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To the Deans victories in the classroom are the true measure for success

By: Jeff Chaney, September 8, 2014, 12:31 pm

Lowell – As the sons of two legendary high school coaches in the state, you may think talks at the Dean homes are centered around athletics.

But that’s not the case for Zeth Dean, son of Lowell High School football coach Noel Dean, and Max Dean, son of former Lowell wrestling coach Dave Dean.

It’s academics that are pushed more that game plans, strategies and practice times.

“I say more so academics are talked about at home,” Zeth Dean said. “Max and I are both top 10 in our class. My dad has preached this since I was little, academics. And I’m a realist, every little kid wants to be a NFL football player, but that percentage of players making the NFL is small. Academics will get you to the next level, and I’m grateful that my dad preached that. That is what got my brother to Harvard. He’s always said, you can always fall back on education.”

Max Dean echoed those sentiments.

“It’s always been academics first,” Max Dean said. “At the end of the day when I’m 40, I won’t be successful because of wrestling or football, it will be because of academics.”

Zeth and Max Dean are both juniors. Both earned all-state honors as wrestlers last season and are big contributors on the football team, Zeth plays defensive back, Max plays linebacker and running back.

More importantly, both sport excellent GPAs. Zeth carries a 4.3 GPA; Max a 4.16. 

Both have benefitted from older siblings who have become great role models. Zeth’s older brother Kanon, who just graduated last year, is a freshman on the Harvard wrestling team. Max’s older brother, Gabe, is a sophomore All American wrestler on the Cornell wrestling team.

Kanon and Gabe also enjoyed tremendous success on the football field at Lowell, but more importantly they were excellent students.

The importance of education can be traced throughout the family. Jill Dean, Noel’s wife, was salutatorian at Montrose High. Bethny Dean, Dave’s wife, was valedictorian at Burton Bentley. 

It begins at home then moves into the classrooms and into their everyday lives.

“I would say 90 percent of the talks with my kids are about grades,” Noel Dean said. “People confuse the 30 second sound bites on Friday night. The reality, both my brother and I are the sons of one of the greatest educators, my father (Fraser Dean at Montrose High School). My dad stressed academics with us. He was superintendent of schools, and it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.”

Dave Dean, who stepped down as Lowell’s wrestling coach last year to take a position on the Cornell wrestling staff, said academics started even earlier in the Dean household.

“Our grandpa (Max) was a chemist at Dow (Chemical Company), and a professor who taught classes at Alma and Delta College,” Dave Dean said. “I never pounded the table, but academics were understood in our house.”

The message seems to be spreading through Lowell High School, and particularly the football and wrestling teams.

The football team has been Academic All State for six years in a row now, while the wrestling team has been Academic All State for seven straight years.

“Without question, I am more proud of that that all of our wins,” Noel Dean said. “It’s nice to win, but I want to make better men. I learned at my first school, if all you want to talk about is wins and losses, I would have been retired in one year. It had to be something else to this.”

There is no doubt there has been plenty of wins at Lowell, both in football and wrestling.

The football team has won three state titles (2002, 2004 and 2009), and two runner-up finishes (2010 and 2011) in Noel Dean’s tenure. And the wrestling team has won two state titles (2009 and last year) and two runner-up finishes (2012 and 2013) in Dave Dean’s tenure.

The football team is 2-0 heading into Friday’s game at East Grand Rapids (2-0).

“When kids achieve higher things, it’s because they have a vision,” Dave Dean said. “And then all of the other stuff takes care of itself. The biggest problem I had when I was Dean of Students at Lowell, the kids that struggled, they didn’t have a vision for their lives. The ones that thrive, do. No real magic to it, it’s a lifetime investment, your lifetime.”

But sports is also big.

“Our family is sports,” Zeth Dean said. “Right now we are all hanging out and watching the Michigan State at Oregon (football) game.”

Everything the fathers have done in the past have been academically and athletically motivated, not only for their own children, but all of their Lowell sons.

“Our wrestling camps and football stuff are always tied in to academic schools,” Noel Dean said. “We were on campuses that you could only get to if you studied. That helped me re-enforce the academic part.”

Dave Dean agrees.

“We have always sent kids to college campuses,” Dave Dean said. “Always knowing that there was an investment on being part of that.”

That plan is rubbing off.

“I’m looking at going into pre-med,” Zeth Dean said “I’m not 100-percent positive, but I am pretty sure that’s what I want to do.”

Added Max Dean: “I want to study business, economics. I want to be a business owner when I’m older. There are some nights when it’s definitely a challenge to balance school and sports. You get home late form a wrestling meet, and you don’t want to write a paper. But when I get my homework out, I know it’s time to get to business.”

More proud moments.

“Not many people know of your athletic exploits two years after you graduate, let alone 20,” Noel Dean said. “So what are we here for? Wouldn’t you want to graduate bilingual, write quality essays and know mathematics.”