Archive for December, 2011

SAN ANGELO – Brooks and Brayden are sitting with their mom, Andrea Wagner, in the stands as you read this program waiting for the game to be over so they can sprint onto the field to give the players high fives and their dad a hug.

Will Wagner, on the sidelines coaching a game for the first time as a head coach in front of his wife, two young sons and an Angelo State home crowd, has been looking forward to the moment since accepting the head coaching position last December. And while you may have never met Wagner and may even need someone to point him out to you, his postgame vision also involves you.

“We want everyone to feel like they are part of the Ram family,” Wagner said. “I want all of our players and coaches to be accessible to people after the games. It is really important to me to get the fans involved with the team. We have a great group of guys and want the community to know and support them throughout the year.”

Talk to Wagner after the game about the Angelo State football program and you’ll quickly find out how important family is to the Odessa native. Throughout fall camp he brought the players together by playing dodge ball, going bowling, helping ASU students move into their dorms and hosting a talent show. Last Friday, a day before the Rams erased two 21-point deficits to beat Chadron State College, he had the team buses take the long way from the Rapid City (South Dakota) Regional Airport to Chadron, Neb., so the team could take a site-seeing tour of Mount Rushmore.

“How many programs in the nation do you see going to Mount Rushmore and running all over the place taking pictures of each other and having fun like that,” Angelo State defensive back Alvin Johnson said. “Coach Wagner shows us all the time we are a family and that he cares about us as people. Everything we do, we do as a team.”

Two games into the season, the Rams are 2-0 with wins coming on the road in Gunnison, Colo., and Chadron. Both trips began with Brooks and Brayden handing the players bags of candy, first on campus at 10 p.m. on the Thursday before the Rams beat Western State College of Colorado, and then at 8 a.m. last Friday as the team entered the San Angelo Regional Airport.

“With the amount of hours we put in at work here, it is important to take advantage of every moment we have,” Wagner said. “Whether that is just five minutes before you get on the bus or while we are taking team photos, I think it is important to have my family here. I not only get to see my wife and kids, but hopefully I’m also showing the players the meaning of family and how we are all in this together. My kids love being around the players, too.”

A Class 5A state championship player at Odessa Permian in 1991 and a four-year starter and All-American safety for the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys, Wagner enjoys being detective-like in the film room and a motivator on the field as a football coach. He spent the last 13 years honing his coaching skills as an assistant at perennial NCAA Division II powerhouse Northwest Missouri State, where he helped lead the Bearcats to seven national championship games – winning the Division II title in 1998, 1999 and 2009. Mel Tjeerdsma, who retired as the Northwest Missouri head coach in January, praised Wagner as being “creative” and “a very classy individual” who was an “integral part” of the Bearcats’ success in the last 13 seasons. Tjeerdsma retired from coaching with a 242–82–4 record at Austin College and Northwest Missouri.

“I would love to be the one that builds that kind of tradition here at Angelo State University,” Wagner said. “I feel that we have got a lot of support and encouragement from the school and community since the day we got here. Myself, all of our coaches and every player we bring in here to be a part of our football program are going to work every day to make ASU a winning team on the field and our players great citizens off it.”

Wagner is challenging his players to make the right decisions everyday when they go to class and every night they go home. He is teaching them techniques on the field, strategies in the film room and loyalty and respect through his actions.

“He is always stressing to us to stay together and trust the guy next to you on the field,” ASU linebacker Joseph Schumpert said, while wearing a Ram Fam hat on the plane ride back from Nebraska. “The team chemistry is incredible right now because of him and the other coaches here. There’s no defense or offense divide or anything else with this team. We are all in this together.”

Pay attention today to the little things as the Rams take on the University of Central Oklahoma. Observe the team going through warm-up drills. See and hear them charge onto the field. Monitor Wagner and his coaching staff interacting with the team throughout the game. Join them in a show of support and unity on the turf after the game.

“Our team is focused and has some momentum coming into this game,” Wagner said. “We came back from a big deficit last week and are in the process of building confidence and becoming a good football team. I’m excited to be able to take this team onto the field and play in front of our fans in San Angelo for the first time.”