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Concordia Football: 2023 Media Day Notebook

By Jacob Knabel on Jul. 17, 2023 in Football

VIDEO: Full interview with Concordia Football (July 17, 2023)

Come September, Head Coach Patrick Daberkow and his 2023 Concordia Football team hope to show they’re more than what the 4-6 record in 2022 might indicate. For now, they can simply talk about the anticipation of a new season and an offense better equipped to explode out of the gates compared to a year ago. Representing the football program on Monday (July 17), Daberkow, quarterback DJ McGarvie and linebacker Michael Grindey met members of the media for a small college football media day hosted by Doane.

Clad in blazers and dress shirts, all three Bulldogs agreed that they’re more than ready for August camp to be here. For those wondering, Daberkow donned a gray sport coat while Grindey wore black and McGarvie boldly went with the light yellow blazer. Stars and leaders on the team, Grindey and McGarvie contrast each other in more ways than just their choice of sport coats. Immediately after McGarvie talked about being a lead-by-example type of signal caller, Grindey remarked, “I’m super loud,” igniting laughs from those gathered at the Concordia table.

As an opening to the meet and greet, Daberkow uttered the following words: “Always excited to get going in August. Summer’s been over for a while. It’s exciting to have the season right around the corner. We want to build off last season. I felt like we made some really big strides, especially offensively. I thought it was critical that we finished down the stretch with some success on offense. I felt like last season we started the season defensively strong enough to win more games than we ended up winning. To have the offense catching up is something I was excited to see happen last year. I’m looking forward to starting this year having had some success offensively in the rearview mirror as something we can go back to.”

In another light-hearted moment, Daberkow joked, “It’s going to be interesting having (Luke Lang and Austin Jablonski) them at wingback in the flex bone offense that we’re going to run this fall.” Other programs represented at the media day included Doane, Hastings, Midland, Nebraska Wesleyan and Peru State.

Coach Daberkow Highlights

This will mark Patrick Daberkow’s seventh season as head coach of the football program. The Bulldogs posted a 7-3 record in 2021 before slipping to 4-6 in 2022. A major reason for the change was a lack of success in-state. Turning those results around will be a priority this fall. Said Daberkow on Monday, “You have to own whatever happened the last time you played them. We swept the conference two years ago in-state. Last year we didn’t do what we had to do to beat these teams. Just seeing some of the helmets and the logos gets the temperature up a little bit. That’s all right.”

New Theme – Each season, many Concordia athletic teams come up with a theme to help focus their attention. Those themes are often connected to a specific Bible verse. The theme for 2023 will build off already existing values for Bulldog Football. Said Daberkow, “Our values – toughness, accountability and authenticity – all have a Biblical basis to them. We’re going to talk a lot about a passage from Jeremiah about a tree next to a river. If you’re rooted in the right things, being anchored in that, you don’t have to worry about the things that are going to happen in life.”

Incoming recruits – Daberkow isn’t ready to hype any one specific newcomer to the program this fall. The evaluation process will begin in earnest when student-athletes report to campus on Aug. 7. As Daberkow explained, “Until you’re working with guys, you try to get to know them as best you can through the recruiting process. It’s a four-year program and we get to know guys. We talk about developing deep relationships. That doesn’t happen overnight. We’re really excited about the incoming class. Mostly I’m excited about seeing our upperclassmen teach them about the culture of our locker room and how we do things. Culture is what you celebrate, what you tolerate and whether you’re consistent or not. I’m looking to see a consistent group of upperclassmen and coaches bringing guys into a culture that is healthy, aggressively competitive and hungry to win.”

Goals – In a preseason @NAIAFBALL podcast previewing the GPAC, host Cory Thorpe mentioned Concordia as his “dark horse” team in the conference for 2023. The returning quarterback and an invigorated offense are major reasons for optimism. Daberkow says his team has goals for 2023, but he’s more focused on the process at this point of the offseason.

“If we’re serious about winning games, what do our team meetings look like?” Daberkow said. “What do our weight training sessions look like? How do we condition? Are our fastest guys finishing first or are they lagging behind? We have some goals for the team that we’ve talked about in the locker room during spring ball. As a coaching staff, we just want to see those goals being lived out on a daily basis at the micro level. I wish I could bring our whole group of upperclassmen to media day. We have a great group in the locker room putting the work in to obtain the goals we’ve set.”

DJ McGarvie Highlights

The confidence surrounding the offense starts with DJ McGarvie at quarterback. The native of Valparaiso, Neb., broke the program’s record for single season passing yards (2,553) in 2022. He also has some fine weapons around him (even with the departure of Korrell Koehlmoos) that have been overlooked from a national perspective. The Bulldogs just might have one of the league’s best receivers in Austin Jablonski and one of its best tight ends in Luke Lang. McGarvie just might reset his own standard this fall.

McGarvie wants to raise the bar as an entire offense. Said the junior-to-be, “We want to keep playing how we were last season and keep that success going into this season. We want to focus on getting that one percent better every day.”

34 points is the magic number – In any given game this fall, McGarvie and the offense aspire to put up at least 34 points. If they do that, winning becomes a strong likelihood. Said McGarvie, “Coach Nelson came in and did statistics on us. It’s a very high percentage chance we win if we get 34 points.” The Bulldogs averaged 33.2 points per game over the final six outings of 2022.

Leadership – McGarvie is soft-spoken and a lead-by-example type of QB. That’s just fine with the head coach and his Concordia teammates. Said McGarvie, “I don’t really like to be the vocal leader on the offense. I expect people to show up and do their thing rather than having to get on them. If you’re playing college football, you should not need that motivation for another player to get on you. I’d rather just show up, put the work in and go home.”

Beating in-state rivals – That 0-3 mark last season against in-state opponents has not sat will. “It burns a lot,” McGarvie said. “These are our in-state rivals. We always want to beat them and take it to them.”

Choosing Concordia – McGarvie was asked why Concordia: “Obviously the football program and then my sister (Caitlyn) played softball here for four years. I just went with her. She was always my main person to go to competition-wise and everything else. I just wanted to bring that competitive factor as a family here. It made us even closer than we were before.”

Jablonski + Lang – Two of McGarvie’s main receiving targets formerly sat alongside him in the Concordia quarterback room. The close relationships McGarvie has developed with the likes of Austin Jablonski and Luke Lang has contributed to their cohesiveness on the field. Another returner to watch is Carsen Arline. Said McGarvie, “Coming in my freshman year, Luke Lang was ahead of me on the quarterback list. We got to know each other very well with that. Same thing with Austin Jablonski. We got super close competing against each other and when he moved to wide receiver, we kept that relationship. We talk all the time since then and me and Luke always talk. We used to play a bunch of video games against each other and have that competitive factor working. It’s very exciting what we have for this upcoming season with the receiver group.”

Michael Grindey Highlights

Born in Omaha, Michael Grindey calls Chandler, Ariz., his hometown. His Nebraska roots pulled him back in, first as a rugby player at Creighton University. Grindey took a winding route, but he’s at Concordia now and coming off a First Team All-GPAC campaign. The exercise science major has also enjoyed the opportunity to work at the University of Nebraska as a strength and conditioning intern with the football program.

Being with the guys – With one full season as a starting linebacker under his belt, Grindey has a higher comfort level heading into 2023. He sees a defense that can exceed last year’s level. “We have a lot of guys returning, especially up front with our defensive line and at linebacker,” Grindey said. “I have a better idea of how we operate and what makes us click. I love the competitive side. To play in those competitive games and be able to get after it, I’m really excited to do that again.”

Rugby to football – Grindey may have one of the more unique paths to the playing field of any Concordia starter. He reconnected with the sport of football following two years at Creighton.Grindey detailed his journey in saying, “I played rugby at Creighton University. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do so I went home to Arizona for a year and worked and coached high school football. That’s when I rediscovered my love for football. I pretty much ended up walking onto Coach Daberkow’s doorstep and saying, ‘Hey, I haven’t played in four years, but I’d love to play.’ Rugby was great at Creighton. I loved playing rugby, but I’m really glad to be playing football.

“I played flanker and that’s pretty much the guy who makes a lot of tackles and takes people head on. When things get tough in a football game, playing rugby really helped out with that because it’s no pads. I’m used to pain. I’m used to sticking it on guys. That’s my mindset.”

Leadership – Grindey is not shy – and he’s not afraid to speak up. Said Grindey, “I’m super loud. I’ve learned over the years to bring people along. I don’t always need to be the one talking. I think everyone playing college football is passionate about the game. As a leader, it’s up to me to bring that out of them. I love the game of football and I’m very enthusiastic. I’m very loud. You’ll probably hear me before you see me.”

Love for small college football in the Midwest – Grindey further discussed the path that led him to Seward in saying,“I was born in Omaha and I have a brother who goes to Creighton and a brother who goes to the University of Nebraska. It’s smalltown Midwest football. I remember driving there and eating lunch at the café in Seward and I just fell in love with it. There’s nothing better than smalltown college football. I wanted to come back to Nebraska and be close to my brothers. I love the Midwest. I actually like the cold. I like the fall. We don’t really have that in Arizona. I fell in love with Seward and Concordia.”

One line from Grindey that stuck out: “If you don’t want to compete and get after it, this isn’t the place for you.”

NEXT – The first official day of preseason camp will be Monday, Aug. 7 when players will report to campus. That will give the Bulldog nearly a month to prepare to take on defending NAIA national champion Northwestern on Sept. 2.

Further reading

·        Selfless ‘Jabo’ living in the moment at ‘special place’

·        Walking in the truth: How Drew Ekart’s impact remains deeply felt

·        Luke Lang 2.0: a Bulldog transformed

·        Spring Update: an early look at 2023 Concordia Football