The 2016 Crown College Storm football season began with quite a few changes in the team from the one that closed out the 2015 season. The biggest of those was the addition of Matt Bremer, who was taking over for Adam Hayes as the team’s offensive coordinator.
Many were not concerned about the changing of the guard, however. Like Hayes, Coach Bremer had been a former quarterback at Crown College in Head Coach John Auer’s era. He also had arguably the best 1-2 punch at the running back position in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) in seniors Matt Michaud and Josh Edlund. There would be some growing pains for sure, but nothing too severe with the two seniors manning the offense.
Who would know that Coach Bremer was ready to embrace the Storm moniker, creating a whirlwind of changes by completely revamping the offense and changing the focus of the coaching staff’s recruiting priorities. The change would be one that would see some growing pains, but the seed has been planted so that this should be an offense that will be one of the best in the conference for years to come.
Building His Own Roots at Crown
Matt Bremer knows the Crown College culture well, starring as the team’s quarterback for four seasons. In fact, it is kind of ironic that Bremer replaced Hayes as the offensive coordinator, but prior to Hayes being the starting quarterback at Crown, Matt Bremer led the offense.
He would appear in 35-games for the Storm, throwing for 40-touchdowns and rushing for 25 more. His senior season was a very impressive one when he rushed for 747-yards and 12-scores while throwing for 1,863-yards and 18-touchdowns. He held many of the school’s quarterback records until Hayes became the starting QB and broke them. He also was the first quarterback at the school to lead the team to a winning season.
While he loved his time playing for the school, it was the culture set by Coach Auer that meant the most to him in his time as a player. Crown College gave him the time to mature in his faith.
“I think this is a very special place. Obviously, coach Auer is a huge piece to that with the way he runs this football program with the passion that he has. This is the kind of place where you can really grow as a Christian man and I knew this was the place I wanted to come to college.”
Planting His Career Pathway in Sports
Upon graduating from Crown, Matt Bremer would spend a year out west coaching before returning to Minnesota to join the staff at UMAC powerhouse St. Scholastica. Coach Bremer would spend six seasons there, coaching the wide receivers from 2010-2013 and then coaching the defensive backs for two season. In his six seasons at the school, the Saints won the conference title five times and the Coach got a real taste for coaching a winner.
After six very successful years at St. Scholastica, Coach Bremer decided to take on a whole new challenge…returning to his alma mater. It was an opportunity to institute things his own way.
“It was going to be my offense and where I wanted to be in terms of the next step in my career path, being able to mold and shape and run my own offense and do those things. So, the way that coach Auer terms it is that Coach Sather is the coach of the defense and as the offensive coordinator I am the head coach of the offense. I think that was a huge draw to be able to run my own system and a system that I firmly believe in.”
Instituting his own offense was going to make for a radical change for the team. He was not only moving away from the power set, but was instituting a pro-style offense that featured a lot of four-receiver sets. While still utilizing their two senior running backs, the offense was going to be throwing a lot more.
However, he admits that for the offense to have success he was going to need his players to buy into the drastic change. This became a success because they were not only onboard, but were driving the ship to see it become a success.
“That was a big challenge here in the first couple of months of this thing. I think the kids have adjusted extremely well; they bought in already and love what we’ve been doing. I’ve had multiple guys come in and just say that they believe in what we’re doing. It’s a little bit different but certainly this offense has come to a point where someday changes just needed to occur. Certainly, the players have been awesome on that part, buying into the system and moving forward into a new system.”
The Reasons to Buy into It Made Sense
There is an old adage about government that says if something ain’t broke the government will keep fixing it until it is broken. It would have been easy for Matt Bremer to come in and simply continue with the offense the team had under Coach Hayes, simply because it wasn’t broken.
Most coaches would have gone with what was working, but there was a good reason to make such dramatic changes. It is true that Edlund and Michaud would give the Storm an impressive running game, but they would both be graduating at the end of this year and there was not a duo like the two coming up behind them. Dramatic changes were going to be needed if this offense was going to be a success in the future. It is for reasons like this that the Coach took the bold move of instituting a whole new offense.
Part of the brilliance of Coach Bremer is that he is looking ahead. Yes, he could have waited a season and implemented the new offense next year, but then he would not have a big running game to lean on, and so the Coach took the bold step with an eye to the future.
“I think that the great thing about our offense is that with the way that we move and shift people it puts people in a great position to be able to outnumber the defense, to be open at the point of the attack. It really allows us to get the ball to people in open spaces. When you look at the ball being able to be passed around and moved around and then spread the ball to two different running backs and you look at it from a recruiting aspect, I think that’s a huge point for guys coming in. We’re going to have some availability for guys to be able to step in and do some things next year. Certainly, I think it’s a fun offensive plan, because we’re moving and shifting guys around and putting guys in positions to make plays.”
In his first season as the offensive coordinator at Crown College the results have been mixed. The Storm finished the season with a 17.2 ppg average, next to last in the conference. However, the drop off from the previous season was only two points per game. In fact, Crown College football has not averaged over 20 points per game since 2010 when they led the conference with a 36.8 ppg average. That is the goal that Coach Bremer is shooting for as he molds this team through a philosophy of teaching on being fully focused to get the greatest results.
“I really feel that teaching guys how to take it one play at a time and focus on the next play, move on when things don’t go well, is still something we’re learning and getting better at here. Just learning that winning culture, that winning mentality to this team, to this group of guys who desperately want to get us over the hump. We want to do something offensively to move this from a 20-point a game offense into a 30-plus point offense and it is all the little things, doing things the right way on offense, stepping with the right foot when you’re supposed to, when you’re told to get behind the line you’re behind the line all the way, when the snap counts on one to go on one, all those kinds of things start with focus. When all the guys are starting to realize what it takes to win football games and start to realize how the little things matter so much.”
While they did not average 30-plus points per game this season, the offense did show signs of great improvement over the last five games of the season. The Storm averaged 12.2 ppg through Week 5, and 32 of those 61-points came in just one game. In the final five weeks, they averaged 22.2 ppg and scored 27 or more in three of those contests. Clearly, the teachings are taking effect and the fact that he will have junior Ryan Synoground for another season and sophomore Taylor Watkins for two more years ensures that he has two years to really build a powerhouse offense and groom the successor at quarterback to the two. This bodes well for the future of the Storm.
Life Lessons Are Far More Important
While Matt Bremer had gained a lot of enjoyment out of watching his team improve on offense, it has been the lessons about life and his ability to talk about his own faith in God that have meant the most to him.
“I think that’s a huge piece to this place and teaching these guys what it means to be a man of faith, how to raise their families, how to raise great kids, how to be really good in their workplaces, and things like that are what really what makes this the place I want to be. I think the faith aspect for me is one of those things that really drew me here. It’s something that I can now live out a little bit more in terms of being more vocal with our players about those things. I’ve really enjoyed being able to share and talk about how it impacts everything that we do.”
As part of those teachings, he is quite real with them on what it takes to succeed. He wants them to get that if they are going to be good at whatever they choose to do in life that they have to put in the work and effort to make those dreams a reality. He also wants them to understand that he is still a work in progress and that the quickest and most effective way for them all to succeed is by doing it together.
“I want them to know that shortcuts aren’t the way to success. I think it is important that they know that I care about them as a person first above anything else and hopefully they know that I’ve care about them as a person first and as a football player second. I want everything to be about making us a better person, a better man of faith, so that we can go out and be great in our jobs or in our workplaces or in the classroom. When we learn and mature together then we can impact the world.”
If there is one thing that he can teach them above all it is something that his dad taught him as the Coach was making choices about what he wanted to do with his life.
“Growing up he really taught me to love my job and love what I’m doing and not to chase the money and not chase the things, because it’s more important to love what you’re doing and to do those things. I get to live that out here.”
While Matt Bremer could likely be making more money working at another college or university, he is at the one place where he is having the most fun, not only because it gives him a chance to return to his alma mater, but also because he has the opportunity to be the man of God that he has envisioned for his life.
Watering the Seeds of His Success
While Matt Bremer strives to have a positive impact on the lives of the 70-plus men on the Crown College Storm football team, he recognizes that he is only able to do so because of the way that others have inspired him. While his dad has given him many great words of wisdom that he has incorporated into his life, it is another family member, his younger brother, who has been a great role model to the Coach.
“My younger brother is a coach, too. He’s been a huge inspiration to me to see how hard he works to make things work and to do things to really pursue his passions and dreams. He’s six-years younger than me, so to see him getting into the profession that I was already in was a thing that is pretty indescribable and to see how hard he worked to get where he’s at has been a huge inspiration and really jolted my career.”
To be a good coach means long hours, especially during football season. This can put a lot of strain on a marriage, but the Coach is very appreciative of how supportive his wife Stephanie has been of his career aspirations.
“Certainly, my wife has been amazing with the things she has to put up with me; being gone most of the day and a four-month-old son. The amount of work that she has to put in with him and she actually left a job that she loved to come here to help me to pursue my passion. She is truly amazing.”
He also is feeling very blessed by not only playing for Coach Auer but also being a part of his staff now.
“From a coaching aspect, Coach Auer, being my college coach, has been a huge inspiration in my life and it will be a lot of fun to recruit for him. I love that we get to talk more on a personal level about how he’s changed my life for the better, how he’s changed the lives of our players, and really been an inspiring man of God.”
The 2016 season ended with the Crown College Storm going 2-8, and the team has struggled this past season to fully grasp a whole new offense, which has led many of the Storm faithful to question the direction that the team is headed, but consider Psalm 125:5-6 for a moment:
5 Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. 6 Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
It is true that there were some tears of frustration that were shed this season, but know that the seed of success has been planted, both on and off the field, and it will not be long before the Crown College Storm football fans are singing songs of joy and carrying conference banners. With Coaches like John Auer, Jeremy Sather, and Matt Bremer the harvest seems a lot closer than you may think.
By Robert Pannier