Dec. 18, 2013
Dorrel reflects before title gameBy David Boyce
MARYVILLE, Mo. - A rookie mistake, said Northwest Missouri State football coach Adam Dorrel.
His response came from a question about Dorrel’s decisive decision to punt on 4th and 1 at Grand Valley’s 43 with the Bearcats leading by seven with 6:53 left in the NCAA Division II semifinals.
Dorrel felt he had the perfect punter to pin Grand Valley deep in its territory. Kyle Goodburn has done it all season.
But with so much going on in a very intense part of the game, Goodburn kicked the ball into the end zone for a touchback.
Dorrel felt the outcome would have been different if he had called timeout and given the special team unit a few seconds to settle down.
As it turned out, the punt was insignificant. Northwest went on to get the ball back, score and win the game 27-13, earning a berth in the NCAA Division II championship game.
Northwest, 14-0, will take on Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.), 13-1, at 11 a.m. Saturday in Florence, Ala. It is the eighth appearance in the national championship game for the Bearcats, the first under Dorrel.
It is rare when a football head coach admits a mistake after a win and almost unheard of when he does it following a victory that puts the team in the title game.
“I have actually had some people say stuff to me that you shouldn’t say stuff like that publicly because it makes you look like a bad coach,” Dorrel said. “I have always said that’s not right.
“We talk about personal accountability and getting our kids to be accountable for their mistakes. How can you expect kids to do that if I can’t do that?”
Dorrel’s answer sums up why he has had such a successful start to his head coaching career.
Players notice these things. Sure, Northwest has talent. But that is only one reason why Dorrel is 35-6 in his third season as a head coach.
If the players didn’t believe in Dorrel and his coaching staff, no way would the Bearcats be playing now. They would be home with their families, doing some last-minute Christmas shopping.
The thing about these Bearcats is they don’t blame others. It was visible last year when they lost a heart-breaking game in overtime to Minnesota State-Mankato in the second round of the playoffs.
The players didn’t point fingers. They accepted responsibility and looked forward to the future. That mentality starts with the coaching staff.
“It is huge for our team and huge for our family,” said Northwest junior wide receiver Jason Jozaites. “He (Dorrel) does not make many mistakes, but when he does, he will be the first to let you know he was in the wrong.
“He is real and truthful and always lets us know what really went on.”
Last January when the Bearcats met to begin offseason weight conditioning, Dorrel put it on the players, particularly the seniors, on what was needed to reach the national championship game.
“They put it on us,” Jozaites said. “If you want to be in that spot, you have to take the steps yourself. The seniors were there pushing us, making sure we were dependable and doing the right things.
“Without the leadership we had from our seniors this year, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in right now.”
A true leader must trust his soldiers. Dorrel does. He has always shown the traits of being a head coach.
It started for him during his junior high and high school days in Maryville. The coaches he had during his teenage years instilled a desire to one day become a head coach.
Dorrel then showed his tenacity by walking onto his hometown college team. It was easier to do in the early to mid 90s because Northwest was a struggling football program.
Still, Dorrel went from a walk-on to a team captain for three seasons under Mel Tjeerdsma, who arrived a year after Dorrel.
“He showed his leadership skills early,” said Tjeerdsma, now the athletic director at Northwest.
“He had that desire to do things right and learn. There was no doubt about that. It has been a special deal to see him grow into that. His preparation and attention to details is really special.”
It takes a special individual to accomplish what Dorrel has accomplished considering the difficult circumstances that occurred to put him into the head coach spot at Northwest.
A common theory is it is hard to follow a legend. That is certainly what Tjeerdsma is, having led Northwest to seven national championship games and three national titles.
When Tjeerdsma retired after the 2010 season, defensive coordinator Scott Bostwick took over. It was his dream job. Bostwick suffered an unexpected heart attack in early June, 2011 and passed away. Dorrel took over.
“It was a situation you can’t write,” Tjeerdsma said. “You have to find your way. I think he did an awesome job of that. Credit the rest of the staff. They came together and made this thing work. AD is going to be the head coach. We are all going to support him. That was one of the real keys.”
Three head coaches in less than seven months can be very unsettling for the players. They saw one retire and one pass away.
“I think that was a tough position with everything happening the way it did,” junior wide receiver Bryce Young said. “He gathered the team as much as possible.
“We looked to him as the voice, leading us through the tough times. I think he handled himself and the team really well.”
In that first season, Northwest reached the playoffs and advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Pittsburg State.
“Looking back, I have learned and grown from it,” Dorrel said. “Honestly, I tried to be too perfect the first year. I set expectations on myself that were probably very unrealistic. I tried to learn from that.
“I think in my third year, not just me, but the staff, I think we are a lot more comfortable with each other. We know how each other works. We all do our job and I think we do it well. We kind of feed off each other.”
The thing about Dorrel is he has remained the same from being a very young assistant coach to now a successful head coach at one of the best Division II programs in the country.
“I told our kids Friday at dinner before the Grand Valley game that I look in the mirror some days and it is hard for me to believe I’m here and wonder what I did to deserve this.
“I am certainly very thankful. I know I have one of the best jobs in the country. I try to work hard every day. I try to understand that a lot of people care and so I try to bring that to work every day.”
Jozaites put it best when he said Dorrel has stayed true to himself over the years. “I saw him as a strict, offensive line coach,” Jozaites said. “He brought that same mentality as a head coach. He is a tough guy. He spoke his mind. He hasn’t changed too much from that. He is always upfront with us. He tells us how he feels and whether we want to hear that or don’t, it is what he says that makes us better. It is always good to hear and helps us go in a positive direction.
“That is the thing. He relates to the players almost better than any coach I have ever seen. He jokes around. He brings a very different personality to the table. He has embraced a fun aspect to this team.”
Dorrel expects the team to practice hard and when the players don’t, he lets them know. The only time this year he was disappointed in the effort in a game came at Northeastern State on Oct. 5. The next week the Bearcats scored 72 against Central Oklahoma.
Dorrel always wants his players to conduct themselves on and off the field with class. He gathered the Bearcats around him against rival Missouri Western after a few too many unsportsmanlike flags were thrown.
The message: Bearcats don’t behave that way. Message received because no more 15-yard penalty flags were thrown against Northwest.
“We talk to our kids about having integrity and being a man of character,” Dorrel said. “If I can’t do that and if I don’t treat people with respect and the way I want to be treated, then how can I expect our kids to do that. It was the way I was raised. I have good parents.”
Dorrel is also able to joke with his players. He will come up with nicknames, poke fun at them at the weekly media luncheon. Dorrel gets that smile on his face when he is about to say something that he thinks is humorous. Players will laugh with him.
“It is a really laidback atmosphere,” Young said. “I think it has contributed to our family atmosphere. It is really easy to play for a coach like that.”
Tjeerdsma said Dorrel has been able to keep a little more of a personal relationship with the players than a lot of head coaches.
“That is difficult to do because a lot of it is the kids,” Tjeerdsma said. “They don’t want to open up to you because you are the head coach. I think he has really kept those lines of communication open.”
Dorrel simply wants to be the best head coach he can possibly be. He wants his players to reach their full potential.
“I am one of those guys who wake up every day and feel I have something to prove to people,” Dorrel said. “I try to get that to filter down to our kids and our staff.
“This is a dream come true. I am very appreciative of it. A lot of guys would love to have my job.”
“Young said Dorrel leading his hometown college to a national championship game has got to be the best feeling in the world
“We joke that Maryville kids grow up dreaming about playing here,” Young said. “It is not a joke. It has got to be an incredible feeling to start from the bottom and make his way to the top and lead this team the way he has.”
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