Winter is coming around the corner signifying the end of the 2015 Springfield College football season. As the door to the gridiron shuts on this senior class, many others filled with potential begin to crack open.
Despite the 2015 season accumulating to a record of 4-6, we finished seventh in the nation for rushing yards this year, dominating in the run game as a unit. All seasonal stats aside however, it is one person’s career in which Springfield College reflects fondly upon this year.
Head football coach and mentor Mike Delong has decided to retire this year leaving behind a rich legacy of 32 years with the pride. Delong finishes with a 201-139-2 record placing him with among 19 coaches in Division III football history to attain 200 wins.
As a recipient of the Johnny Vaught Lifetime Achievement Award for Head Coaches from the All-American Football Foundation in 2001, coach Delong’s accomplishments could be listed within a whole other column itself. But personally being under Coach Delong’s wing on the football team for a memorable four years has shown me it is more than just titles and designations that define such a man.
In 32 seasons he has successfully built upon the foundation of this program while learning to grow with it. I feel more than privileged to have played under the philosophies of Delong and the entire coaching staff here. I have witnessed the coaching staff’s commitment day after day to this program trickles from top to bottom.
For four seasons I have not just heard Delong preach about “blue collar” values through hard work, but I’ve seen this implemented into everything he did. If he said meet at 5:00 this really meant to be there waiting at 4:45. And whatever you did, players always made sure their hats were off and phones silenced in meetings for fear of being called out.
Whether it was taking care of the little things or facing big dilemmas, Delong would never turn down an opportunity to help out. Throughout my own college career, Delong’s support and passion for players has not gone unnoticed. I am merely one beneficiary on a long list of players who Delong has managed to assist in times of need. In taking a leave of absence last spring semester, I was not sure if I would be able return to school. Nevertheless, while I was away, I stayed in constant contact with Delong and even offensive coordinator Mike Cerasuolo who never gave up on me. After months of trial and error combined with efforts of my family and the program I was able to return this fall. Although I feel the seasons outcome could have been better, I would not trade my experiences for anything else.
To put it in perspective, Delong’s 32 years of commitment to the Pride cannot fully be expressed in words. He was a man with such high credibility. I will personally miss his clever one liners he always manages to come up with when cracking a friendly joke on your backwards hat or silly ringtone. Or how he could call you out on a mistake you swore no one noticed during a play.
With the same amount of enthusiasm for the game and his players since day one of coaching, the void he leaves will surely be a challenge to fill. But if there’s one thing this program embraces, its challenges. I am honored to disembark on my collegiate football career alongside a Springfield College legend and I’m sure my peers can say the same. I do believe through tradition, commitment and brotherhood these four years have molded this departing senior class for the future. And as Delong enters a more family oriented role I know that success and prosperity will follow him wherever his journey leads.