MHSFCA Dream Team unveiled at National Football Foundation Michigan Chapter awards banquet
DEARRBORN — The theme of Thursday’s awards banquet at the Dearborn Inn was connections.
Like the connection between Coach of the Year recipient John Herrington and so many of the coaches in the room, including Jack Harbaugh — who was on hand to receive the National Football Foundation’s Distinguished American Award — dating back to the early 1970s, when they all took their teams to Bo Schembechler’s camps.
Like the connection with Hillsdale College coach Keith Otterbein, who was on hand to accept the NFF’s Merritt T. McFarland (D-II) Collegiate Scholar Athlete Award for his player, Charles Jay Rose … 40 years after he himself won it.
Like the connection between the Sadler family and Clarkston graduate and current Michigan State tackle Cole Chewins, who was on hand to receive the Michael R. Sadler (D-I) Collegiate Scholar Athlete Award from the NFF’s Karen Sadler, four years after he’d accepted the high school version of the award from her son, the now-deceased former MSU punter, Mike, the award is now named after.
There was the obvious connection between Jack Harbaugh and the night’s keynote speaker, University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who finagled his way into an earlier spot on the agenda, so he could introduce his dad for his award presentation.
It was also about the new connection between the National Football Foundation’s Michigan Chapter and the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association, who got together to present their awards in one banquet.
Mostly, though, the night was about the connection between the new fraternity of MHSFCA All-State Dream Teamers, who were unveiled at Thursday’s soiree.
“This is an honor you shouldn’t take lightly, because there are hundreds of thousands of players that play the game across the State of Michigan, you know they’d love to be here. Thousands think they should be here. Hundreds of them are going on to play college football,” said featured speaker Khari Willis, one of Michigan State’s tri-captains this year, who’d been in the shoes of the Dream Teamers coming out of Jackson Lumen Christi. “But you guys, this season, have been recognized as the best individuals in the state, so congratulations.”
There were plenty of kind words directed toward longtime Farmington Hills Harrison coach Herrington, whose illustrious career ended with the Hawks’ playoff loss to Chelsea, as the school will be closing after this scholastic year.
“I joked that we’ve been on a funeral procession for the last three years, since we found out Harrison was going to close. I haven’t been the easiest to live with,” Herrington said, thanking his girlfriend and his athletic directors for putting up with him. “I coached for 57 years. It’s not a job, it’s something you love. It’s been fantastic. … I’m so glad to be here, and I appreciate this award.”
That said, Herrington wasn’t so certain he was the proper recipient this year.
“First of all, I think this is a longevity award, not coach of the year. There were a lot of great coaches out there. Scott Merchant (coach of Division 1 champion Clinton Township Chippewa Valley) had a fantastic year. We had a lot of state champions — we had 10 state championship coaches or runners-up,” Herrington said. “And, I’d also like to say, guys that went in and turned their programs around. There were a lot of coach of the year awards, to take a school like Dexter, or a school like South Lyon, and turn those things around.”
Still, Herrington wraps up his career with a state-record 13 titles and 443 wins. His presenter, Scott Farley, tried to put it in perspective.
“That (number) rolls off the tongue, and you really don’t have perspective on it, so I’m going to give you a little perspective. I’ve been a head coach for 26 years, I’m in the Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, and I have the highest winning percentage at two different high schools. And if I continue to have the same winning percentage I have right now, in order to catch John Herrington, I would have to coach until I’m 107 years old. If my team went undefeated, and won state championships for the next 23 years in a row, I would catch John at the same age John is right now,” Farley said. “So It’s my distinct pleasure to introduce the greatest coach in the history of the State of Michigan and also — honest to God — one of the finest men I’ve ever had the privilege to be acquainted with.”
Herrington had advice for the Dream Teamers, as well.
“Don’t waste a single second. It goes so fast. My 57 years has gone fast. When you went in as a freshman you thought, ‘When am I going to be like that senior?’ A snap of the fingers, and you’re the senior. You guys are honored in a great team sport for being great individuals,” Herrington said. “As you go on, don’t waste a rep, don’t waste a single snap, because college will go just as fast. If you’re not going to play football, I’d say don’t waste a class period, either. You’ve got a lot to learn out there.”
The coach jokingly hinted that he might not be done, especially not with longtime assistant John Herstein taking over the in-district job at North Farmington.
“I did interview this week, I did apply to be his technology expert, but my flip-phone ran during the interview so he fired me on the spot,” Herrington joked.
The night was also filled with plenty of awe-inspiring moments.
The two winners of the NFF Ron Holland Scholar Athlete Awards — Max Brombach from Almont and Matthew George of Novi — both scored perfect 36s on the ACT, a fact that brought an ‘Ooooh’ from the whole room.
And former University of Michigan offensive lineman Grant Newsome, last year’s recipient of the Pete Schmidt Courage Award — named after the former Albion College coach who lost his life to cancer — introduced this year’s award-winner, Larry Prout Jr., the teenager who’s so inspired the U-M team.
“As the recipient of this award last year, I can say there’s no more deserving recipient than Larry Prout. I can’t imagine a single more courageous young man or young woman in this state.
I know the term ‘special’ gets thrown around a lot, but Larry truly is a special human being. … Larry’s undergone 102 surgeries in his short period of life, yet Larry’s the most positive, outgoing, cheerful young man,” Newsome said. “He’s been an inspiration to me, and I know he’s been an inspiration to the entire football team. … Some of you may have already faced adversity, that’s taken courage to overcome, but just know that there are people out there like Larry, that had the opportunity to lay down and quit, throw in the towel, after being dealt a hand they didn’t deserve.”
Prout Jr.’s speech drew a standing ovation.
“My team has showed me that I’m not alone. My football friends have told me that things that I’ve gone through and survived has inspired them,” he said. “I may not be able to make a tackle or score a touchdown, but I can inspire and give strength to guys that are 6-feet-7 and 280 pounds, and that makes me feel 10 feet tall. Sometimes the best way to feel better about yourself is to help someone.”
Chewins’ story was also worth noting, as the lineman — who graduated from Clarkston with 3.98 GPA, then entered MSU as a gray-shirt, before earning his scholarship in a single semester — finished his finance degree at MSU with a 3.91 GPA, setting him up to pursue a master’s degree. It wasn’t even his academic record — three-time academic all-Big Ten, two-time academic All-American — which made such an impact on Karen Sadler.
“If you go on to play at the next level, you have a platform, a platform to influence and impact others. … People watch you. People aspire to be like you. … You have the very same opportunity to make an impact. I know that because Cole sat in this room four years ago, in one of those chairs, and was presented with the Dream Team scholar athlete award. And it was presented by my son, Mike Sadler,” Karen Sadler said. “One of his professors sought out his parents at graduation a couple of weeks ago, and she wanted to tell Cole’s parents why he’d made such an impact on her. Specifically, it was because Cole had befriended a fellow classmate with autism in her class. And she said he made it a point to make sure that that student was never excluded, always had a team to work with, and had everything he needed in that class to succeed. That wasn’t Academic Services, that wasn’t Student Support, that was Cole Chewins. That’s who he is.”
Karen Sadler also noted that the NFF — which already has 22 established academic awards for the runners-up to the William V. Campbell trophy — has plans in the works to make a 23rd, named after her son, Mike Sadler, the former MSU punter who lost his life in a car accident in 2016 at the age of 24.
MHSFCA 2018 All-State Dream Team
OL — Karsen Barnhart, Paw Paw
OL — Spencer Brown, Walled Lake Western
OL — Joshua Priebe, Edwardsburg
OL — Cameron Wallace, Belleville
OL — Matt Hill, Ortonville Brandon
QB — Austin Brown, Madison Heights Madison
RB — Andre Chenault, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley
WR — Tate Hallock, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central
WR — Tre Mosley, West Bloomfield
TE — Drew Peterson, Maple City Glen Lake
P/PK — Alec Thelen, Pewamo-Westphalia
DL — Carson Currie, Lapeer
DL — Jalen Hunt, Belleville
DL — Cade Klimczak, Rockford
DL — Jack Sherwin, Traverse City Central
LB — Ross Bolman, Zeeland West
LB — Marcel Lewis, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley
LB — Logan Pasco, Davison
DB — Ja’Von Kimpson, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley
DB — Derek Hamp, DeWitt
DB — Makari Paige, West Bloomfield
DB — Ray Russo, Jenison
Coach — John Herrington, Farmington Hills Harrison
National Football Foundation Ron Holland Scholar Athlete Awards
Max Brombach, Almont
Matthew George, Novi
Pete Schmidt Courage Award
Larry Prout Jr.
Collegiate Scholar Athlete Awards
Division III, Morley Fraser Award: Trent Monroe, Olivet College
Division II, Merritt T. MacFarland Award: Charles Jay Rose, Hillsdale College
Division I, Michael R. Sadler Award: Cole Chewins, Michigan State
Distinguished American Award