Concordia football media day notebook: Rodine's death still weighs on Bulldogs

Concordia football media day notebook: Rodine’s death still weighs on Bulldogs

2013 Concordia football media guide

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – A day after attending the funeral of former Bulldog football player and Concordia alum Derek Rodine, head coach Vance Winter spent most of his time at GPAC Football Media Day discussing the impact of Rodine’s death.

“The Bulldog football family has some heavy hearts this week,” Winter said while delivering an emotional speech inside the Sioux City, Iowa, Convention Center on Thursday afternoon. “I’ll admit we’re all in a state of shock with the death of Derek Rodine Saturday evening.”

Rodine, 23, started for four seasons along the Bulldog defensive front and served as a student assistant coach in 2012. He died over the weekend as a result of a car accident. Rodine’s visitation and funeral services were held Tuesday and Wednesday in Polk, Neb., where a throng of Concordia staff, friends, family and alums gathered in support of Rodine.

“This week has been so tough,” Winter said. “But I’m more proud than ever before to be the head coach at Concordia, to be able to work with the young men I’m privileged to coach and the great men I’m privileged to coach with. After this week and the tragedy that we’ve all struggled to deal with, I’m so proud of our group and how our group of men has come together in tough times to remember Derek, to support each other and Derek’s family and loved ones.”

Winter went on to answer questions from Lincoln’s 1011 News about Rodine. For Winter, it was hard to talk about X’s and O’s or position battles a day after a player he had coached and greatly admired was laid to rest.

“When a teammate passes away, it transcends a lot of trivial things – the X’s and O’s, the recruiting battles, the wins and losses,” Winter said. “It really becomes about the team, the brotherhood and the family that happens within a team. I’ve been reminded this week of how strong a brotherhood exits on our football team. I’m proud of the group and I’m just honored to coach these men.”

Winter went on to discuss why Rodine’s death hurt so much.

“Rowdy lived an impactful life,” Winter said. “He impacted so many people without probably even knowing it. We are so grateful for the time we were able to have with him. Selfishly, we all wanted more time, much more time. But God’s timing is not our time and we have to trust his plan out of all of this.”

Bulldog football is still in the process of formulating a means of honoring Rodine’s memory throughout the upcoming season. Rodine was the second former Concordia football player to die of tragic circumstances since the end of the 2012 season. Concordia graduate Drew Ekart died late this past May as a result of brain cancer.

GPAC coaches express sympathy: Several GPAC coaches provided well wishes to Bulldog football in the wake of Rodine’s death. Coaching staffs at Doane, Midland and Northwestern have also dealt with recent deaths to current or former players. Said Doane defensive coordinator Chris Bressler, “Our condolences go out to the Concordia football program. We know exactly what it’s like.” Last spring Doane football lost Cody Fanning, 20, in a similarly tragic incident.

Strong lineage of linebackers continues: “It’s good to talk about football,” Winter first remarked when asked about his team’s linebacker group. The unit will be led by seniors Dylan Heithoff (2012 second team all-conference), Langston Jones (2012 honorable mention all-conference) and converted safety Drew Baxter.

Concordia has come to be known for steady ballhawking linebackers in the mold of 2012 graduate Jerrod Fleming, a 2011 first team all-conference backer.

“We’re really excited about how that group performed in the spring,” Winter said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football, a lot of experience. That says a lot. These guys have went through the tough times and have worked very hard.

“Dylan Heithoff – he’s been a four-year starter ever since he showed up from Elgin, Nebraska. He’s a guy I’m really excited about with him going into his senior year. Langston Jones is another guy – one of the linebackers you’re talking about. We’ve had a run of very good linebackers. Langston is right in there. We really believe a lot in his ability.”

Winter sees improvement over 2012 squad: Concordia’s five victories in 2012 were the most for the program since 2004, but Winter is hoping for more in 2013 as the team builds around returning quarterback Von Thomas, the NAIA’s top punt returner in Derek Blessing and first team all-conference safety Darnell Woods.

“I will admit that this week has been tough to think about football,” Winter said. “That does not diminish our excitement about the 2013 season. We are a much improved football team. We’re a much improved football program. Our competitiveness level and our amount of depth is increasing yearly.”

Large contingency remains in Seward for summer workouts: About 20 players have spent the entire summer working out on campus. Winter and his staff have been impressed with the work ethic displayed by their squad this offseason. Standouts such as Jones, Thomas and Woods are among those who have conditioned in Seward this summer. Winter believes this hard work will pay off in the form of greater consistency in 2013.

“We have a group that has had a great offseason,” Winter said. “We’ve had our largest summer turnout ever in our program’s history. We are improving daily, weekly, yearly, and we’re excited about the 2013 season. We have plenty of very good football players. Now it’s time to prove it on the field consistently. And that’s the big word – consistency. We’ve had our moments, and last season for certain we had our moments, but we need to be more consistent.”

Bulldogs picked to finish seventh in GPAC: Coming off a seventh-place finish in the GPAC last season, Concordia has been pegged to place in exactly the same slot by both the coaches’ and media preseason conference polls. Check out the complete results of these polls below.

NOTE: Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.

Coaches’ Poll (first-place votes in parentheses)

  1. Morningside – 80 points (8)
  2. Northwestern – 72 points (1)
  3. Doane – 61 points (1)
  4. Nebraska Wesleyan – 52 points
  5. Hastings – 47 points
  6. Dakota Wesleyan – 44 points
  7. Concordia – 41 points
  8. Midland – 27 points
  9. Briar Cliff/Dordt - 13 points

Media Poll

  1. Morningside – 116 points (8)
  2. Northwestern – 109 points (4)
  3. Doane – 86 points
  4. Nebraska Wesleyan – 85 points
  5. Dakota Wesleyan – 72 points
  6. Hastings – 64 points
  7. Concordia – 45 points
  8. Midland – 43 points
  9. Briar Cliff – 27 points
  10. 10.  Dordt – 13 points


Vance Winter GPAC Media Day Transcript

Opening Statement:
Thank you to the Sioux City Convention Center and to (GPAC Commissioner) Corey Westra for all his work at this event. Big thanks to all the media here for representing the GPAC Conference.

The Bulldog football family has some heavy hearts this week. I’ll admit we’re all in a state of shock with the death of Derek Rodine Saturday evening. Derek was a four-year starter from 2008 to 2011. He was an all-conference defensive lineman and a student assistant coach for us last fall.

You’re never really prepared for something like this. There’s no doubt it hurts. I’m so grateful to the coaches in this league who have reached out to me, especially (Doane’s) Coach (Matt) Franzen. Coach’s Franzen’s back – really happy days with a new daughter. His words of comfort – I know what they dealt with last year with Cody Fanning. I heard how Cody was described by so many people in their program. “Rowdy” was that type of guy in our program and a man that was universally loved by the entire campus, and a guy who was an amazing an amazing teammate and friend.

The death of a young man who was so vibrant, strong and so seemingly invincible and so tough to handle – for a bunch of 18-to-25 year-old guys – it’s been really tough. It really makes you think about the frailties of life and making the most of your time on Earth. And Rowdy definitely did that.

Rowdy lived an impactful life. He impacted so many people without probably even knowing it. We are so grateful for the time we were able to have with him. Selfishly, we all wanted more time, much more time. But God’s timing is not our time and we have to trust his plan out of all of this.

This week has been so tough, but I’m more proud than ever before to be the head coach at Concordia, to be able to work with the young men I’m privileged to coach and the great men I’m privileged to coach with. After this week and the tragedy that we’ve all struggled to deal with, I’m so proud of our group and how our group of men has come together in tough times to remember Derek, to support each other and Derek’s family and loved ones.

When a teammate passes away, it transcends a lot of trivial things – the X’s and O’s, the recruiting battles, the wins and losses. It really becomes about the team, the brotherhood and the family that happens within a team. I’ve been reminded this week of how strong a brotherhood exits on our football team. I’m proud of the group and I’m just honored to coach these men.

I’m still in awe also of the communities of Polk, Nebraska, and Hordville, Nebraska, and Immanuel Lutheran Church for their support of the Rodine family. It’s just an amazing show of support – an amazing show of support for that family. It makes you appreciate the love and compassion of a small community and it was inspiring to see. I know our program and everyone associated with the Concordia family will never forget.

Please keep Derek’s family – the Rodines – his fiancé Ashley and our team in your prayers. I will admit that this week has been tough to think about football. That does not diminish our excitement about the 2013 season.

We are a much improved football team. We’re a much improved football program. Our competitiveness level and our amount of depth is increasing yearly. We train and perform in first-class facilities. We have a coaching staff and coordinators that I feel are excellent men of character and excellent coaches.

We have a group that has had a great offseason. We’ve had our largest summer turnout ever in our program’s history. We are improving daily, weekly, yearly, and we’re excited about the 2013 season. We have plenty of very good football players. Now it’s time to prove it on the field consistently. And that’s the big word – consistency. We’ve had our moments, and last season for certain we had our moments, but we need to be more consistent.

Like I said, this is a tough day to really talk too much about football and our individual guys and things like that.

We’re very excited about this season. We’re excited about our group and I can talk about the names, but I’m just going to say that I love our group. And that’s what I’ve dealt with all this week is our group. Those guys that are really hurting right now back in Seward and across the country – the football part seems pretty inconsequential right now. But for me today it is about the entire Bulldog family and the group of young people that are really hurting back in Seward and across the US. I’m proud to be their coach.

These are tough days, but we look forward to the 2013 season and we love our team.

Question: Coach, I understand it’s very difficult to talk about your players, but if I could get you to talk about your defense, especially your linebackers. You’ve got a couple guys that have some really good leadership there. They seem like they really get things going. Could you touch on them a little bit?

Coach Winter: Yeah, it’s good. It’s good to talk football. We’ve got some good guys. Defensively we return a great group. We’re really excited about how that group performed in the spring. We’ve got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football, a lot of experience. That says a lot. These guys have went through the tough times and have worked very hard.

Dylan Heithoff – he’s been a four-year starter ever since he showed up from Elgin, Nebraska. He’s a guy I’m really excited about with him going into his senior year. Langston Jones is another guy – one of the linebackers you’re talking about. We’ve had a run of very good linebackers. Langston is right in there. We really believe a lot in his ability.

1 August 2013

Coach Vance Winter gave an emotional speech on Thursday about the impact of former Bulldog all-conference performer Derek Rodine (No. 90), who died tragically over the weekend.

Head coach Vance Winter at the podium on GPAC Football Media Day.