Order the book, Cultivating Men of Faith and Character: The History of Concordia Nebraska Football HERE.
Why is the Concordia University, Nebraska Football program worthy of a lavish weekend celebration or of being the subject of a book? It goes beyond the wins and the losses. It’s true, there have been a number of lean years for Bulldog football in terms of on-field results.
So what’s the big deal? As I embarked on writing the book on Concordia’s football history, I didn’t have a complete answer to such a question. At that point I had been Director of Athletic Communications for three years and had some ideas. I would have already agreed with longtime athletic trainer Stan Schlueter, who told me, “The first thing you think about is the people. I don’t even know how to put it into words. You couldn’t get better people.”
Schlueter was far from the only one who made reference to the people. For more than 90 years, the program has cultivated men of faith and character. The theme fits perfectly with the narrative of the book. Sure we remember some of the great moments and figures. I was still in junior high when Ross Wurdeman crossed the goal line for one of the most significant touchdowns in school history, leading the 2001 Bulldogs to a playoff victory. I wasn’t there. But I lived it through the accounts of Wurdeman and quarterback Jerrod Pimentel. In turn, Ross told me that the portion of the book that builds up to the glorious 2001 season got the juices flowing, like we had gone 15 years back in time.
It's the people. They don’t forget their time at Concordia. Said 1966 graduate Dennis Oetting, “You spend your time on campus and even as you leave it, you’re bonded to the people there. You can’t put it in a can and save it. It’s just there. It’s an awesome feeling.”
I conducted roughly 30 interviews and had conversations with several others in the process of drafting the book. There’s a sense of pride that runs deep for Concordia football coaches and players, past and present. Even non-alums such as myself can recognize that things are different here. I went to a bigger school (the University of Iowa – those of you who know me will say I talk about the Hawkeyes too much!). At times I got lost. It doesn’t happen at Concordia.
A quote from Ron Harms struck me so much that I felt it needed to be included on the back of the book. Harms grew up in Texas and had never attended school or worked at Concordia before being hired as an assistant on Ralph Starenko’s staff. Harms spent five years as head coach, and even though he left for another head coaching opportunity, he offered up the following: “The whole atmosphere at Concordia is just something you’re not going to find any place else.”
And Concordia football players in particular – why are they unique? At a recent dinner I attended over at former head coach Courtney Meyer’s house, the veteran coach remarked proudly that his teams always played hard. Some of them may have lost by lopsided scores at times, but they always played hard. Added Dan Oetting, a 1987 graduate, “Concordia players have always had a reputation for being tough. But before the game they hold hands and pray.”
It’s the people and a “deeper connection” referenced by now assistant coach and alum Corby Osten that make Concordia football worth celebrating. It’s why record-setting quarterback Von Thomas couldn’t wait to come back this weekend from his native Florida.
It was an honor to write the book on Concordia football, and it will be an honor to celebrate the history of the program with more than 300 registered guests this weekend. To all alums making the trip back, welcome home. Here’s to the continued cultivation of men of faith and character and a victory over the Red Raiders!
PS ... don't get Dean Vieselmeyer started.