Schuckman: Stoic or not, Nielson's character is what WIU needs

Posted: Dec. 24, 2012 8:28 am Updated: Feb. 4, 2013 9:14 am

Asked to describe his coaching style, newly named Western Illinois University football coach Bob Nielson disagreed with others' assessments.

"If you read the paper, they say I'm stoic," Nielson said during last week's introductory press conference. "I never thought of myself as stoic."

Moments later, he showed he isn't.

In discussing the challenge of leaving Minnesota Duluth, a school he had served as head coach and athletic director at different stages for the past 13 years, his voice cracked and he nearly came to tears.

There he paused for a moment, collected himself and moved forward.

It was a small snapshot into Nielson's personality, but it painted a broad picture of what WIU fans can expect.

Nielson will be composed.

He'll be detailed.

And he'll never let the moment get the better of him.

That is why, in due time, the Leathernecks will enjoy success again.

When Mark Hendrickson was fired on Nov. 19 after winning just five games combined in his final two seasons at WIU, no one felt -- at least no one expressed it publicly -- it was the wrong move.

Hendrickson's players were saddened by the decision because they had come to know and respect the man.

Here was a coach who went on mission trips with his church. He found something good to say, even in a bad situation.

He was genuine and sincere, traits most fans don't associate with a head football coach.

Was he too nice? Maybe so.

That's why Hendrickson wasn't the right fit.

That's not to say Nielson won't be friendly, genuine and sincere. His players and assistant coaches at Minnesota Duluth raved about his character and how fortunate WIU was to gain such a quality person.

Nielson has already reached out to WIU's returning players and plans to meet with them after Christmas.

What they will learn is Nielson's personality is drastically different from that of Hendrickson.

He may not be stoic, but he won't fiery either.

"I don't have a lot of Knute Rockne speeches in my back pocket," Nielson said.

He doesn't need those to win.

He needs determination, something that came through loud and clear during the interview process.

"I'm composed," Nielson said. "I'm a coach who is going to have high expectations."

He isn't alone in that regard. WIU athletic director Tim Van Alstine went into the process determined to find a winner. Previous success, he said, was mandatory.

Van Alstine never talked about the kind of personality he wanted in a new coach. He talked solely about the ability to create a championship program.

That's what Nielson can do better than anyone else WIU encountered.

He's won two national championships, multiple conference titles and the respect of anyone he has ever worked with or coached.

You can expect he will do the same at WIU.

Nielson may not consider himself stoic, but that kind of character is exactly what the Leathernecks need.




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