MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – You could feel the energy in the ‘Wildcat Room’ on the campus of Northern Michigan University Thursday afternoon to welcome and hear from Shane Richardson who was introduced as the 23rd head coach in the NMU Football program’s history.
“We had great input from a group of alums who are very strong,” said Rick Comley, the Athletic Director for NMU. “In the end, Steve Mariucci was very, very active. I talked to Robert Saleh several times in the process. The people on the on the committee have been successful while they were here as athletes and while they have gone on to the real- life world beyond athletics.”
It was a homecoming for Richardson who has strong ties to the area. He went to school and played for NMU from 1996 – 2000 and spent one year on the Wildcats coaching staff after his playing days were over.
“Boy, what a thrill to be back,” said Richardson. “You come back and, honestly, it’s been 21 years and you learn a new perspective and you see things through a different lens and you really appreciate what’s here. What a great university, what a great town, and what a great community. Just to be apart of something that I used to call home. What a special opportunity and I’m really thrilled about that.”
Richardson’s coaching journey has had multiple stops. Most recently at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke where he spent the last eight seasons as head coach, but it was the values that he learned at NMU that helped build a strong foundation while he climbed the coaching ladder.
“After leaving here, you know, I looked back and thought about the values that I learned here throughout my time, being with coach’s like Herb Grenke, Jimmy Driscoll, and Bobby Jurasin,” said Richardson. “I tell you what, those characteristics that I learned has formed my way of coaching and it’s going to be apart of who I am and how I do it. I’m looking forward to combining that we all of the other lessons that I’ve learned form a lot of other different coaches as well.”
Richardson takes over a program that hasn’t experienced a winning season since 2009.
“College football is very difficult,” said Richardson. “There have been some great coaches that have been here even in the hard times. It takes a collective effort by everyone involved. It’s administration, it’s alumni, it’s fan support, it’s coaches, it’s players. We all have a responsibility to align ourselves and be on the same train and all shoveling coal so that train can stay on that same track and pick up speed.”
To take the Wildcats into the future, Richardson recognizes the prosperity of teams in the past.
“Our tradition and history, it’s rich,” said Richardson. “It’s a very rich tradition of success. A lot of people might not realize that now-a-days. But boy, we have had some great teams come through here, we have had some great coach’s come through here, some great players come through here. You go back to the record books and you go back to articles and things we’ve done in the past and Northern Michigan Football. It’s really an exciting concept when you look at kind of the totality of the program.”
Richardson says accountability will be the main core value to help change the culture of the program.
“We’re going to have a culture that really understands how to develop people,” said Richardson. “How to push their best and to understand their potential and how to get that out of them every single day. You can talk about it, but you have to be about it. You’ve got to train it everyday, you’ve got to demand it, you’ve got to hold people accountable. When people understand what the expectations are when they all operate under the same accountability standards and whenever every one is under one spirit and moving towards the same goal, you have something special.”
Getting the right guys committed will be a big focus for Richardson early in this rebuild, which includes players already on the roster.
“The tough thing is getting to know them and understanding their character, their academic desires and motivations and understanding that they’re a well rounded fit,” said Richardson. “We don’t want to take guys that are just only good football players. You’ve got to be a well rounded individual. You got to be able to have a great ambition and desire to have success in your life. It’s got to be apart of your daily habits and we want those guys. We want leaders and just guys that are going to be committed to what we’re doing.”
NMU knows it takes more than players and coaches to cultivate a winning culture, but they are confident Richardson is the person to conduct the train.
“We want to get past the stigma that the university doesn’t care about football and to reinforce that we do care,” said Comley. “Get questioned, answered about what it might take to be successful. It’s an extremely challenging sport from the standpoint of working with 100 athletes. Now, competing against the monsters that are the Grand Valley’s and the Ferris’. To get back to where we all want to be and have been in the present climate and this day and age.”