Jeremy Sather Modeling Pathway to Faith, Success at Crown College
If you spent even one minute looking in the direction of Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Sather it may cause some to lose control of their bodily functions. The Crown College Coach has a look about him that says “Get Back!” but if you were to really get to know the Defensive Coordinator you could quickly find that he is one of the nicest, most authentic Christian men you will ever meet. A man who embraces the ideals of Jesus, showing love and compassion for all he encounters, just not for opposing offenses his team faces on Saturday afternoon.
A True Love for the Opportunity to Compete
Jeremy Sather has loved sports for as long as he can remember. He played baseball, hockey, and football as a kid. As soon as one season ended he simply pulled out the next set of equipment and headed out to the rink or field.
While doing well at all three sports, he understood in high school that if he wanted to play a sport in college that football was going to be his ticket to a collegiate athletic career. He also knew that he wanted to find a way to stay in the game because it had been such an important part of his life and he wanted to share that passion for the game with others.
“Football was my only chance out of high school to continue to play. I love sports and I couldn’t imagine being without it, and so I got a major in physical education. I just love competition. I think football is the greatest game to teach. There are so many lessons – selflessness and that kind of thing. That’s where it started.”
Upon completing high school, Coach Sather headed for Bethel University to play for Head Coach Steve Johnson. He excelled at the school, especially in his senior season when he picked off six-passes, ranking fourth in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). He had demonstrated that he had the skills to be a top notch defensive back but, upon his graduation, it was time to prove that he had the skills to be a teacher and motivator of young men.
A Perfect Fit for Crown
In 2005, Jeremy Sather headed to Jacksonville, FL, where he would begin his coaching career, spending a season at Mandarine High School. A year later he would return to Minnesota where he took the job of defensive coordinator at Cedar Mountain-Comfrey High School. The following year he was promoted to the team’s head coaching position, where he would remain for the next four years, but he always knew that the college ranks was where his true passion for coaching belonged.
In 2011 his opportunity would arise. Fellow MIAC school Gustavus Adolphus was looking for a defensive backs coach and strength and conditioning coordinator and so St. Peter, MN would become his home for a season. While loving the opportunity to coach at a higher level, it was the mentorship he had received from Head Coach Peter Haugen that really meant the most to him.
“I had a great opportunity to coach with coach Haugen. Coach Haugen is a great Christian man. I admired how he brought his faith to the field and he was truly a great teacher of men, not only in the game but in the way that he taught values.”
It was another former coach who also helped him to understand that he could push his players and get on their backs while still showing them that he loved them and cared about them.
“Coach Johnson was a good balance of compassion and toughness, and I learned a great deal about that, because it’s not always a snarl all the time. Sometimes it’s about putting your arm around a kid, even when they are making really bad decisions.”
After a year at Gustavus Adolphus, Crown College Head Coach John Auer was looking for a new defensive coordinator and Coach Sather became the perfect choice. He would join the staff in 2012 and his new head coach was thrilled that he was joining the team.
“Coach Sather really understood what we wanted to do here as a football team, as a defense, and as a staff,” Coach Auer explained. “This is a unique situation here at Crown where faith is the most important piece in all we do, and he really understands that. He is a great teacher of the game but even more so about how to motivate young men to be men of great character.”
Employing Own Lessons into His Coaching
Coach Jeremy Sather was the perfect fit for the Crown College Storm football team, but for many more reasons than simple Xs and Os. The Coach not only grasped how to build a top flight defense, but he also motivated the defense to take on a whole different attitude. An attitude that he learned would be far more important than physical skills, because it allowed any person who stepped onto the field to be a contributor for the Storm.
“You put your pure athletes at a young age on offense, and then all the other guys on the other side of the ball. I was always the other guy early on, and I made up for it with some effort and some intensity and we continue to do that here. We want guys who are full intensity. The more I recruit the less I care about height and weight. I want to see those guys with that big nasty that you simply can’t teach more than those big height and weight numbers. We have some great guys like that here now. I want a kid who’s an all-out effort kid. I think that’s who I was.”
Since his arrival, of the 12 major single season records on defense, 11 of those have been set in his five years as the team’s defensive coordinator. That includes Jordan Pardee’s 2013 records for most total tackles and most assisted tackles in a season, and Sebastian Alvardo’s school record for interceptions in a season. Eight of the nine single game marks have been set during his time at the school as well, including three interceptions by Joel Silva in 2014 and 3.5 sacks in one game by Zach Jusczak in 2013. He has truly brought out that nasty edge in his players, that high level of intensity which helps them to take their game to a whole new level.
His focus on getting the most out of his players starts with two fundamental principles that he sees go hand-in-hand if his defense is going to succeed. He expects a great work ethic from those who dawn a Crown College uniform and he expects them to practice and play with a sense of urgency every time they take to the field. It’s a lesson he knows that if he can help them develop now his players will have a much greater chance at success once they graduate.
“It’s not popular to work 70 hours a week. It’s not common. A lot of kids feel like they deserve things, and we talk about that a lot. For a lot of our guys in the classroom they battle. I think that’s a great place to start developing that work ethic. On the football field, in the weight room, we push them hard, and I want that to transfer over. Very seldom have I seen a kid who works his butt off on the football field and not be successful in life. I’ve heard that growing up and I don’t know how much I believed that then, but now I find that I believe that more and more. The harder a kid works on the football field the more successful that he’s going to be. If you’re not a hard worker on the football field it might be hard to shift into that gear.
“We talk a lot about work ethic and a ton about urgency. That someone will do something right away is kind of uncommon now. I want those guys to have that kind of commitment, that if something needs to be done that they don’t wait; they do it right away. If you have those two things coming out of college you can be very successful in whatever you do with the degree.”
To get them to that that level, Coach Sather is not averse to getting on someone’s butt, ensuring that he is pushing them. His players may not like having the fiery coach in their ear, but he explains that they are a lot more worried when he stops doing so.
“I want to push those guys as hard as I can. We coach with some high energy on defense. I tell them that if I stop yelling at them that they really ought to be nervous. That’s when I might be given up on you. I’ve even had a few guys come in here in my career and ask me why I stopped yelling at them,” he explains with a laugh.
While wanting to drive his players to greater excellence, the Coach also realizes that he has to temper how much he gets on someone’s back. There is a fine line between seeking greatness and crushing a person’s spirit and no one understands this better than Coach Sather.
“It’s a really thin line. I don’t want a guy to feel like I’ve been after him the whole week. I tell my coaches we need to make sure that we show our players that we really love coaching here because these kids are Christian student athletes. It’s easy to tell a kid that we love you because we know who their following. We got to make sure that they understand that there’s a difference between us not liking their play and us not liking them. Sometimes, as an 18-year-old kid, they may not get that, so we have to do a good job of making sure that we differentiate.”
An Example to Admire
Coach Jeremy Sather has done a lot to change the attitude of the Crown College defense over the years. He has turned his defense into a nasty group of young men and has done it by being a little off himself. In fact, he is hoping that people think that of him. “That guy is crazy. I want that to be the opening line for people who describe me.”
However, his players know that he has a genuine love for them; a love that wants them to succeed far more off the field than on. Yes, he wants to win, but he is more concerned that they become men who will one day be incredible employees, great husbands, and amazing dads. The great thing is that they don’t have to look very far to see what that looks like. All they have to do is look at their Coach, something he acknowledges is the most important thing he teaches of all.
“We got guys from all kinds of family backgrounds and having a marriage that is successful (but you have to check with my wife on that one); showing that and talking with them, explaining that it’s not easy. That’s work ethic too. Sticking to it. I want them to see that from my wife who is amazing with these guys as well. She has such a big heart. I want them to see that and to see who I am as a dad so they have a model to follow. We only have four years to push them and so if they can see me as a Christian father and a Christian husband and what it is to have a Christian toughness – sometimes it’s a kick, sometimes it’s an arm around them – then I feel that I am really making a difference. I want them to see all of that together.”
To drive that message home more fully, his wife and children have become a big part of the teaching experience as well. They come to the school frequently, and his kids spend a great deal of time on the sidelines as coaches in the making. He is glad that they are getting to impact his players in a positive way, but equally happy that his children are learning from his players as well.
“My boys love our players and look up to them. My little girl walks around like she’s in charge of the whole school. It’s pretty cool. It’s great to have my kids around these college kids. Our students who play for us are exactly what I want my kids to grow up to be like. I would love my kids to try to follow these guys.”
The team also gets to see a loving wife who is truly letting her husband follow his dream. Coaching a college football team means that Coach Sather is working at least 70 hours a week to prepare for games. That would be too much for many wives to handle but Christine Sather is not just any ordinary wife. Something the Coach acknowledges may be the greatest blessing of his life.
“I wanted to get to the point where I was doing something I was super passionate about. I love the football aspect of my teaching. My wife has been amazing to still let me follow my passion. She makes doing this job so much more enjoyable because she has the family up here all the time and she has committed herself to the program as well. I can’t say enough about how blessed I am to have her in my life and as a part of this program.”
Crazy, driven, energetic, loving, compassionate, teacher, motivator, competitor, scary. These are all adjectives that could be used to describe Coach Jeremy Sather. They are the unique collage of traits that make him a truly special young man. They have also made him a man that many would want to pattern their own life after. That is a good choice to be quite frank. After all, those same traits that can be used to describe Coach Sather can also be used to describe a man who established the greatest faith the world has ever seen. Although, it’s not likely that a look from Jesus caused someone to lose control of their bodily functions.
By Robert Pannier