Mar 14

Artistic Expression

Excerpt from Chapter 7:Perfection!

Castle Knights defensive line coach Bob Rogers had grown up in Evansville, playing football and baseball for Bosse High School, where he would graduate from in 1969. The son of a custodian and a nurse’s aide, he went to the University of Evansville on a football scholarship to play defensive tackle. Without the scholarship, his blue-collar parents would never have been able to afford the tuition.

Graduating from UE in 1973 with a degree in art, Rogers didn’t set out to be a football coach. His passion was on the canvas. No, not the wrestling canvas, the kind that sits on an easel. His passion was art, and he wanted to teach it. Coaching football, he thought, would merely be icing on the cake. Indiana high school football sports

He taught for a year at Evansville’s Lincoln Elementary School mainly because of a lack of high school openings. That changed by the following spring when Castle Athletic Director Dave Austill called UE football coach Jim Byers. Austill’s request was simple: Castle needed a football coach, but the only teaching position available was for art. Did Byers know of any good defensive line coaches who could also teach art?

Rogers was the only candidate Austill could find who fit both criteria, and soon found himself meeting with Austill for an interview. It really wasn’t even much of an interview as Austill basically just showed him around the recently constructed new high school building. Austill offered Rogers the job on the spot and Rogers accepted.

“I agreed because there just wasn’t anybody else knocking on my door,” Rogers laughed. ” They needed a football coach, baseball coach and an art teacher. They found all three in me.”

Mar 12

Crazy Like a Fox

Excerpt from Chapter 5: Learning to Win

The team had heard the stories — ninth grade coach Marc Anderson was a little crazy.

“A little,” linebacker Pat Lockyear chuckled. “That’s an understatement.”

“Yeah,” Anderson said, “I guess you could say I was a little crazy back then.”

Indiana high school football sportsBut the intense, clip-board-breaking, face-mask grabbing Anderson was more complex than simply crazy. The intelligent Anderson had a John McEnroe-type personality that refused to allow him, or his teams, to have even a moment of lacked concentration or all-out effort.

Anderson had known by the second grade that he was destined to be a coach — a wrestling coach. The only member of the Knights coaching staff at the time who hadn’t graduated from the University of Evansville, the Indiana University graduate had been employed for two years at Pike Central High School in Petersburg, Indiana, where he had started the school’s wrestling program from scratch.

Waking up one morning and enjoying his coffee and newspaper, Anderson came across an article that would change his life. The article in the Evansville Courier announced that the wrestling coach at Evansville Mater Dei High School had retired. Anderson immediately called Mater Dei, explaining to the athletic director how he had been a wrestler at IU and had started Pike Central’s wrestling program from scratch. The athletic director listened politely and then apologized, telling Anderson that he had just hired Mike Goebel, a former Mater Dei wrestler, away from Castle.

Anderson was crushed. Year after year, Mater Dei was one of the state’s top wrestling programs. Then the Mater Dei athletic director put some wind back in Anderson’s sails.

“Why don’t you call over to Castle right now,” he said. “I think they’re in a pinch.”

In fact, the athletic director said, he’d call over in advance if it would help. Giving the athletic director enough time to make the advance phone call, Anderson made his. Castle Athletic Director Tony Inzerello told Anderson to come down that very day to talk to him. Before the sun had set, Anderson was Castle’s new head wrestling coach and would assist with the freshman football team.Indiana high school football sports

“It was a dream come true,” Anderson said. “Castle seemed like a big-time program coming from Pike Central.”

Anderson’s coaching antics would be talked about for years and still are a favorite topic of any player who played for him. Anderson believed as much in the mental side of athletics as the physical side. He believed in taking chances and his intensity was contagious.

“He was a tremendous motivator,” Lockyear said. “Anybody who knows wrestling coaches knows that he more than fit that mold.”

Lineman Mike Hoag would learn that the hard way. During one practice, Anderson grew wary of Hoag’s mistakes on the offensive line and put him on defense instead. Fearing he was losing his position, Hoag “went ballistic” and started taking his frustration out on the offensive players, including running back Dave Brosmer and quarterback Mike Davis. Coach Evers, who was growing concerned about Hoag hurting somebody, calmly told Anderson: “I think you better give him his position back.”

“We were all scared of him,” Hoag said. “He’d throw a football at your helmet if you messed up — and he had pretty good aim.”

But there was a method to Anderson’s madness, Lockyear said.

“He was very disciplined. He wouldn’t allow us to accept making mistakes. He wanted us to be perfect,” Lockyear said. “There was never a let up no matter the score or how bad we are beating a team. We were always expected to play and practice to our fullest.”

Mar 09

Run it again!

Excerpt from Chapter 5: Learning to Win

A creature of habit, assistant coach Jerry Sims believed in repetition upon repetition upon repetition in preparing his teams, often driving the players bonkers by requiring them in practice to run the same play over and over again until he got the consistent results he was seeking.Indiana high school football sports

In practice one day, Sims had his players repeatedly running the Blast 32 play — a run up the gut that the players had been running as a team for years.

“Run it again!” he’d bellow if he saw even the smallest mistake. “Run it again!”

On a lark, Davis told his teammates in the huddle that after they ran the play forwards he wanted them to immediately run it backwards. To please Sims, they ran the Blast play again and as they stopped at the end, Davis yelled “hut” and the entire team ran it backwards through their previous pathways and back to their starting point.

Indiana High School football sportsA quizzical look crossed Sims’ face for a split second and then he nearly fell over laughing. When he finally regained his composure, Sims called the other coaches over.

“You’ve got to see this,” he said.

“Run it again!” he ordered his team.  The team ran the play forwards and backwards to the entire coaching staff’s delight. Whenever the coaches would have a guest come to practice after that, Sims would direct his team to show off the backwards play. Indiana high school football sports

“We’d run those plays so many times over the years that we could do them in our sleep,” Davis said. “We didn’t think about the importance of that kind of thing then, but when you’re in tough situations and tough games, you don’t have time to think; you just have to do it. Through repetition, he wanted to make those plays so natural for us that they came natural to us.”

Mar 05

“The Road to Paradise”

 

Excerpt from Chapter 11: Exorcising of the Ghosts of Carmel

Carmel knew the shuffle was coming and the Greyhounds stayed at the top of the stadium, refusing to climb down the steps to the field until Castle shuffled first. The officials relayed the message to Castle and told them to shuffle first. 

Castle assistant coach Johnny Evers explained, however, that his team was under its goal post where it was supposed to be and Carmel had not even entered the stadium. Castle, he said, would shuffle once Carmel started entering the stadium and would be on its sideline before the Greyhounds even reached their bench. The officials agreed and made Carmel begin entering the stadium.

Once the Greyhound players were making their way through the crowd, Castle began its shuffle. They would have to watch the Knights’ entrance.

Indiana high school football sports

Castle Knight runningback Chris Brosmer attacks the Carmel Greyhound defense during the Knights 1982 semi-final matchup -- Photo by TONY FREELS.

Head Coach John Lidy made a point of seeking out Carmel Coach Jim Belden to shoot the breeze before the game. It didn’t go well. When Lidy returned to the Castle sideline, Evers noticed that something had lit the coach’s fuse.

“What happened?” Evers asked.

“You won’t believe what that guy just said.”

“What’d he say?”

The still steaming Lidy could barely get the words out.

Indiana high school football sports

Castle Knights' quarterback Mike Davis calls the signals against Carmel as flanker Gary Gilles goes in motion.

“He said, ‘You know coach, you got a nice little team down there’.”

It wasn’t the words that steamed Lidy so much as the condescending and  dismissive tone behind them: You’ve got a nice little team that’s had a nice little season; now take your beating and call it a year. Word quickly spread among the coaches and players. Belden had just given the Knights the blackboard material they needed.

Belden’s players would do their own to light the Knights’ fire. The pre-game coin flip had actually taken place in the school’s gymnasium right outside the locker rooms where the game officials met with Knights’ quarterback Mike Davis and linebacker Rodney Russell as well as Carmel’s captains, which included senior quarterback Scott Rogers.

“They looked at us smirking, like we weren’t anything,” Russell said. “All that did was fire us up.”

The Knights weren’t just playing Carmel that night. They weren’t just playing the defending state champs for the opportunity to play for the state championship. They were playing the entire state of Indiana.

 

Feb 27

“The Road to Paradise”

Carmel Greyhound StadiumExcerpt from Chapter 1: Friday the 13th

CARMEL WAS ABOUT to add injury to insult.

After yet another touchdown giving them an insurmountable 49-13 lead, the Greyhounds kicked off to the demoralized Knights. On the play, junior Dave Brosmer and got creamed from the side, causing him to wrench his back as he hit the ground.

He felt the twinge of pain, but didn’t have time to worry about it now. There were two minutes left to play.

When he awoke the next morning, he expected to be sore and he was. When he tried to throw his legs to the floor, a pain more intense than anything he’d ever experienced shot through him. His brother Chris helped him to the family car and his mother drove him to the hospital. After an endless array of tests, x-rays and MRIs, the doctor entered the room and turned his world upside down.

“You’ve pretty much cracked your vertebrae in half. You’re going to need surgery.”

“Surgery?” an agitated Brosmer shot back as his mom tried to comfort him. “What’s that mean?”

The doctor offered some bland encouragement, but Brosmer wasn’t in the mood. He had only one question on his mind right then. He had to ask, even if he didn’t want to hear the answer.

“Am I going to be able to play football again?”

He needed to hear a yes or no. He got neither.

“Let’s see, Dave, okay?”

OUTSIDE THE HOSPITAL ROOM, his parents asked the question again: Would he play football again? They got a much more straight-forward answer.

“Probably not,” the doctor told them.

There’s no lonelier place than within your own thoughts, and Brosmer would have plenty of time alone with his thoughts. He was scared of the prospect of not playing football again. Scared that the injury might be worse than what he was being told. It was a lot for a 17 year old to deal with.

After the surgery, he awoke in a morphine-induced haze. His eyes searched the room and soon found his parents. The concern in their eyes couldn’t lie to him. They were worried. They offered comforting smiles, exchanged small talk and laughed a little until Brosmer realized he couldn’t feel his legs.

Panic spread through him.

This was the ugly place his thoughts had taken him, and now it seemed to be coming true.

The doctors would repeatedly tell him that the paralysis was temporary. Be patient and the feeling would come back.

Be patient? He wanted to scream.

“When you’re 17, all you can think is that this isn’t right,” he said.