LORD, Give my kid a "Character" COACH!

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I have played for many coaches in my playing career. Some were really good, some were not-so-good. Some were masters of technique, some never even played the game. Some were yellers (screamers, I should say), while others never raised their voice. Ultimately, some were forgettable, while others…. my teammates and I will NEVER, EVER forget. All of us have had coaches like these that were "characters", men who were unique and who uniquely coached their players, loving them at the same time. We all KNEW that our special "character" coach(s) cared about us and wanted the best for us. They never had to say it, for they showed it to us everyday.

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Click Coach Nystrom's picture to see how the Michigan Senate paid tribute to him this past season.

One of our favorite "character" coaches while playing at Michigan State in the late 1980's was Buck Nystrom. Coach Nystrom was our offensive line coach; he had played at MSU in the 50's for legendary Spartan coach, Biggie Munn. He was BOTH an All-American and an Academic All-American; us players being reminded of this walking past his photo every day going out to practice. (He had this big scab on his nose in the picture, I wonder if he ever led with his face when he blocked?) He was "old-school" and everybody loved him, especially his offensive linemen; as much as he was "old school" as because he yelled and yelled and pushed and pushed and loved and loved. You WANTED to play for him.

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Buck Nystrom speaking to young people about the art of blocking. People in the front row-Look out!

Stories abound about Coach Buck. There are stories like when he had the managers turn on the headlights of the coach's cars to shine onto the practice field at MSU for a third practice for the O-Linemen during two-a-day camp. Or the countless times when Coach Buck spit his false teeth out yelling at the O-line to block better in practice….and then retrieving them out of the dirt and putting them back in his mouth to yell again! And if you valued your life, you never sat in the front row of a clinic talk as a coach put on by Coach Buck. He was famous for pulling coaches on stage to help demonstrate and knocking them off the stage showing the proper blocking technique!

Fourth Quarter

For us players, however, probably Coach Buck's greatest legacy was the off-season conditioning program he personally conducted from January-March. Called the 4th Quarter Program, it consisted of runs twice a week for endurance and speed and twice a week agility work, with 6:00am speed and agility Friday testing. In fact, one of the first things Coach Nick Saban did upon arriving to Alabama-was to create his own version based on Coach Buck's.( Saban coached at MSU with Buck from 1983-87) While the other assistant coaches were on the road recruiting, Coach Buck was sweating with us, making us better. We all realized how much Coach Buck improved us, no matter what position we played.


Coach Buck with some of his offensive linemen when he coached at Northern Michigan University.

Without a doubt, Coach Nystrom made mistakes. He was human. We'd laugh how he'd insist on running Lorenzo White on toss sweep even though there were 4 defenders outside the offensive tackle. But in the end, it didn't matter. Coach "Buck" made us better. Coach "Buck" made us WANT to be better. Coach "Buck" was authentic, he was REAL. And even though, Coach "Buck" was all about football, it definitely being #1 in his life, HE was BIGGER than football. He was LOVE, he was PASSION, he was ENERGY. Without a doubt, he was bigger than football, heck, he was bigger than LIFE. And we idolized him because of that.


I am 46 years old and am not too removed from the time I played football at Michigan State. I have forgotten so many things from those days, days that I cherished when I lived them. But one thing I know I will always remember is our offensive line coach, Carl "Buck" Nystrom.

I often wonder, for all of us coaches, if OUR players will do the same, will they remember US? And if they do, what will they remember us FOR? Will we bring back great memories of times they wished they could live again or, instead, memories they wish they could forget?

Indeed, we all are called to be "character" coaches, to forge memories for our players that they will never forget. My question to all of is, What is stopping you from being that character?

Chris Willertz: Leaders Make Plays! 
SportsLeader Website


We at SportsLeader KNOW you have similar stories of great coaches, great experiences, and lessons learned playing sports. Mark Ewald, assistant football coach at the University of Dayton wants to hear them! Take a minute to look at his letter below and let's put those stories to paper. What better way to pay tribute to the coaches(like Coach Buck Nystrom) and teams we played for, fought for and many times bled for.


Mark Ewald-Asst. football coach for the University of Dayton Flyers(FCS-formally DI-AA)

I Need your Help!

I have been chasing coaches, mentors, and teachers for the last 2+ years, asking you to send me your most favorite sport short stories. I am looking for stories about team memories,individual players that have over and under achieved, and stories of all types of adversity overcome that occurs so often in team sports or LIFE!

I need any story or memory that illustrates the highs, lows, victories, defeats, and inspiring moments that are the essence of coaching and being involved with team sports.

Please take the time, TODAY and share your story. The length and topic is up to you. Most of them have been a page or two. My publisher wants to go to print by March 1st. The target is 50 stories I am just over half way home! I really want this collection of our coaching memories to help inspire, teach and entertain others.

Please get involved today! Sit down tonight and type it out and email me. 
Don’t hesitate to call with questions.

Thanks in advance!

Keep embracing YOUR Journey! Keep chasing!

Mark Ewald 
Asst. Football Coach 
University of Dayton 
937-673-1873 marktewald@gmail.com