A look back at 30 years on the sidelines – John Croze

High School Sports Zone

CALUMET, Mich. (WJMN) – “I started in 1991. I just got done playing football at Tech,” said John Croze, thinking back to his start with the Calumet Football program. “I had a knee injury in the fall and I started going through spring ball that next Spring and with the had knee braces on and can barely get into my defensive stance anymore. So, I just decided it’s time to hang up.”

That’s when a new opportunity arose.

“My position coach at the time was working in Calumet told me I should say in football and applying for the assistant football job because the new guy just finished his first year, Scott Body, and I had met Scott, we had friends in common. So, I applied and started coaching with Scott in 1991.”

In the Summer of 2000, Croze was named the head coach for the Copper Kings football program. But like all good things, they must come to an end.

“I knew going in that this was going to be my last year,” said Croze. “I contemplated over the summer, maybe just hanging it up and passing on the reigns, but you know, a couple of people had talked to me about continuing on and in the COVID year, was it the year to give it up? You know, I sat at home last year in the last playoff game with COVID and had to listen to the Negaunee game on the radio.”

Coach Croze came into the program looking to establish a fun culture for his athletes. The stats don’t lie, they accomplished that and more.

“I really proud of where we’re at because if you look at about the last five years, probably one of the top teams if not the top team in the U.P. two or three of those years we’re playing kept challenging ourselves are tough schedules and play teams that other teams don’t play and have three district championships in the last five years. So we’re at a point now where we went from no culture in the 80s to our culture now as we’re a state known or state renowned program, we’re down through the up and just compete hard and have fun playing the game of football and I really think that’s it as well.”

Although a key foundational piece to the Copper Kings success may be hanging the whistle up for good. Coach Croze has no fear that his program will be left in good hands.

“Just sit back and enjoy some time for myself,” said Croze about his future plans. “Now and I think number one thing is that the only thing I have planned right now is to take care of myself a little bit before watching this next, this next group of guys takes over some of my former players, Josh Frantti, Frank Bonacorsi, Tyler Loukus, Troy Router joined us he’s from Kingsford and those guys are gonna do a fabulous job.”

Croze said there was a moment this season when he was able to take a step back and take everything in while appreciating everything he helped build.

“One day this Fall, it was on like a Tuesday or Wednesday, during practice, we had both varsity and JV is on the field and just step back and watch both ends of the ball on the field and watch practice gone and there’s no way there’s a place in that state right now with 70 kids on the football field having this much fun and just watching both teams and both sets of coaches and just the high energy and positive energy there. Was amazing and it was very gratifying and to see. “

Despite Croze’s departure, the Copper King’s future is still bright.

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