What does being a champion at Olivet College mean? It isn’t just playing in an impressive football stadium, wearing a brand new red uniform or even winning back-to-back league titles, as the Comets have done for the past two seasons. Ask Head Football Coach Dan “Moose” Musielewicz and he will tell you, the most important part of being a champion is belonging to a family that works toward a common goal.
That’s one of the reasons so many young men choose to continue their football careers at Olivet College. Aside from the opportunity to play the game they love, it’s the deeper connection with teammates and coaches that will see them through from their first day as freshmen to graduation and beyond.
“Football has a positive impact on a young man’s life and that’s what we value most as a coaching staff,” Musielewicz said. “Students can come to Olivet and have a life-changing experience. It means being part of a band of brothers – being part of a special culture that we built.”
Olivet is known for providing an exceptional, relationships-based education where professors invest in each student personally. That culture carries into every facet of the Olivet student experience, especially on the playing field.
Since taking the helm as head coach in January, Musielewicz and the coaching staff have been working tirelessly to build student-athletes into champions. All 112 Olivet football players know what it’s like to win on game day. More importantly, they’re learning what it’s like to win in life. As one of the most diverse college football teams in the state, they come together from all different backgrounds and form an uncommon bond.
“Our number one goal is building relationships that last beyond football,” Musielewicz said. “When we’re on the road talking to prospective student-athletes, the vast majority say the thing they love most about the game is playing with their friends. One of the things we pride ourselves on at Olivet is the family relationships. Students aren’t just a number; they want to be part of something special. I think that’s what sets our players apart.”
TAKING ONE WIN AT A TIME
Though Musielewicz is new to the role of head coach, he is no stranger to program and the culture of success that has been built over the past few seasons. He served as Olivet College football’s offensive and recruiting coordinator for five years and currently works alongside much of the same dedicated coaching staff that saw the Comets go 9-1 overall and earn a share of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) championship with a 5-1 record during 2015. The nine wins were the most in school history for a season; the team tied the record in 2016, ending the season 9-2 overall and 6-0 in the conference securing the outright championship title. The coaching staff includes Cody Carlisle, Andrew Rodriguez, Chris Madill, Warren Maloney, Brad Rumsey, Dan Simrell, Javier Smith, Larry Smith and Tom Wyman.
“Our staff is phenomenal and they’ve made this transition incredible,” Musielewicz said. “We’ve been blessed to be able to keep them here and they have the same values that I do.”
All of the coaches agree that of those values, building lifelong relationships is what sets Olivet’s program apart. “My biggest goal is having a lasting impact upon my players,” said Warren Maloney, who serves as associate head coach and defensive coordinator. “Every day I think of something my coaches taught me. Most of the time it has nothing to do with football. If I can have that same impact upon just one of the players I have coached, I will have had a successful career when it is all said and done.”
“One of the things that I value most about coaching at Olivet is the diversity of our team,” added Brad Rumsey, offensive coordinator. “We have players who come from the inner city, who grew up on farms and everywhere in between. A great thing about football is that it doesn’t care who you are or where you come from. Watching our young men come together to achieve a common goal is one of my favorite parts of coaching at Olivet.”
The staff’s goal going forward is to build upon those values, to reassess what hasn’t worked in the past, and to continue investing in constant communication with players. “That’s our formula for being able to do what we do,” Musielewicz said. “It’s establishing and maintaining those relationships with our guys. And of course, everybody wants to win.”
Guided by a new motto titled “One Win,” the team’s focus is on that single common goal. “We work toward a championship level. That’s our standard,” Musielewicz said. “But we take it one day at a time. Whether on the field or in the classroom, it’s about taking one win, one opportunity. Each success is a win and each win is a step forward.”
COACHING CHAMPIONS ON AND OFF THE FIELD
Trenton Monroe and Michael Sherman serve as two of the five team captains this season. Having been part of Olivet’s two recent MIAA championships, each can attest to the power of the team’s values system and the lessons it imparts.
Driven by the “One Win” motto, Sherman says his coaches have encouraged him to find small successes every day. “They are constantly present and doing class checks, so there’s added responsibility not just on the field but also on campus,” Sherman said. “Knowing they are present and talking to my teachers about how I’m doing in class really gives me that extra push to excel.”
The investment the coaches make in connecting with each player – through text messages, phone calls and regular check-ins – reinforces the bond among teammates, as well. “The coaches have made it a point to take time out of their schedules to get to know their players and sit down and talk one-on-one about different aspects of life,” Sherman said. “Seeing them do that pushes us to reach out to each other and truly work together on and off the field.”
“The coaches are our backbone,” Monroe added. “Whether we have a problem in the classroom, at home with family or in our own lives, their door is always open. When it comes to the field, the coaches have been in our shoes. They have played college football and won championships and they know the game. They share and do all they can so when it comes to Saturdays, we’re ready to go.”
Anticipation is building for the 2017 football season and what this new band of Comets will do. While the current team continues to put in work through the off-season, their predecessors near and far are rooting for them from the sidelines.
Tim A. Baker ’77, who was part of the 1974 MIAA championship team, is one such fan. “Last year, as the Comets were racing to the MIAA championship and playoff berth, there wasn’t a bigger bunch of supporters than the 1974 team,” Baker said, adding that the Comet brotherhood on his own team was special. “It was not about offense versus defense, it was not about who scored the touchdowns and who was the star. It was about a bunch of guys just wanting to get the job done, and we did!”
Jim Carmody ’70 had a similar experience, saying that being part of Olivet football helped prepare him for long-term success as a business owner and entrepreneur. “Olivet gave me an opportunity and the people I came into contact with at that great institution helped catapult me into a successful business career,” Carmody said. “Teammates are important. Nobody is successful because of what they do themselves.”
Both Baker and Carmody say they are lucky enough to keep in contact with many of their former teammates today. “The 1974 team remains close, 40 years later,” Baker said. “That is what winning championships does for a team, it bonds you, because you all went through the sweat and toil to reach a goal. We will all be cheering on Coach Moose and the 2017 edition of Olivet College football.”
The Comets kick off their 2017 season with a home game on Sept. 2 at 1 p.m. when they take on Heidelberg (Ohio).
— Molly (Reed) Goaley ’05