick Chris Hinton to the Baltimore Colts for the first pick of the 1983 draft, future Hall of Famer John Elway.
 To Gary’s credit he competed with John instead of pouting. When it became clear that John would be the Bronco’s franchise quarterback Gary realized that he could still be a leader on our team. He prepared as if he were going to play in every game and developed a solid friendship with Elway. They supported each other by talking between offensive series letting each other know what they saw the oppositions defense doing. Gary and John roomed together at training camp and on the road. Elway’s leadership qualities are well documented but Kubiak’s leadership may have been even more impressive. There was no fee agency in the NFL in the 1980s so unless the Bronco’s traded one of them, or John got hurt, Gary wouldn’t play in games. From the outside it looks like he spent his whole ten year career languishing in Elway’s shadow, but he embraced his role of helping John excel and became a valuable team leader.
Gary was always prepared when John was injured and his precision short passing game confused opposition defenses who had prepared for Elway’s strong arm and scramble game. Not only would Kubiak learn the offenses’ game plan each week, but he would also take the extra time to study opposing quarterbacks’ tendencies. Throughout the week in practice Kubiak would show our defense individual decision making and release points of the quarterback we would face in the upcoming game. Gary also came up with game day rituals to support his teammates. After stretching and before the coin toss Gary would shake my hand and say “hold up the class Meck”. It was a little thing, but it reminded me to take advantage of and enjoy my opportunity to play. I knew if our roles were reversed and I was standing on the sidelines holding a clipboard, Gary would be giving his all on the field.
 Big things like leadership are a combination of little things. Leader is not a title or an assignment, it’s a choice. Gary consistently and clearly showed his commitment to our team’s success. The Denver Broncos were a much better team and won more games because of Gary Kubiak’s leadership. Working with and studying under Dan Reeves, Mike Shanahan, Chan Gailey, Raymond Berry, Jim Fassel, Joe Collier, and Wade Phillips, Gary learned the game of football from the sidelines.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Recruiting Class of 2017: Nick Pero


Nick Pero is an offensive lineman and long snapper from MaxPreps High School National Champion Bishop Gorman.  Nick has experience as a center (junior year) and as a guard (senior year).  He also brings another strong option at the long snapper position, and a team can never have enough of those!

I'm excited to have Nick joining us next fall.  Besides fighting for the long snapper position, Nick provides valuable depth on the offensive line, and will bring a wealth of winning experience.  I hope that becomes a common theme across the recruiting class of 2017, that we're bringing in guys that have been a part of a winning program or part of a program that made a dramatic turnaround.  I'm excited to keep adding to this recruiting class and to get the entire team working together in August!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Recruiting Class of 2017: Reed Winter

Reed is looking excited to sign on that line
Reed Winter is a defensive back and running back from Hanover High School in Hanover, NH.  Reed helped Hanover improve from a 2-win season last year to a 9-2 season and an appearance in the state semi-finals in 2016.  He was named first team all-state as a running back and was invited to play in both the New Hampshire All-State game and the New Hampshire vs Vermont All-Star game as a cornerback.  
Heading for daylight
I love Reed's combination of speed and toughness, and I always like guys that are versatile players.  I also love that he helped his high school team make such a dramatic turnaround, and that he wants to be part of another turnaround here as a Pioneer.  Can't wait to get you on board Reed!  Highlights here: http://www.hudl.com/video/3/6134558/57e86d17f61708a4e86b094c

Monday, December 26, 2016

Recruiting Class of 2017: Alex Ross

Alex looks good in his Mason Mustang gear, but we need to get that guy wearing an Honor G!
Besides highlighting our award winners from the 2016 season, I'll also be introducing you to our newest Pioneers, those members of our 2017 recruiting class that have already submitted their deposit and have committed to Grinnell.  Unlike Division 1, Division 3 doesn't have a signing day.  Each school does it slightly differently, but at Grinnell we have three rounds of applications (Early Decision 1, Early Decision 2, and Regular Decision), so we really have three separate signing days.  Following NCAA rules, we can announce a "commit" once they have submitted a deposit guaranteeing their spot at Grinnell.

Alex Ross (in the middle) #78
In that light, I'll kick off the class of 2017 with defensive lineman Alex Ross, from George Mason High in Falls Church, VA.  At 5'10" and 230 pounds, Alex played on both the offensive and defensive line for the Mustangs, but he'll likely line up on defense for the Pioneers next fall.  I saw Alex at two separate camps this summer and I'm very excited to add him to the team.  He's coachable, plays with desire, and is quick off the ball.   Can't wait to get him in the Scarlet and Black!  Check out his junior year highlight tape: http://www.hudl.com/recruiting/athleteprofile/6379578/video

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ogasawara Featured in the Grinnell Magazine


Senior kicker and defensive back Ibuki Ogasawara was featured in the winter issue of the Grinnell Magazine.  Ibuki finished tied for fourth in the conference, converting 93% of his PAT's this year, and is looking forward to an outstanding track and field season.

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016 Rookies of the Year

As promised previously, I'll be highlighting the award winners that were announced at our post-season banquet.  Each year our players vote for several awards and our coaches select others.  To kick things off we'll highlight our rookies of the year, as voted by their teammates.

Offensively, David Taylor, a wide receiver from Mount Vernon, IA was voted as the rookie of the year.  Starting from day one, David was second on the team with 31 receptions, and led the team with 525 yards receiving and four receiving touchdowns.  He scored the first touchdown of the season for us, and had a huge game in week three.  Against conference foe Beloit College, David hauled in 6 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown.  That total ranks as the 6th best single game total of all time for Grinnell.  David had a great first season and we look for even better things in the years to come.

Rick Johnson, an outside linebacker from Davenport, IA was our defensive rookie of the year.  Rick played in seven games before suffering an injury, but he made the most of his time in the lineup.  His two best games were at home against Trinity (7 tackles, 2 tfl, 1/2 sack, and a forced fumble) and on the road against Macalester (8 tackles and 1 sack).  Rick was improving week to week, and his best football is yet to come.

Overall, seven different first-year players saw significant playing time, and another was slated as a starter before suffering an injury.  We look to build around this solid, young core!

 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Pioneer Jermaine Marks Selected for Coveted Educational Opportunity

Jermaine is recognized at the football banquet
Jermaine Marks, Pioneer football photographer and manager and student assistant for the men's basketball team, has been selected to participate in the NCAA Division III Student Immersion Program.  This is a great honor for Jermaine and we're very excited for him.  Jermaine shows great promise for a future in coaching!

Congrats Jermaine!

Monday, December 5, 2016

2016 Post Season Banquet

Sr Joe Galaske presents Coach Gene Blalock with a token of appreciation from the DB's
The Pioneers hosted their annual post season banquet last night, where we took the opportunity to recognize the efforts of all over the past year.  We also presented several major awards, including the following:
Dick Ullrich Most Outstanding Offensive or Defensive Back
Abe Rosenbloom Most Outstanding Offensive or Defensive Lineman
Troy Barboza Most Courageous
Lyle Bauman Service Award
Scholar Athlete Award

Winners will be profiled over the coming weeks.

Offensive Line taking a selfie
We also took the opportunity to honor our graduating seniors.  It is never easy to say goodbye to a group of guys that you've gotten to work so closely with over a four year period, but it's also nice when we get a chance to honor them.  I'd like to say a sincere thank you to:

Charlotte Gbomina - filmer/manager
Haley Lopez - training room assistant
Laika Lewis - filmer/manager
Jermaine Marks - photographer
Zach McGriff - slot receiver
Jacob Bernholtz - running back
Kent Hoover - safety
Joe Galaske - cornerback
Ibuki Ogasawara - cornerback
Grant Koch - offensive line
Riley Drexler - defensive line
Matt Medrano - defensive line
Ethan Lahn - offensive line

Thanks all, and best of luck!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

GC Pride Camaign - Update

This was originally posted in October of 2014, when the Pioneer Football team hosted the first contest in a year-long effort by our athletic department dubbed the GC Pride Campaign.  The brainchild of our students and staff, the campaign was an effort to show in a visible, tangible way that athletics is, and should be, a safe and supportive environment to all.  The past few weeks have been a bit of a blur, finishing up our season and trying to get a jump on our off-season recruiting travel, but I'd like to take a brief moment to reiterate our support of all our students and student-athletes at Grinnell, as well as all those who have felt under attack during the past months and weeks.

This past election cycle we've seen that our country is more divided than I could have possibly imagined.  The negative rhetoric from a presidential candidate, and now the president elect, has emboldened many to say out loud the the hateful things they've only said in their heads in the past.  That is deeply troubling, and wholly at odds with the ideals of our country and the ideals of Grinnell College.  While it can feel like an overwhelming task, I believe each of us can play a role in making folks feel welcomed and valued in our communities, and we need to find a place to start.  For my part, I want to reiterate the ideals of the GC Pride campaign, that athletics is a welcoming and supportive community for all.  I believe in the innate goodness of human kind, I do not believe that might makes right, and I do believe that kindness and goodness will win in the end.  I don't care what you look like, who you love, or who you worship, you are welcome and supported at Grinnell College, and by Pioneer Athletics and Pioneer Football. 





Tomorrow the Pioneers will be hosting Cornell College for a 1:00 kickoff on Rosenbloom Field.  It is an important game, as it is our first divisional game, our first game that "counts", and a game against one of our closest rivals.  However, it is also a game that I hope will carry importance beyond the what happens between the lines, beyond what the final score shows.  Don't get me wrong, I want this one badly and I hope the Pioneers will play up to their full potential, but I hope this game also has deeper meaning to all who attend the game and all who hear about the game.

The GC Pride Campaign is the brainchild of Justin Thaxton, Coordinator for Diversity and Inclusion in Athletics, as well as student leaders from our varsity athletics teams, the Stonewall Resource Center, and Athlete Ally.  From the official release:

"The GC Pride Campaign is an effort formed out of the belief that athletics should represent the many identities of Grinnell College and the surrounding world.  With the NCAA core value of diversity through a commitment to create and support an inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes in mind, we have partnered with the Stonewall Resource Center, Office of Diversity & Inclusion, Office of Intercultural Engagement & Leadership and Athlete Ally.  The athletics department is committed to presenting opportunities to compete and learn that are inclusive of individuals representing all sexual orientations, gender identities, races, religious and cultural beliefs.  The GC Pride Campaign offers to us a moment as humans, Grinnellians and global leaders to take action and set the tone for an entire cultural conversation.  Together, we are stronger!

The GC Pride Campaign enables the many voices of the Grinnell community to join together in solidarity under a single message: "Athletic fields, teams and competitions are a safe space for Everyone.""

Sometimes the meaning of things can get lost in the fancy language, so I'll just hold on to that last sentence, "Athletic fields, teams and competitions are a safe space for Everyone."  I hope we can all agree! 


I'd like to thank Justin and all of our Pioneering students and student-athletes here at Grinnell College for dreaming of this event and for making it happen.  I'm lucky to be a part of it all.  Go Pioneers! 

GC Pride!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Happy Veterans Day

The Pioneers celebrated Military Appreciation Day last Saturday, but would also like to take the opportunity to thank our former Pioneers that also served in the Military.  Your willingness to put others ahead of yourselves is what it's all about!  Our country was built upon that attitude, and it's one we try to instill in all our student-athletes on a daily basis.

This is likely not a complete list of former Pioneers who served, so I apologize in advance to those I have missed.  If you know of others, please email me at pedersej@grinnell.edu and let me know!

Thank You!

Peter Rhee '03

Patrick Ritter '08


Kyle Lobaugh '10
Augustus Karisch '11
Thanks men!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Pioneers to Host Military Appreciation Day and MWC Canned Food Drive

The Pioneers will be hosting a Military Appreciation Day at their game against Lake Forest College this Saturday, November 5.  The game is scheduled for a 1:00 PM kickoff.  The national anthem will be played at 12:55 PM, with the colors being presented by our local American Legion.  At halftime we would like to recognize any veterans, and family members of veterans, who are in attendance.  We hope to have a strong showing!

We are also in the midst of the Midwest Conference Canned Food Drive, put on by the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).  The drive runs through Thanksgiving, and the Grinnell SAAC will donate the food they've collected to the local food pantry at MICA.  If you plan to attend our game this Saturday, or Senior Day next Saturday, please bring consider bringing a donation.

Thank you and Go Pioneers!


Friday, September 2, 2016

Pioneers to Open Saturday at 1:00


After a spirited and energetic pre-season, we're headed into tomorrow's opener with great excitement.  This year's team understands the challenges ahead of them, and they're to Meet the Challenge!  Looking forward to a great year!

See the season preview here.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

One of Twelve!

The Pioneers will be honoring one of our own, swimmer Joshua Tibatemwa, at halftime of our season opener this Saturday.  Representing his home country of Uganda, Tibatemwa was one of twelve Division 3 athletes to compete at Rio.

Congratulations on your accomplishments thus far, Joshua!  More to come!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

2016 Pre-Season Camp


Classes started this morning, so we're now officially done with our pre-season camp and we're now looking ahead to our opener against St. Olaf, Saturday, September 3.  While the players and coaches are looking ahead, let's take a look back at the start of camp, and our first annual Midnight Madness Pioneer Combine.
I loved starting the season in such a high-energy and exciting way, and I've been pleased at the way they've sustained that high all pre-season.  I'm loving the energy of this team right now!  2016 is going to be fun!  #GCPride #2016Pioneers